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Easier to be a critic than a craftsman

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  • Easier to be a critic than a craftsman

    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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