Monday, May 27, 2013

The benefits of dancing. Well, thinking about the benefits of dancing.

Last weekend we enjoyed the delicious foods, wonderful music, and beautiful performances at the 2013 Satsuki Bazaar & Arts Festival. The Little Bear especially loved the Kalua pork with cabbage, and the red bean filled mochi (and who wouldn't??).

Performers from the Academy of Hawaiian Arts in Oakland.

I loved all of the dances, and became curious about research into the health benefits of dancing. In looking up research about dancing, I came across a very curious article, indeed, published in BMC Public Health.

 2013 May 15;13(1):477. [Epub ahead of print]

Can social dancing prevent falls in older adults? a protocol of the Dance, Aging, Cognition, Economics (DAnCE) fall prevention randomised controlled trial.

Sure, the title seems like a question that should be investigated. And I was happy that the article is Open Access so that I could read all of the paper. When I first started reading, I thought that maybe someone had accidentally used the wrong tense. Then, as I continued to read, I realized that no, they had not. The entire paper discusses what "will" be done. I had originally glanced over the word "protocol" in the title, but reading the article made it abundantly clear: this entire paper is a written protocol for a study that will be done (or, as the manuscript states, is now underway).

How curious.

I'm not entirely sure what to think about it. Definitely protocols should be published, but I tend to think of protocols being published alongside the analysis of the results so that one can judge whether the protocol was successful or not (or somewhere in between). In addition, I think that companies should publish protocols for technologies and services that they are offering. I certainly like the idea of studies publishing very detailed protocols, but this paper reads like a grant proposal. And a grant proposal without any data, at that. As such, reading this paper ends up being disappointing (because I really wanted to learn about whether social dancing can prevent falls in older adults!), and, well, perplexing. I am not sure what value this kind of paper serves in a peer-reviewed journal. Even new methods and protocols are published with some sort of assessment of their utility. I think that sharing this protocol is useful, but not in a journal format, or at least not until it has some data to report.

Are there fields where publishing protocols in peer reviewed journals, prior to data collection, is standard procedure?


Anonymous said...

In the Earth sciences you often see papers published about, say, some new concept for a satellite measurement, usually one that has at least passed through the initial round of concept competitions. It's a way to show sometimes subtle new details about measurement systems. I tend to avoid reading these, however, because the great majority of these concepts end up never flying, owing to budget cuts or other problems.

mathbionerd said...

New concepts for satellite measurement "end up never flying". Haha!

Thanks for sharing. It is quite interesting to learn how other science disciplines do things.

Maybe there should be a journal for protocols. Or a centralized location where such things can be submitted (but not necessarily a journal). Such a resource might actually be quite useful, especially when working with new students to generate project ideas.