Life in Life Sciences

During my current job search I’ve taken a fairly extensive poll from all of my contacts to see how they are faring in our current, troubled economy. I found that my friends who feel that they are experiencing the greatest job security work heavily in Life Sciences. This is true even w/in the translation / localization community. No one knows whether we can credit this to an aging population more dependent on health care products, or long product cycles, in which projects were funded before the economic crises. Regardless of the cause, Life Sciences is a good place to be these days.

Do you have to be a chemist or scientist?

Life Sciences encompasses pharmaceutical, medical instrumentation and host of other health related products. Although the highest visibility positions are for people with a hard core scientific background, there are many opportunities for content creators in this field. Life Sciences lives and dies based on the effective exchange of information. And that is what content creation and management is all about. Furthermore, Life Science products from North America are deriving more revenue from overseas markets than in recent years. So this is an extremely important sector to translation vendors.

Issues specific to Life Sciences content

In revisiting my own CV credentials, I discovered that I have far more Life Sciences experience than I realized. When working for any vendor (translation or otherwise) you have many clients from many industries. But for the better part of 8 long years, nearly all of my work focused on typical Life Sciences content, like IFUs (Instructions for Use), Chemistries, MMs (Maintenance Manuals) and OPS (Operations Manuals.) These documents each have unique requirements, and also special challenges in translation and localization. A series of “best practices” (to be covered in a later blog) can ensure that content in such publications is flexible, portable, and reusable.

In addition, I designed and fixed templates in a variety of formats for labels.┬áLabels are a common challenge because (a) they must fold down to a small size (look at the label in your contact lens solution), (b) be readable (hopefully w/o a magnifying glass) and (c) often repeat information in over a dozen languages! Certain languages (like German, Russian and Greek) are very prone to text “expansion” … in other words, the same information will take up more lines of text (and vertical space) than the English source materials.

Trends towards more flexible Life Sciences content

Gradually, most of the content in Life Sciences is moving over to topic based authoring through DITA. (See Wikipedia overview.) By authoring content as topics or reusable chunks, Life Sciences customers are able to reuse content more effectively, and assemble alternate versions of documents for similar products.

Worth investigating

If you are involved in writing, content management, XML/DITA, image design or similar fields, you may want to examine opportunities within Life Sciences. For now, in this troubled economy, there seems to be a lot more “life” there than in other industries and sectors. And there are no signs of these opportunities fading any time soon.

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