METM09 presentation     Thread: Promising practices

Quality assurance in translation as practiced at a bilingual medical journal

Elke Bartholomäus — Germany

Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (DAI) ( is the English-language online version of the journal of the German Medical Association. On a weekly basis, we translate approximately 10,000 words including: research, continuous medical education, conference reports, editorials, and letters to the editor.

Quality assurance measures at DAI begin with the choice of suitable translators (currently a team of six freelancers); factors affecting this choice include previous performance, accuracy, style, and overall quality. Additionally, our department values the important contributions made by our associate advisor, who is both an English native speaker and a physician. Just as importantly, every manuscript is proofread against the German language original by an in-house copy editor. Moreover, the authors of articles published by DAI are actively involved in the translation process as proofreaders of the final drafts.

We provide all translators with our uniform recommendations for style and reference materials (such as the AMA Manual of Style), and share glossaries. Completed translations are being stored and used as a source for future reference. Moreover, we are in the process of implementing corpus-guided translation. The corpus we are building will cover 30 medical specialties. We have also optimized our workflow. The focus of our production process has evolved in the direction of an -œarticle by article- basis. Previously our modus operandi emphasized a -œvolume to volume- approach. It is felt that this change of emphasis better enables us to spot errors in the source during translation and thus improve the German as well as the English versions. As some errors are more serious than others, they should be weighted and classified accordingly. In our experience, quality assurance is best understood as a continuous process in which reliable reference tools and feedback play crucial roles. I will present an analysis of the particular challenges to quality assurance we face at DAI (in the form of a fish bone diagram) and will illustrate the way we cope with them, i.e., the workflow at the journal and feedback chains.


Elke Bartholomäus, M.A., is copyeditor and translations project manager at Deutsches Ärzteblatt International. After having spent several years living and working in New York City she received a master’s degree in art history, literature and philosophy from the University of Cologne. She has been responsible for the English edition of Deutsches Ärzteblatt since its inception in 2006.