|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.
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.
Merom D, Cumming R, Mathieu E, Anstey KJ, Rissel C, Simpson JM, Morton RL, Cerin E, Sherrington C, Lord SR.
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).
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?