View Full Version : Easier to be a critic than a craftsman

Jim Martin
05-15-2002, 04:30 AM
Dear Biomechers:

Like many of you, I have read with occasional amusement the posts by Melvin
Siff. In a recent post "Science Proves Anything It Desire?" he wrote that
the "...the incidence of this sort of science (i.e., self-fulfilling)
is extensive enough as to taint our profession..." I found this statement
quite bold and was intrigued enough to see what type of research Dr.
Siff has performed. I assumed that anyone who would make such a bold
statement must have a research record that was beyond reproach. I was,
therefore, quite surprised that a PubMed search turned up only two
Borkon L, Baird DM, Siff M. Tobacco smoking among students at the
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
S Afr Med J. 1983 Nov 12;64(21):809-12.
Cohen I, Siff MC. Increased safety in the rugby scrum. S Afr Med J. 1979
Oct 13;56(16):625. No abstract available.
This was particularly surprising considering that Dr. Siff's bio lists him
as "a sports scientist and biomechanist with a PhD in physiology
(specializing in biomechanics)" yet he has produced no original research in
the peer reviewed literature in the last 19 years.

This seemingly incongruous combination of almost no research publications
and bold criticism of the work of scientists reminds me of two quotes:
"If you haven't done the research yourself, the most you can know is what
the questions are" (Ed Coyle, my advisor for my Masters).
"It's easier to be a critic than a craftsman" (original author unknown but
this quote was often used by my mom).

My point? I guess it is this: It is acceptable to criticize the research of
others but ONLY IF you are willing to do the work necessary to refute their
studies. Then you can point out the flaws of previous research in your
discussion section in the context of why your results differ from those
previously reported. Otherwise, such criticism will just make you sound
like a radio talk show host who casts doubt on things that he/she can't
even understand. Lastly, while many studies do contain flaws, it is
important to remain optimistic and "look for the pony" (i.e. look for that
which is worthwhile). I will now step down off of my soap box.



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