Lost in translation - preserving scientific knowledge across borders

Wednesday 30 September 2015
D10, 1.5 hours

Organised by the FIP Health & Medicines Information Section and the FIP Industrial Pharmacy Section  


Scientific translation is a key to scientific communication: it enables research and findings to cross linguistic borders and facilitates exchange and understanding. How else would we be able to learn from scientific literature written in languages other than our own? How else would we gain insights into research which could be of great value for our own work? One must ask, then, why works go often un-translated and why the critical art of translation is sometimes very little understood or valued.

We have all seen poor-quality translations, translated text that is virtually unintelligible for a native speaker, translations that misrepresent the original text and blatant mistakes. Translators become the villains – the easy targets when pointing the finger. But is translation just taking words from one language and finding the equivalent in the target language? Translation involves much more than simply transferring the words into another language. It requires research, thorough understanding of both the original and target languages, cultural knowledge, and specific training on the topic to be translated.

Is it better to translate literally difficult expressions so as not to "betray" the text but at risk of a lower quality translation, or is it better to find the closest alternative that makes sense in the target language, even though it might slightly modify the idea? It very much depends on the situation. For professional information, the translation has to be as precise as possible, even at the cost of a less appropriate terminology. For public information, it is probably more important to have a target text that is well understood by everyone.

In the translation industry, it is considered 'standard procedure' to translate only from an individual's second language, into their native language; never the other way around. However, this fundamental rule is often ignored, and even, surprisingly, often accepted without question by translation buyers.

In China, Japan and elsewhere, native translators will often work into and out of their native tongue.

Moreover, a fully competent translator is not only bilingual but bicultural and if possible well trained in the specific science.

Therefore, there is a need for an evaluative international forum of this type, which will bring diverse experts from a range of national and professional contexts into dialogue and give them the opportunity to reflect deeply on ways to encourage better translations and to promote the role of translation in the scientific, medical and pharmaceutical world.

The session is intended to focus on the following questions:

-Who decides what gets translated and how?

-Is proof reading always necessary? 

-Who judges if the translations received are really adequate? 

-What are the limits of machine translation, of CAT? How to use it. 

-What is the economic profile of scientific translation? 

-What can translators’ associations and authors’ networks do to increase awareness    around the importance of translation? 

Learning objectives 

Knowledge-based session

At the conclusion of the session, participants will be able to: 

  1. Describe the quality process in scientific translation and its relevance to make science accessible to international audiences.
  2. Identify where particular deficits exist in different pharmaceutical sectors and discuss what actions could be taken to encourage mutual understanding and better translations.
  3. Outline the impacts of the increasing demand for translations in the pharmaceutical industry sector, i.e., the perspective from companies acting in countries with different languages.
  4. Categorise the effectiveness of automated and semi-automated tools used to speed-up the translation process and comply with the short timelines of the pharmaceutical sector.
  5. Describe the points-of-view, challenges and expectations from translation providers.
  6. Identify on-translation mistakes that could cause damages (including to patients) and how to manage them.

Chairs: Parisa Aslani (The University of Sydney, Australia) and Igor Linhares de Castro (BiocadBrazil, Brazil)


12:30 1) Introduction
Igor Linhares de Castro (BiocadBrazil, Brazil) 

12:40 2) Impacts of translation in the pharmaceutical industry: needs and expectations of translation buyers
Angela Calianno (Celgene R&D Sarl, Switzerland)

13:10 3) Ensuring reliability and effectiveness of scientific medical and pharmaceutical translations: the perspective of translation providers

Matilde Nisbeth Jensen (Aarhus University, Denmark)

13:40 4) Case reports: managing risk outcomes from translation mistakes in the health sector