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In English, the term "reference center" usually refers to a laboratory or a lab network created to pursue all the scientific and technical problems related to a specific narrow area, such as a specific disease, phenomenon, or class of chemicals.

In Russian, however, it appears that both «референтный центр» and «референсный центр» are used. Is there a difference between the two, or are they used interchangeably? If there is a difference, what does each term mean?

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  • What's the difference between "reference center" and simply "center"? It's just that many narrow-area institutions in Russia are called just "центр того-то" with no mention of "reference" in any form. So I wonder what "reference" adds to the meaning.
    – Igor G
    Apr 3, 2023 at 15:12

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Usually, when Russian borrows words from Latin, it uses the accusative form of Latin nouns and adjectives, and replaces the Latin endings with Russian ones. There are numerous exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, it works.

According to this rule, the "correct" form is референтный, which is indeed the only form that was in use before mid-80s.

That said, many Russian publications in the 90s and thereafter, just calqued or even borrowed English "reference center", which gave референсный центр and референс-центр, respectively.

I don't think there's a lot of difference between the two, but референтный is both older and more aligned with Russian scientific traditions.

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The best translation for "reference center" is справочный центр or справочно-информационный центр. While both референтный and референсный are so-called loan translations or calques, all the translations have the same meaning: "centers providing information to a specific narrow area of science".

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