Life Sciences is a highly regulated industry. I for one am glad that it is. Without proper guidelines and control mechanisms to ensure safety and quality, dangerous products could be marketed to unassuming customers.
Life sciences companies, especially larger ones like Merck, do business in a global environment. By that nature, commercialization of products in different global regions would require that information be understood by the targeted markets. This could mean information needs to be presented in that local language.
Every industry has unique terminologies and jargons. Life sciences is not different. Life sciences is also considered a knowledge industry. In fact, some of the terminologies used in the life sciences industry can be quite challenging to someone outside of that industry. This makes translating life sciences content rather difficult. Not only would a translator need to be a linguist, but the translator must also possess subject matter knowledge of the content. If the content is not well understood, it cannot be translated.
In addition to having knowledge of the content, translators would need to understand various regulations and guidelines pertaining to information security, confidentiality, and quality assurance practices. One example would be that before a translation can take place for a Patient Information Leaflet, a “Readability” testing must be performed. The “Readability” testing is a method (could be an interview or survey) to assure that the intended target consumer understands the intent of the content. For those reasons and more, many Language Service Providers (LSP) have stringent requirements when qualifying translators for life sciences content. Further, LSPs are either certified or have quality assurance measures in place conforming to ISO 9001 standards. Some even have ISO 17100 certifications which is specific to the translation industry.
Adding to the complexity of translating life sciences content mentioned above, many times documents received by the LSPs come in the form of scanned documents. This requires additional effort to either reproduce the source document manually or to convert the documents into an editable format via an OCR application. On top of that, depending on the nature of the content, sometimes specific templates are required which can not be altered as is true in the case of translating labeling content.
Lastly, errors in translation can have enormous consequences. Lives could be lost and a company’s reputation could be damaged. Translation errors can delay a launch of a product, recall of a product, and can lead to legal proceedings. All of this points to having only qualified professional translators take on these types of projects within the life sciences industry. Taking shortcuts or trying to save a few dollars by using non-qualified translators can have a long-lasting negative impact on the company and people in general.