[IEEE IPCC 2005. Proceedings. International Professional Communication Conference, 2005. - Limerick, Ireland (July 7, 2005)] IPCC 2005. Proceedings. International Professional Communication Conference, 2005. - Project management and quality assurance in cover-to-cover translation of a medical journal

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  • 2005 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference Proceedings

    0-7803-9028-8/05/$20.00 2005 IEEE.

    Project Management and Quality Assurance in Cover-to-Cover Translation of a Medical Journal

    Mary Ellen KeransFreelance authors editor and translator; Instructor, English for the Specific Purposes, Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain mekerans@telefonica.net


    Experienced medical translators are fully employed in Barcelona, so when a well-indexed medical journal began cover-to-cover bilingual publication in 2003adopting a policy of international communication in two languages rather than a single lingua francaa new team of freelance translators had to be formed, trained, supported, and monitored. This case study spans the negotiation, early development, and later solutions that resulted in feedback loops that allowed the publisher, editorial board, and translation team to form a community capable of learning and enhancing product quality. In addition to discussing practical issues, I analyze why bilingual scientific journal publication is a viable strategy for non-native English speaking scientists who want to participate in international discourse in an organized group while retaining use of the language of local epistemic or clinical activity.

    Keywords: scientific translation, non-native English writing, social construction, knowledge societies

    Introduction: bilingual scholarly publicationan emerging model

    Cover-to-cover bilingual or multilingual journal publication, until recently, has been of interest for the commercial dissemination of high-profile journals like the British Medical Journal, Lancet,

    Journal of the American Medical Association, andJournal of the American Dental Association,among others. Concurrent multilingual book publication has also become a common commercial practice as publishers have reorganized repeatedly since the 1980s to seek wider markets. A new trend toward full bilingual publication of small scholarly journals originally in languages other than English is different, however. It has proceeded quietly at great expense on the initiative of independent scientific societies that own internationally indexed national journals, particularly in clinical subspecialties. Examples areArquivos Brasileiros de Cardiologia and Jornal de Pediatria, both from Brazil, various Chinese journals,[1] and the Spanish journals RevistaEspaola de Cardiologia and Archivos de Bronchoneumologa (Archivos).

    This paper provides a description of the Archivostranslation project, which has been running smoothly since the spring of 2003. I will discuss 1) problems foreseen based on looking at translations from a previous full-journal translation project, 2) new protocols developed to match the goals of bilingual publication, 3) recruitment, support, and monitoring of translators, and 4) unforeseen problems that have arisen and how some have been solved. Issues of quality assurance are emphasized and work load is considered. Finally, the significance of bilingual publication of such journals is discussed in terms of the social concerns that motivated the Archivos project and the growing awareness of paralinguistic obstacles that continue to make it difficult to disseminate


  • 2005 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference Proceedings

    scientific research from non-English language cultures in spite of indexing, quality translation, and open access. The purposes are 1) to describe a procedural model whose features might be applicable in similar contexts and 2) to suggest theoretical frameworks that can be applied to analyze such enterprises.

    In a case study of an ongoing project whose participants cannot be fully concealed, and of which the author is a participant, issues of confidentiality and conflict of interest must be addressed frankly. To assure that treatment would be fair but that data would be available for use, the following measures were taken: 1) permission to use examples of internal correspondence among translators was obtained from team members; 2) permission to use examples of drafts, errata, and negotiation of changes was obtained from the publisher and editor in chief; 3) measures to maintain the anonymity of authors were agreed upon; and 4) other participants were promised the opportunity to append their response to a draft of the manuscript. Translators were also given a short open-ended questionnaire asking about their motivations in joining and staying with the project.

    Case Description: translation management for open access bilingual publication

    Spring-Summer 2002concerns about quality assurance, defining the problem and the goals

    Archivos, a monthly respiratory medicine and chest surgery journal, was the second well-indexed title the publisher, Ediciones Doyma, proposed to translate fully for an open-access web version. The journals editors were motivated by a desire to increase readership, citation, and impact factor without abandoning Spanish, the clinical language of members of the two medical societies that supported the journalthe Spanish Society of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery (SEPAR) and the Latin American Thoracic Society (ALAT). In doing so, the editors also sought to attract more and better manuscripts by serving authors better. What the editors asked of the publisher were translations that accurately reflected the original texts and were sufficiently well presented and written to inspire the confidence of the intended readers.

    How to obtain such translations was not immediately clear, given that accomplished medical translators are generally fully employed by

    the existing market in Spain. Furthermore, the publisher expressed concern over translation quality and missed deadlines in an earlier cover-to-cover translation project that had been running for several months behind schedule. New solutions, including how to choose translators, schedule production alongside translation, and monitor it, were wanted. Estimates were sought from the usual suppliersagencies and freelancersbut confidence in simple outsourcing strategies was low and the publisher was now willing to rethink them.

    As one of the possible suppliers, I first reviewed the existing translations the publisher had posted for the earlier bilingual journal. My purpose was to assess whether the criticisms of past work were justified or unreasonable. I quickly found errors as gross as heard that should have been heart in an article title, but most problems were more subtlesentences that were difficult to read and atypical terminology choices by translators. I also saw evidence of abstract and full text information mismatches that pointed to process quality assurance questions that were not caused by translation error but that should have been detected at that point and at earlier ones. Occasional translation errors suggesting lack of understanding were noted. On the other hand, stretches of text that were problem-free were also present, suggesting that problems might stem from text management problems rather than translator incompetence. In the process I noticed web page problems outside the scope of translation that would interfere with document access.

    I concluded that the project was promising, provided the editors and publisher would integrate translation and publication processes so that the needs of both were met. I proposed a budget for quality translation as conservative as possible, but with a view to real conditions in the Spanish freelance market. I asked that the publisher in turn develop a tight production schedule that showed when translation of an issue would take place in the context of other steps. On the assumption that translation quality assurance needed to be part of other types of monitoring, I asked that document retrieval problems be studied and corrected. I also argued they should target a schedule that allowed posting translations and MEDLINE abstracts simultaneously so English texts would be available as soon as the first potential international readers


  • 2005 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference Proceedings

    wanted them. Finally, I asked that translators be treated as authors of the English versions in the editorial process, in the sense that no changes be made in their texts without their approval. Table 1 summarizes the values and expectations expressed

    by the different parties during negotiation. Related topics are grouped in rows. Initiating points, in bold face, should be read first. Responses are in italics.

    Table 1. Issues discussed in project negotiation, decision-makers responses, and outcomes*

    Managing editor (publisher) Translation manager Editorial board Outcome

    Main negotiating points

    Provide overall quality on time. Respect the translated textsif changes are wanted, translators must approve them.

    Response: Were not the New England [Journal of Medicine].

    Agreement that we are targeting correctness, clarity and readability. A text should inspire reader confidence.

    Predictable turnaroundmeet production schedule deadlines at all key points.

    Predictable work flowpublisher and editors should follow a strict production schedule.

    First response unknown; conflict developed in the second year as editors complained that issue closing deadlines were too early for end-of-year-issues.

    Apparent agreement, shared goals

    Response: agreement on the value of simultaneous bilingual posting, when abstracts are sent to databases

    Translations should be posted and linked to databases at the moment the Spanish journal is indexed.

    Response unknown Agreement that the production schedule would assume this goal

    Response to editors request for freeze: not possible.

    Fees must be at the high end of market rates.

    Response: protest at overall cost. Ask for 3-year freeze.

    Agreement to try to contain costs. No 3-year promises made. Lowering of project management costs is predicted.

    Process issues

    Translation starts when the page proofs are available.

    Response: Good way to assure that texts have few if any Spanish language or information errors.

    Response unknown. Agreement

    Response: agreement, although the page proof (pdf file) was named as the source text. Eventually the publishers assistant undertook conversion.

    Work should be submitted on Microsoft Word files.

    Response unknown. Agreement.

    Editors idea of routing full translations would delay posting and not be of clear benefit, based on previous experience.

    Editors idea would potentially lead to a great deal of time spent negotiating final English form.

    Authors should approve the translations. In the past, authors received translated abstracts on their galleys.

    Pending quality assessment, translators retain author-type control over English version.


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    Managing editor (publisher) Translation manager Editorial board Outcome

    The translation project manager should route abstracts to authors for approval and negotiate form (step added during piloting of first issue).

    Response: Acceptance as a good opportunity for a manageable feedback loop between translators and authors.

    Response: Wait and see if this is sufficient for author approval of translations. (Accepts to try publishers proposal.)

    Agreement on the usefulness of routing abstracts to authors.

    Translators should proofread the English galleys (added after budget had been accepted).

    Response: Excellent way to monitor compliance with translators insistence that submitted translations be respected. Symbolic fee is added.

    Response unknown Agreement

    * Bold face indicates initiators of points; italics indicate responses expressed. Related points are grouped in rows.

    The mediator was the publishers managing editor, although at different times others present included the editorial assistant, the production manager (responsible for page making and other physical processes), and a page maker; the principal freelance copyeditor assigned and the head in-house copyeditor; the manager of computer services; members of the scientific societies editorial board; and one translator. Direct contact with the editorial board was intermittent, and messages were usually conveyed through the managing editor and assistant, who met with them weekly. The importance of the managing editors mediation was great, as the project held surprises that were potential sources of either conflict or learning.

    A budget was based on the assumption of a 2-week turnover for translation, which would have meant that post-translation editing could not be accomplished. Rather, individual translators would have to guarantee quality, supported only by terminology consultation through the project manager. Post-translation editing and feedback would be provided only on abstracts. Overall quality could only be spot checked randomly on each article and translators would be evaluated accordingly. Another assumption was that, although a new team of scientifically inexperienced freelance translators would have to be formed, they would have a very steep learning curve if given support. Sporadic monitoring would identify problems, and editors would judge whether the system was succeeding or not. SEPAR and the editors accepted the publishers budget, after I had submitted the translators, and the project was scheduled to run for 3 years.

    Fall-spring 2002-2003focus on matching processes to goals, recruiting and piloting

    Even as the budget was accepted, the project became more ambitious than originally conceived. Two changes played a major role in the translation processes eventually developed. One was the publishers switch to a 4-week turnover period for translation and the other was finding the local freelance market to be even tighter than anticipated. Table 2 shows the effect of the first change in terms of time budgeted and time actually used in the first year, during which translation only took place for the July through December issues.

    Face-to-face meetings between the translation project manager and the publisher or publisher and editors in the first year took up 10 more hours, so start-up time was therefore about 5-fold more than expected. Reasons will be analyzed in the next section.

    Table 3 shows the 7 steps in the publishers production schedule that affect translation scheduling directly, alongside the management and quality assurance steps necessary. In addition to the 7 steps shown, in-house cycles included copyediting between steps 1 and 2 and 2 galley cycles for author and editor approval along with proofreading before step 4. Before step 1, peer and editorial review has taken place.

    Table 3 should be read by first understanding a single issues cycle from the translators and publishers point of view (columns 1 through 4). Then, the final columns show the project managers actions and overlapping issues. Issue+1


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