The Challenges of Biomedical Research Translation

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Biomedical research is a discipline of fundamental importance for human health. It allows for the acquisition of knowledge in the development of diagnostic and therapeutic tools that contribute to the prevention and treatment of diseases, as well as to the improvement of people’s quality of life.

All research, both pre-clinical and clinical, is carried out under strict national standards and international guidelines, and must be authorized by relevant regulatory and supervisory authorities, in order to ensure, at a minimum, that participants and their rights are protected, that the design chosen is suitable, and that the results obtained are of high quality and suitable for the intended purpose.

Various types of specific documents are generated in research, e.g., protocols and amendments, informed consent forms, the investigator’s manual, participant recruitment documents, and contracts for conducting trials, to name but a few. Given that research often involves multiple centers located in different countries, it is necessary for all these documents to be properly translated, and this is where the specialized translator plays a critical role.

Professionals translating this type of content face an arduous and extremely challenging task. Above all, translators must be excellent readers and editors. In addition, they must maintain the scientific rigor of the subject matter, master the specific terminology and its subtleties and reflect a register and a style appropriate to the document, its purpose and intended audience. The target text should flow and read clearly. Whoever translates this type of content should not give in to the temptation of false literalism, resorting to the structural reproduction of the source text, an error common in many translations of scientific texts. I’d like to conclude with the words of Alberto Manguel: “The ideal reader is a translator, capable of shredding a text, removing its skin, cutting it down to the bone, following each artery and each vein and then putting it back together as a new living entity”.

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