Making the Most of Life Sciences
Localization Resources


Mark Shriner is the strategic sales director for memoQ, leading the company’s market growth in the regulated industries. He has previously worked in several leadership roles in the localization industry including CEO Asia Pacific for CLS Communication.


Mark Shriner

Mark Shriner is the Strategic Sales Director for memoQ, leading the company’s market growth in the regulated industries. He has previously worked in several leadership roles in the localization industry including CEO Asia Pacific for CLS Communication.

Welcome back to The Lab, where we take a look at what’s cooking in life sciences localization. This month we are going to share some resources for linguists who are involved with translation and interpretation related to healthcare, pharma, medical devices, and clinical trials.

Translators of life sciences content are always concerned with the quality and accuracy of their work. People’s lives could depend on a care provider’s or a patient’s ability to understand content on important documents such as instructions for use (IFU) and other product-related descriptions and operating instructions. Likewise, interpreters in healthcare scenarios must be able to understand medical terminology and jargon used by healthcare providers, and then be able to communicate messages to patients in an appropriate and understandable manner.

Linguists in life sciences, whether they be translators, editors, reviewers, or interpreters, need to continually keep abreast of the latest scientific and technical terminology as well as requirements and best practices for readability and comprehension. These regulations and guidelines in Europe and the US for communicating with various groups of patients — including adults, adolescents, young children, and even people suffering from dementia — are constantly evolving.

Staying up to date can be a challenge. So we’ve decided to provide a list of relevant industry associations, glossaries, lay summary guides, and readability measurement systems in order to help life science translators and interpreters achieve their goals for accuracy and readability.

Multilingual Glossaries


MedlinePlus is a service provided by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the world’s largest medical library. It is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and has the goal of presenting high-quality relevant health and wellness information on various topics including drugs and supplements, genetics, medical tests, clinical trials, and healthy recipes.

All content on MedlinePlus is available in English and Spanish, and the “Health Information in Multiple Languages” page provides medical definitions, articles, documents, and reference materials in 56 different languages. Interestingly, the amount of content available by language varies greatly with some languages, such as Italian having less than 25 entries, and others, like Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin Chinese, having several hundred each.

EUPATI Toolbox Glossary

The European Patients’ Academy on Therapeutic Innovation (EUPATI) Toolbox is an online library of medicine research, development, and patient engagement materials. The purpose of the Toolbox is to provide access to structured, comprehensive, scientifically reliable, and user-friendly educational materials for patients. The EUPATI Toolbox Glossary is a comprehensive and easily searchable resource that can be accessed using Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.

English Language Glossaries

While not as linguistically diverse as the multilingual glossaries, English language glossaries can assist linguists who are working from English, or into English, to gain a better understanding of life science-related terms, or view examples of usage for either laypersons or industry professionals.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

The FDA’s online glossary lists fewer than 50 words and phrases. However, the FDA Acronyms and Abbreviations database provides an easy to use quick reference database of acronyms and abbreviations related to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) activities with an emphasis on scientific, regulatory, government agency, and computer application terms.

The European Network for Health Technology Assessment (EUnetHTA)

In 2007, EUnetHTA created a glossary of health technology assessment (HTA) terms to provide detailed descriptions of key words and concepts that are easily misunderstood between countries. The online glossary is not currently accessible. However, a PDF version of the “Glossary of HTA Adaptation Terms” is available for download.

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

The NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms features 9,071 terms related to cancer and medicine. The NCI offers a widget so that anyone can add the dictionary to their website, allowing visitors to look up cancer-related terms at no charge. It also offers the NCI Drug Dictionary, which provides technical definitions and synonyms for various drugs and agents used in cancer treatment with links to clinical trials and the NCI Dictionary of Genetic Terms.

Plain-Language Glossaries

Many documents such as lay summaries need to be written in what’s known as plain language. Some key aspects of plain language include whether your audience can find what they need, whether they can understand what they find the first time they read or hear it, and whether they can use what they find to meet their needs.

There are many tools and techniques available for linguists to support the creation of plain- language content. Plain-language glossaries, for instance, describe technical and scientific terms in a way that can be understood by an average person with a middle school education.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) provides a glossary of regulatory terms arranged in alphabetical order and a medical term simplifier that is accessible via viewable and downloadable PDF document. The EMA Medical Term Simplifier is an excellent resource for any linguist needing to ensure that their translations or interpretations are appropriate and accessible for the general public.

Both the EMA Glossary of Regulatory Terms and the EMA Medical Term Simplifier can be found here:

Glossary of Evaluation Terms for Informed Treatment (GET-IT) Glossary

The aim of GET-IT Glossary is to facilitate informed choices about treatments by promoting consistent use of plain language and providing plain-language explanations of terms that people might need to understand if they wish to assess claims about treatments.

The glossary is specifically intended to be useful to people without a research background, particularly those wanting to make an informed choice about a treatment, communicating research evidence to the general public, or teaching others about how to assess claims made about treatments.

The GET-IT Glossary has some unique features. All definitions and explanations have been written in plain language so as to be understandable by a wide range of readers, with definitions typically limited to approximately 130 characters. Many definitions include linked explanations, examples, and extra resources. GET-IT allows other websites to embed the GET-IT Glossary on their sites at no charge.

PHARMA IQ Glossary

Pharma IQ, an online portal that facilitates information sharing in the pharmaceutical community, maintains a glossary called the Pharma IQ Glossary. This is a glossary of keywords, acronyms, and general terminology used in day-to-day professional work. It’s very user friendly and provides detailed definitions and descriptions.

Lay Summaries

Lay summaries are an important part of the clinical trial process as they inform patients, laypersons, and nonspecialist medical professionals regarding the results of a clinical trial. They are required in the EU according to EU No. 536/2014 of the European Parliament.

A summary may need to be drafted in different styles according to its target audience. To that end, various organizations provide information related to drafting and translating lay summaries, like the Good Lay Summary Practice (GLSP).

The GLSP is an 85-page document that provides recommendations on how to prepare, write, translate, and disseminate summaries of clinical trial results in lay language. It should be required reading for any linguists involved with creation and/or dissemination of lay summaries in the EU.



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