We scientists have always been a well-travelled bunch, and these days it is increasingly de rigueur to spend at least a part of our training or early career in a country other than our own. Many of us find that we pick up rather more than improved bench techniques during such sojourns--a love of another culture or some facility with a second language might be unexpected spin-offs of a trip abroad.

In fact, as the Next Wave editorial team has been finding out, there are ways that scientists who are so inclined can combine their research training and their interest in languages into a single job--scientific translating.

Could a career in translating await you? Well, the good news is that the demand for translation of scientific documents has never been higher--and it is growing all the time. The less good news is that translators need a very particular set of skills, including some less obvious ones. For example, translators typically need to know how to run a business, because most market themselves as freelancers. And just getting by in a second language is far from sufficient. Rather "total immersion," preferably by spending at least 4 years in another country, is required, says experienced translator Josephine Bacon. This is probably why many translators have their roots in the languages and not the sciences.

As all of this month's authors show, however, immersion in scientific language--and the particular, peculiar way that we scientists communicate--will also stand you in good stead. With the right mix of skills you could find yourself contributing to the scientific process in quite a different way.

In Training

Gianluigi Desogus found out about a new course in scientific translating at London's Imperial College and decided it would be a great way to combine his scientific background with a career that suits his lifestyle.

In-House Translating


Liisa Salo was a biochemist for 20 years before finding that she could combine her love of languages and her interests in science and politics by working for the European Commission.

Peter Boyle has more than a decade of experience as a translator for the pharmaceutical industry. He gives a fantastic overview of the scene for scientific translators.

Doug Sipp knows all about deadlines. He describes what it takes to get the weekly Japanese edition of the research journal Nature to press. And in a separate piece he gives an excellent overview of the opportunities for scientific translators in Japan, with advice that's applicable wherever you are.

Freelancers' Tales

Dennis Wester has put his long-standing love of Russian to work, both full-time, and alongside his career in chemistry.

Hanna Valenta recently graduated in biomedicine from Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, and is setting up her own translation business. Find out how.

Josephine Bacon became a translator in the ?60s and has a wealth of experience to share with newcomers to translating and interpreting.

Ursula Vielkind finds translating every bit as intellectually stimulating as the 25 years she has spent in research labs around the world.

David Wade may have become a translator by accident, but the freedom that freelancing provides suits him very well.

Ulrike Walter moved from Germany to California--and from the lab to translating. As a mother of small children it has been an ideal career move.

Take It Further

Next Wave editors around the globe have uncovered a wealth of resources that should help if you decide to pursue a career in translating.