Subject Matter Expertise is Critical in Life Sciences Translation
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
It’s all about the regulations
When translating life sciences content, getting it right is not optional- it can literally be a life and death matter. Whether it’s pharma, medical devices, or over the counter products, life sciences content is highly regulated for a reason, and those regulations often vary from country to country. Understanding regulatory requirements is critical to delivering translations that comply with the law, wherever they are being used. Subject matter expertise is an essential requirement for being qualified to translate life science content of any kind.
We have worked in life sciences translation for over thirty years
Since our inception we have worked with a variety of life sciences companies across the spectrum of products and requirements. Everything from documentation and training for complex medical devices to packaging for prescription consumer products like contact lenses. If you look at a product like contact lenses, packaging information requirements vary with virtually every country they are marketed in. Even if the target country adheres to international standards, the way information is displayed and delivered can vary widely. It requires our project managers and linguists to understand the ‘why’ of the content and its context, whether it is packaging copy, training materials, instructions, or usage warnings.
Life sciences subject matter expertise is particularly important for editor/reviewers
Quality control in any translation is dependent on having an experienced second set of eyes reviewing the translation for quality, accuracy, and, in life sciences particularly, adherence to legal standards and regulations. There are hundreds of established standards for virtually any type of medical product or service and the reviewing translator should be familiar with the standards that apply to the type of content they are vetting. Obviously, this complexity can mean that these kinds of projects can be more expensive and take more time than a less critical translation project. But this is offset by the costs that could be incurred if regs are broken or ignored. That could result in fines, the need to redo packaging or documentation and translation, or in a catastrophic scenario, injury or death. Not minor considerations.
What is expertise?
Expertise is a combination of knowledge and experience. One without the other is incomplete. In life sciences a subject matter expert should have a background in medicine or science that gives them a clear understanding of potential pitfalls or errors, based on that knowledge and experience. Another definition of an expert is a person who knows about new developments in their discipline before they are general knowledge, because they are inside of the field and have to keep current on its development. When we select translators for projects, we not only require native speakers, we also look for subject matter expertise, because we know it makes a big difference in the success of the project.