How Long Does it Take to Adopt a New Idea - Translational Theory

A number of years ago, at the invitation of my dean at the University of Pittsburgh, I was invited to a lecture on "translational theory." Now I didn't know exactly what "translational theory" was, but it sounded interesting, so I attended.

Although there is not definitive agreement on the exact dimensions of translational theory, this lecture interpreted the construct as the process and time that unfolds between the initiation of an idea, to its assimilation into the general public. That is, the effort of translating an idea to reality.

This really interested me in the work I do at CLASS ( as we are trying to move our work from the historic "micro" perspective (people with disabilities have a problem) to a "macro" sense (the community has a problem accepting and including people with disabilities). It has been a track I have been on since the mid 80's, and that I began to write about this shift starting with my first book, "Interdependence: The Route to Community" in 1990.

At this lecture, the speaker (who was from the CDC) described how the average amount of time it takes to translate a new medicine being developed at the university to its application in aiding public health. He told us the average time it takes from the hatching of something innovative to its application averages about 25 years!!!  25 years!!!  And some good ideas never really see the light of day, even though they are excellent possibilities, predicated on emerging science.

This stunned me, but then got me thinking. My book, "Interdependence" laid a blueprint for moving the rehabilitation paradigm from micro to macro. That was 25 years ago! So this should be the year!