Translation of Medical Research: an International Need

Progress is a collaborative effort. By tapping into an international network, researchers can learn, discover, and create at a faster rate than ever before. In order to collaborate across the globe, the translation of medical research becomes an unavoidable need.

Medical research is defined as “a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge” under the  Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This broad definition can include biomedical research, health services research, and epidemiological studies. It can also include studies of the behavioral, social, and economic factors that affect health.

Medical research provides a high value to society. This research can provide vital information regarding:

  • The outcomes of treatment or public health interventions
  • Functional abilities
  • Health care costs and use
  • Disease trends
  • Risk factors
  • Patterns of care

Clinical trials are one of the more familiar forms of health research. A clinical trial involves patients volunteering to participate in studies so that researchers can test the safety and effectiveness of new medical interventions.

The Need for Translation of Medical Research

Because an increasingly large portion of health research is information based, there is a great need for the translation of medical research. This research is heavily information based. It can include the analysis of data and biological samples required for the purposes of diagnostic, treatment, or billing.

As the field of science is changing rapidly and increasing in complexity, it is impossible for any single researcher or institution to have the required expertise to develop and validate the safety of a given medical innovation. The sharing of information between medical institutions is essential to the success and safety of medical advancements.

The Language Barrier

Until recently, English has been considered the lingua franca (aka a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different) in medicine. As of 2012, roughly 80% of all scientific journals indexed in Scopus (a large abstract and citation database) were published in English. But as more and more scientific cultures are now developing in many countries around the world, there is an increasing amount of journals being published in the national languages.

Non-English language based medical communities are growing in strength. Germany is one such country expressing a strong interest in working with materials written in their native language. When polled, seven out of 10 German physicians reported that it was important or very important that the medical articles they read are in German.

In India, authorities are pushing to provide all research papers bilingually so there is less of a language barrier. K Vijay Raghavan, a principal scientific advisor to the Government of India, told the Education Times that, “The power to grasp complex scientific concepts and analyse problems comes best to researchers when they are pursuing science in their own language.” He noted that researchers also need to have a proficient understanding of English as it is still the international language of science. “Thus, our goal is to have all kinds of literature and reference material — from school to research — available bilingually so that researchers who work in native languages can benefit from them,” Raghavan said.

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