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Translating Illness


Translating Illness is an interdisciplinary research project created by Dr Marta Arnaldi, Laming Junior Research Fellow at The Queen’s College Oxford, a ballet dancer, and the author of an award-winning collection of poems. The project consists of a programme of international collaborations and a series of seminars, podcasts and video conversations. Translating Illness has been inspired by Marta’s academic background in both literature and the medical sciences, and has been awarded funds from the Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) and the John Fell Fund, Oxford, as well as by The Queen’s College.

Special thanks to doctor-artist Eoin Kelleher for the logo.


Twitter: @tersi_core14

Translating Illness: Seminar Series and Podcasts

What do medicine and translation have in common? In what sense, and to what extent, is translation used in contexts as different as the transfer of meaning from one language (or medium) to the other, the concept of knowledge translation, and the process of protein synthesis? How will a nuanced understanding of translation help us advance in literary and linguistic studies as well as in clinical research? In a newly-launched seminar series taking place at The Queen’s College, Oxford, we will explore these questions in an interdisciplinary way, aiming to endorse, promote and even inspire translation outside our area of expertise, and our common understanding.

All welcome and no booking is required.

Read the full programme here.

Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Translating Illness events scheduled to take place in May and June 2020 have been postponed. Please check the Translating COVID-19 video conversations, if you would like to hear about the connections between translation and the 2020 global health crisis.

Translating COVID-19: Video Conversations

Translating COVID-19 is an independent yet associated stream of research born within the Translating Illness programme. It was conceived and activated as an emergency response to the Coronavirus global pandemic in 2020. Dr Marta Arnaldi joins in (video) conversation experts in fields as different as translation studies and epidemiology, in order to explore forms, metaphors, and practices of translation at the time of a global health crisis. Find out more about Translating COVID-19 and watch the videos here.

Past Events

17 February 2020 - Professor Trish Greenhalgh

“The Crucifixion of Brother Peter”: Moral Claims and Religious Imagery in Two Competing Narratives about the Cochrane Collaboration

In 2018, a so-called crisis developed in the Cochrane network of systematic reviewers. It was widely depicted in terms of two competing narratives – [a] “bad behaviour” by one individual and [b] scientific and moral decline within Cochrane. This presentation will report the attempt of an interdisciplinary group of scholars (from medicine, sociology, critical management studies and science and technology studies) to distil insights on the structural, ethical and linguistic issues underpinning the crisis, without taking a definitive position on the accuracy of either narrative. Having framed the conflict as primarily philosophical and political rather than methodological, the author will use the seminar series’ theme of ‘translation’ to illustrate how the scholars on both poles of this divide might harness their tensions productively.

Trish Greenhalgh is Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences and Fellow of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford. She is Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Research in Health Sciences (IRIHS) Unit, a programme of research at the interface between social sciences and medicine. She was awarded the OBE for Services to Medicine in 2001 and made a Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences in 2014.

20 January 2020 - Inaugural lecture by Professor Chas Bountra

We are not good at translating lab science into new medicines for patients

The discovery of “pioneer medicines” (i.e. those acting via novel molecular targets) has proven to be an immensely complex, long term, expensive and high risk endeavour. Despite formidable investments by the pharmaceutical industry and public/ charitable funders, over the past few decades in both infrastructure and technology, the success rates have remained low. During his presentation, Prof. Bountra discussed ways in which we can pool resources to share risk, reduce duplication, improve translation, minimise patient harm, and help industry discover new medicines for society.

Chas Bountra is Professor of Translational Medicine at the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford. He is Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Affordable Medicines and has been made Oxford’s new Pro Vice-Chancellor, Innovation. 

Listen to the podcast of Prof. Bountra's lecture here.