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What's in a Name? A Paradigm Shift for Clinical Research
  1. Albert E. Reece,
  2. Horacio Murillo
  1. From the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, and Department of Radiology, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX.
  1. Address correspondence to: Dr. E. Albert Reece, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 655 W. Baltimore Street, Room 14-029, Baltimore, MD 21201; e-mail: Deanmed{at}

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A myriad of terms are used to describe the types of research activities required to translate basic science and technological advances into health benefits. Examples include clinical, patient-oriented, translational, health services, and effectiveness research. The various terms have profound implications for funding, interdisciplinary interactions, promotion and tenure metrics, and the workforce, as well as the way such researchers are perceived by their peers. In describing and analyzing the problem, the nomenclature itself stands out as a significant inhibiting factor to translating basic life science discoveries into health benefits. This is consistent with the central theme of semantics that language underlies human thought. The lack of uniformity in terminology limits effective practice and collaboration, confuses the public, and raises barriers to integrated research.

We propose that the term translational research be used to give a name that encompasses what most medically related research is about. Using the name basic research does not itself describe every basic science discipline. However, it conveys the message that whether it be chemistry, biochemistry, or cell biology, basic research under such names involves applying scientific and technological methods to advance science. To add specifics, one may say “cell biology research” to specify research studies to understand basic cellular processes. Likewise, the term translational research may not describe every medically related research activity. However, it does convey the message that, whether it be patient-oriented, clinical, or effectiveness research, research activities under such names involve applying basic and nonbasic scientific and clinical methods to advance medicine. The term translational research will thus serve as the brand name of medically related research. It will serve to identify and describe the distinctive merits and value of non-basic research.

Using such a brand name will not detract from those individuals who by tradition or by objectives already do translational research. For …

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