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Science Does Not Speak for Itself: Translating Child Development Research for the Public and Its Policymakers

How can we translate the science of early brain and biological development? Partnerships between scientists and social scientists can help.
Jack P. Shonkoff, Susan Nall Bales
March 16, 2015

Science has an important role to play in advising policymakers on crafting effective responses to social problems that affect the development of children. This article describes lessons learned from a multiyear, working collaboration among neuroscientists, developmental psychologists, pediatricians, economists, and communications researchers who are engaged in the iterative construction of a core story of development, using explanatory metaphors like “brain architecture,”“toxic stress,” and “serve and return” to explain complex scientific concepts to nonscientists. The aim of this article is to stimulate more systematic, empirical approaches to the task of knowledge mobilization and to underscore the need to view the translation of science into policy and practice as an important academic endeavor in its own right.