The importance of scientific translations

Translation & Localization28 July 20145k

High-quality translations are an invaluable part of scientific work, as medical professionals want to ensure the integrity of their research is maintained regardless of what language it is published in.

Considering that English is the accepted language for the scientific community, this presents problems for those not possessing sufficient skills to be able to write in this language as they try to make sure their work is widely read. 

Meredith Root-Bernstein and Richard Ladle have sought to emphasize the importance of accurate scientific translations. Writing in the Times Education Supplement, the pair, who work for the University of Oxford and the Federal University of Alagoas Brazil respectively, pointed out that science "needs more trained personnel who can bridge the language gap".

While some may ask for help from their colleagues, others will use professional translators to ensure a top quality final document is created. 

Translating research into any of the world's main languages (including Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese and French) is likely to boost a paper's citation rate. Indeed, these four languages are responsible for a fifth of research published globally in environmental, biological and agricultural sciences.

"A misplaced preposition or poor choice of verb can ruin a convincing narrative, reducing the probability of publication in a top international journal and limiting the impact of the research," they added. "Not only is this bad news for scientists struggling to communicate their work, it is also bad for science."

Finding the right skills

The main problem associated with translating scientific research is finding the right skill set.  People working in non-anglophone countries need to hire professional translators with a science background, as it is simply not enough to use people fluent in both the source and target language.

Because of the complex ideas being discussed, translators need to have a good understanding of the subject matter in order to make sure any translation is highly accurate.

Moreover, a well developed translation system for scientific papers will allow for the "rapid accumulation of data supporting or refuting hypotheses and increase knowledge sharing in applied areas", the pair stated.    

Such is the requirement for this type of role that both scientists hope universities in English-speaking countries re-assess their options and consider how important translators could be. Linking up with a world-class localization agency could be one option worth considering.

More than just data

According to Ms Root-Bernstein and Mr Ladle, the language used in science is very important, as it dictates the type of communication experience people will have. The ability to persuade readers and relate complex ideas requires in-depth knowledge of the topic and language itself, or else nuanced issues will be lost in translation. 

This is why research papers are about much more than data, as without the right language it is hard for readers to make an informed judgment on the merits of the author's ideas. So if scientists want to get ahead, they need to seek out highly-skilled translators with a good degree of backgrounds knowledge. Luckily we're here to help


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