Blog Center for Dissemination & Implementation

Training those “lost in translation”

Written by Ross C. Brownson, PhD, inaugural Steven H. and Susan U. Lipstein Distinguished Professor of Public Health at the Brown School; and Maggie Padek Kalman, MPH, MSW, project coordinator in the Prevention Research Center at the Brown School

“Knowledge is like fine wine. The researcher brews it, the scientific paper bottles it, the peer review tastes it, the journal sticks a label on it, and archive systems store it carefully in a cellar. Splendid!

Just one small problem: wine is only useful when somebody drinks it. Wine in a bottle does not quench thirst. Dissemination & Implementation (D&I) opens the bottle, pours the wine into a glass, and serves it.”

-International Development Research Centre, 2011, The Knowledge Translation Toolkit

With all the amazing scientific innovations of our age, we have realized that the act of discovery is not enough to improve health. Rather we have learned that research too often gets “lost in translation” and on average, it takes 17 years for research to be integrated into real-world practice. This is what the field of dissemination and implementation (D&I) research seeks to change.

Here at Washington University, we have some of the global leaders within the field of D&I science research. Our scientific teams are expanding the pool of highly-trained D&I researchers by building capacity. Several of our researchers have been involved with the national D&I training program, Training Institute for Dissemination and Implementation Research in Health (TIDIRH), even hosting it at Washington University in St. Louis in 2013. Since 2010, Enola Proctor has been leading the Implementation Research Institute (IRI) supporting mental health researchers.

A newer program known as the Mentored Training for Dissemination and Implementation Research in Cancer (MT-DIRC) is establishing a curriculum that can be used and adapted for future D&I training programs. To do so, we first started with a card-sort activity that established 55 competencies within the areas of Definitions, Background, Rationale; Theory and Approaches; Design & Analysis; Practice-Based Considerations; and Grant Proposal Development. More details about this process and its results can be found in this Implementation Science article and this Clinical and Translational Science Journal article.

While we have a strong foundation for our training programs, we sought to investigate whether we were missing core content areas within the current list of competencies. In summer of 2015, we employed a Concept Mapping activity to identify where these gaps fit in the current curriculum by engaging researchers, practitioners and policy makers in the process. The reporting of these results is currently in process.

Here at Washington University, we are training the next generation of D&I researchers and one day soon, hope to see that 17 year gap closed.

For more information on MT-DIRC, contact Maggie Padek ( and for IRI, contact Ana Baumann (