Request For Proposal: Roadmap and budget projections for a technology-based collaborative translation service dedicated to open scholarly communication


PROPOSALS DUE BY: 19 April 2023

Company Background

OPERAS is the Research Infrastructure supporting open scholarly communication in the social sciences and humanities (SSH) in the European Research Area. Its mission is to coordinate and federate resources in Europe to efficiently address the scholarly communication needs of European researchers in the field of SSH.

Project Overview

In 2020, the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research (MESR) launched the Translations and Open Science project with the aim to explore the opportunities offered by translation technologies to foster multilingualism in scholarly communication and thus help to remove language barriers according to Open Science principles.

During the initial phase of the project (2020), a first working group, made up of experts in natural language processing and translation, published a report suggesting recommendations and avenues for experimentation with a view to establishing a scientific translation service combining relevant technologies, resources and human skills.

Once developed, the scientific translation service is intended to:

  • address the needs of different users, including researchers (authors and readers), readers outside the academic community, publishers of scientific texts, dissemination platforms or open archives;
  • combine specialised language technologies and human skills, in particular adapted machine translation engines and in-domain language resources to support the translation process;
  • be founded on the principles of open science, hence based on open-source software as well as shareable resources, and used to produce open access translations.

Project Goals

In order to follow up on the recommendations and lay the foundation for the translation service, the OPERAS Research Infrastructure was commissioned by the MESR to coordinate a series of preparatory studies in the following areas:

  1. Mapping and collection of scientific bilingual corpora: identifying and defining the conditions for collecting and preparing corpora of bilingual scientific texts which will serve as a training dataset for specialised translation engines, source data for terminology extraction, and translation memory creation.
  2. Use case study for a technology-based scientific translation service: drafting an overview of the current translation practices in scholarly communication and defining the use cases of a technology-based scientific translation service (associated features, expected quality, editorial and technical workflows, and human expert participants).
  3. Machine translation evaluation in the context of scholarly communication: evaluating the performance of a set of machine translation engines with scientific texts according to different scenarios: 1) machine translation for gisting purposes, 2) machine translation as a foreign-language writing assistant, 3) machine translation for pre-translation and post-editing. 
  4. Roadmap and budget projections for a technology-based collaborative translation service dedicated to open scholarly communication: based on the results of the conducted studies, identify the technical and organisational requirements, as well as the financial risks associated with the deployment of the service, and suggest relevant cost-management mechanisms.

The four preparatory studies are planned during a one-year period as of September 2022. 

The present request for proposal (RFP) only covers the study No. 4: Roadmap and budget projections for a technology-based collaborative translation service dedicated to open scholarly communication.

The RFPs (1) Mapping and collection of corpora, (2) Use case study and (3) Machine translation evaluation are now closed.

Scope of Work

With research becoming increasingly international and open to society, the quest for sustainable and balanced multilingualism in scholarly communication is more than ever a subject of interest to many stakeholders, from universities and research institutions to academic publishers and policy makers. While translation can be easily identified as one of the possible solutions to foster language diversity in science, especially in light of the recent developments in natural language processing and translation technologies, the landscape of scientific translation practices and needs is too complex to implement a one-size-fit-all approach, taking into account all the qualitative, organisational, technical and financial requirements. In order to become a more systematic practice, scientific translation requires specific challenges to be addressed, such as optimising translation processes and language resources, clarifying complex legal and technical frameworks, attracting specialised experts capable of translating highly technical texts and making the most out of the allocated budgets.

Aimed at proposing practical solutions to these challenges, the series of preparatory studies undertaken as part of the Translations and Open Science project is coming to an end. The first three studies – 1) Mapping and collection of corpora, 2) Use-case study and 3) Machine translation evaluation – highlighted avenues to promote optimised and collaborative scientific translation practices, as well as an informed use of translation technology and digital language resources. The results of these studies must now be used to identify the technical, organisational and financial requirements to develop and deploy the technology-based, collaborative translation service for scholarly communication, as intended in the description of the project (see the Project Overview section above). In particular, the study will consider the following user profiles and use cases of the future translation service: 1) readers wishing to get an idea of the content of a scientific text in real-time (machine translation for gisting purposes aimed at academic and general readers: professionals, students, journalists, citizens, etc.); 2) researchers in need of assistance to write a scientific text in a foreign language (machine translation as a foreign-language writing assistant); 3) translators using specialised language resources and tools made available within the service to perform translation or post-editing tasks (machine translation for pre-translation and post-editing or as part of an interactive toolbox for translators).

Therefore, OPERAS welcomes proposals from public and private entities in order to:

  • Develop and detail three scenarios for the deployment of the service based on the results of the conducted studies, and in particular according to the use cases identified and the associated features;
  • For each scenario,
  • identify the technical and organisational requirements and provide a realistic estimate of the costs for their deployment, separating the launch costs from the operational costs;
  • provide strategic orientations to promote the service attractiveness and user retention, user training, community development and management;
  • identify the financial risks and suggest cost-management mechanisms;
  • Outline an economic model to ensure the sustainability of the service, combining institutional funding and own resources, and suggest potential mechanisms to generate own resources;
  • Identify the legal requirements that may have an impact on the service, particularly in terms of intellectual property and data law, as well as the contractual and/or financial instruments that will be needed for the service to run smoothly (in collaboration with the legal specialists hired by OPERAS for the Translations and Open Science project).

In particular, for each of the considered scenarios, the expected specifications will include: 

  • The needs, user profiles and use cases to which the service will primarily/secondarily apply;
  • The suggested technology-based translation methodology: raw machine translation, machine translation as a foreign-language writing assistant, machine translation for pre-translation and post-editing or machine translation as part of an interactive toolbox for translators. Different methodologies can co-exist in the same scenario: in this case, their functions should be clarified;
  • The organisational principles: centralisation/decentralisation and distribution of the service, conditions to access the service by different user profiles, conditions for implementing collaborative practices and shared processes;
  • The strategy to adopt with regard to the tools to be included in the service (machine translation engines, computer assisted translation features, etc.), in particular the question of whether to use already existing, adapted tools or specifically developed tools;
  • The needs in terms of collection and development of specialised corpora, termbases and translation memories, as well as the conditions for collection and continuous development of these language resources;
  • The needs in terms of training and support to be delivered to the communities of users;
  • The conditions for implementing an editorial policy at the service level, in particular the questions related to the prioritisation of the texts to be translated, preferred formats, etc.; 
  • The volume of texts to be translated (differentiating between raw machine translation, post-editing and human translation, where appropriate), in compliance with the suggested cost-management mechanisms;
  • An estimate of the investment costs needed for the creation of the service and the operating costs over a five-year period.

Target Deliverables and Schedule

  • Final report (including relevant tables and diagrams) presenting the overall results of the study and suggesting next steps/recommendations based on the findings
  • A schematised presentation of the final report (in the form of a poster or a slideshow, for example)
  • Participation in a workshop to be organised by OPERAS during the second semester of 2023
  • A final report including a financial statement and a description and justification of any deviations that occurred during the course of the completion of the Work in terms of: work organisation, resource allocations, content of the deliverables.

Final Project Due: 30 September 2023

Bid period: 1 March to 19 April 2023

Result notification: 15 May 2023 EOD

Service starting date: 1 June 2023

Expected turnaround time: 4 months

Existing Roadblocks Or Technical Issues

Strict time frame calculated to comply with the planning of the four preparatory studies.

Complex legal and technical framework.

Budget Constraints

Budget range: €55,000–€70,000.

The budget amount proposed by the bidders must include all taxes, and in particular 21% VAT BE (reverse charge mechanism article 44 and 196 directive 2006/112/EC). 

Evaluation Metrics

OPERAS will evaluate bidders and proposals based on the following criteria:

  1. Experience in scientific and editorial translation or partnership with an expert in scientific and editorial translation (if the partnership scenario applies, it is not mandatory to establish the partnership at the bidding step, but the bidder should state in the proposal the target profile and skills of the expert and take it into account in the proposed budget)
  2. Experience in governance- and cost-modelling, preferably in (digital) publishing
  3. Achievability of deliverables
  4. Adequacy of requested resources and expected results

Questions Bidders Must Answer To Be Considered

Bidders are asked to submit a service proposal describing the tasks that they will be able to perform in relation to the present request for proposal during a four-month period starting from 1 June 2023.

In particular, bidders are asked to include in their response the following information:

  • Detailed description of the methodology and expertise that will be used to perform the task
  • Generic description of the team involved in the project (profiles and level of expertise)
  • Provisional planning of the service tasks (Gantt chart required)
  • Detailed budget

Submission Requirements

Bidders must adhere to the following guidelines to be considered:

  • Only bidders who meet all 4 metrics in the evaluation section should submit a proposal.
  • Proposals must be sent in by e-mail at the latest on 19 April 2023 to Chloé Lebon (chloe.lebon[a] Bidders who are interested in submitting a proposal should inform Chloé Lebon no later than 7 April 2023.
  • Include samples and references as an appendix to the proposal.
  • Proposals (excluding appendix) should not exceed 6 pages. 
  • A proposed schedule must also be included and clearly expressed in the proposal.

What We’re Looking For in Potential Vendors

The call is open to public and private vendors, regardless of their country of establishment.

We are particularly interested in receiving proposals from organisations with experience or interest in scholarly research and communication.

We attach great value to sustainable and ethical business models.

Vendors should be able to ensure smooth communication with the steering committee throughout the duration of the project.

Contact Information

For questions or concerns connected to this RFP, we can be reached at:

Chloé Lebon


Susanna Fiorini


Roadmap and budget projections for a technology-based collaborative translation service dedicated to open scholarly communication – Closed Call