Epidemiology occupies a unique role as a knowledge-generating scientific discipline with roots in the knowledge translation of public health practice. As our fund of incompletely-translated knowledge expands and as budgets for health research contract, epidemiology must rediscover and adapt its historical skill set in knowledge translation. The existing incentive structures of academic epidemiology – designed largely for knowledge generation – are ill-equipped to train and develop epidemiologists as knowledge translators. A useful heuristic is the epidemiologist as Accountable Health Advocate (AHA) who enables society to judge the value of research, develops new methods to translate existing knowledge into improved health, and actively engages with policymakers and society. Changes to incentive structures could include novel funding streams (and review), alternative publication practices, and parallel frameworks for professional advancement and promotion.
From the aDepartment of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD; and bDepartment of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Submitted 22 December 2011; accepted 13 March 2012.
The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. This manuscript was prepared without dedicated funding.
Editors’ note: Related articles appear on pages 919, 923, and 927.
Correspondence: David W. Dowdy, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dept. of Epidemiology, 615 N. Wolfe St, E6531, Baltimore, MD 21205. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.