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Respect for the peer review process

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  • Jim Martin by way of Will Hopkins
    Hello Fellow Sports Scientists The internet and the Sports Science forum allow for rapid communication and the sharing of ideas across continents. Such power
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3, 2000
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      Hello Fellow Sports Scientists

      The internet and the Sports Science forum allow for rapid communication and
      the sharing of ideas across continents. Such power is the blessing of our
      time, but it is also a burden. It tempts us to disseminate opinions quickly
      and perhaps without a thorough thought process. Consequently, I feel we
      must exercise the utmost caution when using this powerful tool.

      My reason for this post is the recent comment by Dr Siff that the article
      by Olivardia, Pope, and Hudson (Muscle Dysmorphia in Male Weightlifters: A
      Case-Control Study Am J Psychiatry 2000 Aug 1;157(8):1291-1296) "arrived
      at a conclusion that should never have been reached." Later in that post he
      stated "a peer-reviewed journal should not have allowed this sort of
      layperson error."

      According to the abstract muscle dysmorophia is a "disorder in which
      individuals develop a pathological preoccupation with their muscularity."
      The conclusion stated in the abstract was: "Muscle dysmorphia appears to be
      a valid diagnostic entity, possibly related to a larger group of disorders,
      and is associated with striking and stereotypical features. Men with muscle
      dysmorphia differ sharply from normal weightlifters, most of whom display
      little psychopathology."

      My question to Dr. Siff is: What portion of that conclusion should the
      authors not have reached? While I have only read the abstract of the
      report, it seems quite reasonable to me. Also, as pointed out by Patti
      Steinmuller, the authors have quite a track record in their field.

      If I understand Dr. Siff's objection correctly, it is that the authors used
      the term weightlifter to describe anyone who works out with weights,
      whereas he believes that the authors should have differentiated between
      body builders, Olympic style weightlifters, power lifters, and fitness type
      weightlifters. While the athletes who participate in these various
      sports/activities may represent vastly different personality types and/or
      training regimes, it is, in my opinion, simply not a major error to call
      them all weightlifters. Again, if I understand correctly, his concern is
      that this report will tarnish the image of those in the sport of
      weightlifting.

      Of course, I respect Dr. Siff's right to disagree with the report. I would
      suggest, however, that a more appropriate forum for intellectual
      disagreement would be a letter to the editor of the journal. That format
      gives the authors an opportunity to agree with you or to defend what they
      reported. Alternatively, Dr. Siff could conduct and publish an
      investigation that refutes the report with which he disagrees. At the very
      least, he could have cc'ed his Sports Science post to the authors so that
      they could respond on the Sports Science forum.

      In my opinion, such severe criticism of a peer reviewed publication in this
      public forum without giving the authors any chance to defend themselves
      shows a lack of respect for the authors, the journal, and the peer review
      process. Those who are not regularly involved in conducting and publishing
      research reports in peer reviewed journals may not realize the amount of
      work that goes into the preparation of such a manuscript. The many steps it
      takes to publish research, including: initial conception of a novel idea,
      human subjects approval, subject recruitment, data collection and analysis,
      manuscript preparation, and the peer review process are all quite time
      consuming and the authors of published work deserve a great deal of respect.

      In my opinion, Dr. Siff has abused the power of the internet and the
      Sports Science forum to publicly criticize peer reviewed work without
      offering the chance for the authors to defend or amend their work. I
      respectfully suggest that when Dr. Siff or others find fault with future
      research, they present their critique in a more appropriate and respectful
      way.

      Sincerely,

      Jim Martin

      James C. Martin Ph.D.
      Assistant Professor
      Department of Exercise and Sport Science
      University of Utah
      Email: Jim.Martin@...
      Phone: 801-581-7558
      Fax: 801-585-3992
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