Ending the 17-year gap–The Role of PubTrawlr

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17 years.

Research into the medical and social sciences indicates that it can take up to 17 years before a scientific finding makes its way into regular practice[1],[2],[3],[4],[5] This fact is troubling. There are tens of thousands of academic journals filled with literally millions of great ideas and notable findings. So why aren’t these used?

The reality is that approaching any research question or literature search can be fraught with intimidation and frustration. A specific set of skills and expertise are required to make sense of large swaths of articles. Because of this barrier, many great ideas don’t make it into practice. Consequently, people in the social services don’t use the best strategies and don’t know the most up-to-date knowledge.

The whole field of implementation science has emerged as a way to help shorten this gap. Most researchers have focused on understanding context and how to provide interventions like training, technical assistance, and quality improvement.

This work doesn’t address a fundamental issue, though. What can we do to make science more usable? How can we remove barriers to accessing primary sources?

Consider a world when practitioners, doctors, teachers, counselors, public health professionals, and many more have meaningful access to the most up-to-date published research. Where they can deeply consider current findings and integrate these into their practice. Where students and lifelong learners develop the critical skills to sort and evaluate literature by more deeply engaging with the topics they are researching. Where proficiency in English is no longer a barrier to capitalizing on the scientific results of industrialized countries.

PubTrawlr moves into that world. PubTrawlr is a software interface to help people search and understand scientific results more effectively and efficiently by providing on-demand, web-based information. We collect all articles on a specific topic, organize, and summarize them so that people have a head start in the search efforts. PubTrawlr works by implementing cutting-edge natural language processing algorithms to rapidly process huge amounts of text-based data and yield interpretable, actionable results.

This is the promise of PubTrawlr. Getting knowledge off the pages and into the hands of the people who can use it.


[1] Morris, Z. S., Wooding, S., & Grant, J. (2011). The answer is 17 years, what is the question: understanding time lags in translational research. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine104(12), 510-520.

[2] Balas, E. A., & Boren, S. A. (2000). Managing clinical knowledge for health care improvement.

[3] Colditz, G. A., & Emmons, K. M. (2012). The promise and challenges of dissemination and implementation research. Dissemination and implementation research in health: Translating science to practice, 3-22.

[4] Baker, A. (2001). Crossing the quality chasm: a new health system for the 21st century (Vol. 323, No. 7322, p. 1192). British Medical Journal Publishing Group.

[5] Estabrooks, Paul A., Ross C. Brownson, and Nicolaas P. Pronk. “Dissemination and implementation science for public health professionals: an overview and call to action.” Preventing chronic disease 15 (2018).

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