Scientific research has become an increasingly globalized effort. As more countries prioritize their research funding, international clinical studies have become the norm. Localization of study tools, cultural awareness, and accurate translations have become crucial to the success of these global studies.


These days it’s common for a study to have sites in North America, Europe, and Asia all at once. When operating on a global scale, being able to adapt to the different cultural norms of the patients and healthcare providers can greatly reduce misinterpretations which could lead to invalid data. Additionally, many countries have laws protecting the rights and privacy of research subjects making it imperative that the subject can clearly understand the study when they consent to participate.


Sometimes misunderstanding stems not from the words used, but from symbols that miss the mark. This disconnect is commonly addressed by the film industry. When Disney’s Pixar localized the animated film “Inside Out” for Japan, they swapped broccoli for green peppers in the scene where young Riley pouts about eating her veggies to better reflect the tastes of Japanese children. VeraSci addresses this disconnect in clinical trials. All translations of VeraSci’s Virtual Reality Functional Capacity Assessment Tool (VRFCAT) feature buses adapted to their locale. Each version localizes the appearance of the bus depending on where the assessment is being administered. US patients would board a single level bus, whereas, in the UK patients would board a double decker bus.


Medical or technical language may prove challenging for the average translator to interpret and localize, and in some cases, it is valuable to use linguists who also have a clinical background. If the healthcare professionals who work with the patients receive badly translated materials not adapted to their locale, it may lead to the patient failing to follow instructions, discrepancies in prescriptions and study management between sites, and a lower probability of the proper treatment of potential side effects of the trial. All of which could result in inaccurate, unusable data and increased risk to patient health.

International research requires a sensitivity to the differences between cultures. Ensuring that efforts are made to adapt and meet the needs of participants around the world will help to protect both the safety of patients and the quality of data from the study.