Translocational research – Excuse me?

From a perspective on the AHRQ web site, Dr. Robert Wachter wrote in September of 2005: “It strikes me that much of the progress that we have made in the patient safety field over the past decade reflects a different kind of translational research: the translation not of basic research discoveries into clinical applications, but of insights and practices from non–health care fields into health care. To highlight the movement from non-medical fields into medicine, I propose that we call this translocational research.” (1).

I submitted the following comment about this perspective, but it got translocated into the recycle bin.

Dr. Wachter proposes that the mechanism of transferring practices from non healthcare fields into healthcare be called “translocational research”. Yet, this practice already has a name: “technology transfer.” If one puts the words “technology transfer” (with quotes) into the Google search engine, one gets over 32 million hits. Much has been written on the subject (2).

As someone who has spent time transferring engineering reliability tools into healthcare, I note whenever possible, the terminology should remain the same so that it is understandable to practitioners in the original field. Hence, I don’t see the need for inventing a new term.


  1. See
  2. Davenport H and Prusak L. Working knowledge: How organizations manage what they know. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1998.




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