The Science of Sport: Now taking your research, and sending it to the “user”

13 Apr 2015 Posted by

Earlier today I read a really interesting article discussing what can only be described as the total anonymity of scientific ideas when published in journals.  It explained that on average, a scientific journal article will be read in its entirety by only ten people.  Yup, that’s right, 10 people.  All your hard work, those hours in the lab, the analysis, the writing and submission process, and if your paper is average, a group of people the size of your close family will read it.

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We have to be better – sports science must reach more people

Now, I went into sports science (and still love it, despite the best efforts of academia sometimes!) precisely because it is so relevant to everyone.  Whether you are a current or aspirant professional athlete, a health conscious exerciser with weight loss, performance or health goals, or a totally sedentary exercise-phobe, there are elements of sports science that are relevant to you (even though you might not realize it).

Therefore, the idea that so much good science reaches such a tiny audience is simply not good enough.  And so it is that I’m proud and excited to say that I’ve decided that I want “The Science of Sport” to become your chosen ‘home’ for scientific articles, but with a view to reaching a much, much larger audience with a style that they can understand.

I can’t guarantee you millions of hits (this is not the New York Times), and I can’t promise that you’ll be more famous than Justin Bieber, but I can promise that I’ll do what I can to get your research into the public conversation, to push it into (more) people’s lives in a way that actually makes a difference.

So therefore, this post invites you, regardless of where you are, to consider submitting your research for publication right here – if 10 views was the standard in the ivory tower of academia, let’s push for 10,000 views on The Science of Sport!

I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time – I find that I juggle too many different things to give this site the attention it deserves, and I hope that this creates a win-win for both of us.  If you’re interested, the articles published here tend to get between 4,000 and 6,000 views, with the more successful ones reaching 10,000.  And of course 44,000 on Twitter, and 14,000 on Facebook.

So if you want your research to be exposed to more people, then think about it – I’d love to publish your stuff right here!

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Submission guidelines & requirements

I have to create some guidelines for submission, otherwise I’d probably be overwhelmed by the variety and range of research, and it could also turn this website into a platform for quackery in no time.

So these are the guidelines for submission of your research articles:

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1.  Quality control – it must be peer-reviewed, and preferably published

The peer-review process that we follow in science brings its fair share of frustrations, but it’s important because it ensures some kind of quality control.  It means that experts, your peers, can ‘audit’ and evaluate your work, and this filter keeps the field from spiralling into chaos (usually).

I do not wish to ignore or bypass this process.  And so the first, and most important requirement if you wish to submit articles here, is that they must be peer-reviewed, and preferably already published.

That’s not to say that I will not consider a non-published article – I know how difficult it can be sometimes, especially when your ideas challenging existing beliefs.  These are perhaps the most important papers to get out there!

But, if an article has not been published, then I still want to insist on peer-review, because it effectively outsources the process to the specific subject-matter expert.  So what I will do then, is to publish your research article PLUS the reviews (or aspects thereof).  That makes it 100% transparent, and opens discussion to everyone, because they can see your perspective, as well as those of others, and decide for themselves how much merit the findings have.  You may even find that you benefit from the discussion and networking this provides.

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2.  Style – it must be English

Science is not only inaccessible because it is hidden behind journal paywalls.  It’s also exceedingly difficult to follow, convoluted.  Therefore, your submissions must be lucid, written in plain english, in a style that a person who has a decent education can follow.  That means no jargon, no unnecessarily long clumsy sentences.  If you can say it in 10 words, don’t use 30.

This also means that you can’t just submit the published work unedited (legal bonus for me!).  Give some thought to how you want your target audience, be they coaches, other scientists, athletes, clinicians or the general public, to respond to your work.  Then write the paper that you feel would get that response – use analogies, tell stories, keep it simple and engaging.  It’s better for everyone.

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3.  Length – keep it as short as possible without losing meaning

We live in an age of Twitter.  141 characters is too long for some people.  I don’t want to go overboard, but I would like to set a limit of 1,500 words.  In exceptional cases (convince me!), I’ll accept pieces longer than this, but that’s what I think is ‘digestible’ for many people.  It will also ensure that you get more readers.

You don’t need to labour an introduction and methods, for instance.  Just explain background in 300 to 400 words, and tell us who you tested, and what you did.  High level.  Spend more time on the findings, and a lot of time on the implications.

Every submission must also end with a section on “Practical application or implementation”, and “Limitations/what is yet to be discovered”, because there is no dogma here.

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4.  Figures – think laterally

Use diagrams to show results, by all means, but try to think laterally.  Hey, I love a good bar graph and an xy-scatter is great, but this is not Boring 101.  As some former colleagues (who celebrate 10 reads of articles, no doubt) snidely told me once, “You can’t only do the sexy, rock & roll science”.  Well, here you can.  In fact, you must.  So think creatively and laterally about how to visualize your data.  People will read it, and understand it, if you ask them to.  But don’t throw statistical tables and boring graphs at them.  Or me.

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5.  Subject matter – certain studies are my priorities

That’s just the way it is.  I have certain interests, and while I don’t want to be too narrow-minded, I have, over the last six years, built up a certain readership who share those interests.  Therefore, there are some topics that are more “valued” than others.  My priorities are:

  1. Sports performance – any study on performance.  Explain it, study it, improve it, test it.  This means ergogenic aids, genetic studies, physiological descriptions and performance trials, and so forth.  Any sport will do, but my bias is towards endurance sport, as regular readers will know.
  2. Specific sports – running, cycling, triathlon, swimming, rugby and tennis.  Not an exhaustive list by any means, but those are the ones closest to me
  3. Injuries – specifically, now that I’m in a new role with World Rugby, let’s talk about concussion, brain injury, injury prevention strategies and practical tools for conditioning coaches and clinicians to do their jobs better.  The barefoot running research may also fall into this category
  4. Sports management – an under-researched area, where I’ll even consider opinion pieces.  This might include talent ID and management, but also coaching and leadership strategy.

That’s about it for now.

If you would like to submit your research, please email me at sportsscientists@nullgmail.com

I can’t publish every piece, so I apologize in advance if you don’t get in.  But I’ll do my best, and I hope that this benefits everyone!

Ross

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