This month’s Science and Communities Interact (SCI) Café, a community discussion that allows community members to meet with scientists to engage in casual dialogs about research-related topics, featured David Wilde, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Wilde is a Program Officer at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), which is part of the National Institutes of Health. The Institute for Translational Sciences (ITS) is funded through a Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA), which is a grant that is competitively awarded by NCATS.
Translational research is the field of research dedicated to applying – or “translating” – scientific discoveries made in the laboratory or in animal models into clinical practice with humans. Its ultimate goals are to offer better medical treatments to individuals and to improve public health
When asked about his organization’s long-standing reputation for involving communities in scientific research, Dr. Wilde emphasized NCATS’s focus on embracing community involvement throughout the translational research continuum. He stressed that in the translational process, communities and individuals define their needs, and science must be focused toward outcomes and quality of life, rather than only on clinical parameters. He stated that if the community is not part of a clinical trial, it is not a complete trial; the public’s input and feedback is essential.
Many community members requested advice for young scientists interested in translational research – Dr. Wilde suggested first building a solid, specific knowledge base of scientific research skills, then working toward translating the research findings. Toward this pursuit, research teams, like the Multidisciplinary Translational Teams (MTTs) that the ITS supports, can be immensely helpful. Teams including researchers at all levels of skill and experience can mentor young researchers and assist them with developing innovative projects, filling knowledge gaps, and pursuing funding opportunities toward translational science.
Dr. Wilde also discussed NCATS’ commitment to raising the profile of research as a worthwhile activity. Some plans in support of this goal include incentivizing research and keeping talented physician/scientists in the research field, as well as maintaining intramural fellowships across NIH. Additionally, he mentioned the positive trend of consistent federal funding for translational research.
The audience mentioned numerous ways for community members to support and advocate for scientific research, including joining grassroots efforts – like those organized around increasing research about specific diseases, or those focused on lobbying for funding for scientific research as a whole – as well as partnering with various stakeholders involved in research, from non-profit foundations to the pharmaceutical or medical device industry.
Photo: This SCI Café discussion, held at The Beach Hut in Galveston, drew more than 40 attendees interested in learning about scientific research.