Despite the historical importance of translational research to social psychological investigations of social justice issues, the culture and incentives of contemporary social psychology are ambivalent towards non-experimental field research. This ambivalence poses a significant impediment to social psychology’s role in societal change. This paper offers a brief history of how the field evolved from a relative emphasis on translating social psychology from the laboratory to the field (and back) to the present moment. In doing so, we enumerate the most significant impediments to contemporary translational social psychology, namely that conducting translational research often involves greater cost, greater difficulty advancing psychological theory, and more time navigating logistics compared with basic laboratory research. Finally, using the example of recent multi-investigator research on race and gender equity in policing, we outline emerging strategies for how to conduct translational research amidst contemporary impediments, and offer modest suggestions for how the field can better facilitate this kind of research in the future. Taken together this review offers a set of theoretical and practical suggestions for easing the path from research to societal change.