What Goes Around, Comes Around…

13 Oct

At this time last year, meaning the month of October, I was feeling like a real world traveler, spanning the globe from Massachusetts to DC to Edinburgh and Stirling, Scotland, taking in a trio of really thought-provoking meetings in some wonderful venues. It was something and I vowed to myself that I would do my best to do the same, i.e. travel to an international conference, every year for the rest of my professional days. Taking part in conferences and meetings with people from other parts of the world opened my eyes – and my mind – to a whole host of new perspectives. I was inspired.

Well, here we are, a year later – surely one of the strangest years I could imagine – and the same conferences are all taking place. They’re still international in scope and the content is terrific, but alas, like everything else these days, I’m attending them via a screen; zooming in from my home or my office. And like everything else these days, it’s just missing something for me.

All that said, I’m grateful to be well, grateful to be working, and grateful that I have the means to keep on going. I know that too many people all over the world lack this good fortune right now.

But back to conferencing, one thing I enjoy most about attending a conference is feeling that charge of excitement and enthusiasm that comes with hearing intellectually stimulating stuff. I find myself writing down a dozen ideas for research studies. I come away with a stack of readings. I think, “Why the heck didn’t I get that PhD?”

Well, I didn’t because I thought that, at 39, I was too old to pursue such. I talked myself out of it. And let’s just say that coming up on 20 years hence, I’m not talking myself into it now. BUT, reflecting on a number of the talks and and research presentations that I’ve taken in over last week (NIH Bibliometrics and Assessment Symposium) and this (Transforming Research 2020), I realized something fascinating. At least to me. I realized that way back in 2002, when I had a question about a certain pattern that I observed in exercise physiology research and publications, and I followed it up with an independent study … by golly, I was doing bibliometric analysis!

I’ve always tied this experience to ending up earning a library science degree and pursuing my current career, but only within the past couple of weeks have I put together the pieces and seen (1) how much they truly were aligned and (2) how research continues on in the area. So here’s what happened:

As a grad student at Ithaca College, working on my MS in exercise physiology, I attended a regional meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine. At the meeting, a grad student (female) presented her research that observed the affect of a particular supplement on a group of subjects performing a particular physical training task. After she finished, an established faculty member (older, white, male) asked her about the subjects of her study. In short, her subject pool had consisted of only females. He questioned her on the legitimacy of generalizing any findings of a study that had not included males and said any study using women needed to specifically state that it was a study on women.

Next up, a grad student (male) presented his research that observed the affect of a particular supplement on a group of subjects performing a particular physical training task. His subject pool contained only males. I bet you’re ahead of me in guessing that, well, he didn’t get the same question regarding the generalization of his findings, nor how he titled his research.

And this happened again. And again. I looked through the program and took note of this oddity, and first chance I got, I asked my mentor, “What the hell is up with that?!” Thus was the seed for my independent study, “Current trends in exercise science research: A feminist cultural studies analysis.” I went to the library, went to the stacks, pulled 20 years worth of volumes of several prominent exercise science journals off the shelves, and began taking note of every title of every study looking at the affects of some intervention on training outcomes. (No Scopus or Web of Science, friends. I’m talking bound journals, paper, and pencil. This took awhile!)

[As an aside, my thesis topic also looked at sex differences, but related to factors of muscle fatigue, not words.]

Fast forward 20 years and I’m sitting in conferences attended by biomedical researchers, publishers, bibliometrics and research assessment practitioners, and librarians and here are some of the titles of studies authored and/or cited by the speakers so far:

Plus, the topic of the affects on COVID-19 on the female workforce in research and medicine, well that’s already targeted for study. Stay tuned for the many studies that will surely be published on this.

So what does all of this mean? Well, personally, I find it really interesting that a little spark that I noticed so long ago, didn’t just find only me. I think had I followed it up with that doctorate, I’d likely be doing this very research today with some of these same people. And honestly, I had no idea that was a possibility. It’s nice to know people are still studying and writing about the topic. It’s also frustrating and infuriating that it goes on, but… that’s another post.

All in all, the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion is being discussed an awful lot today (rightly so), but it’s been a topic for a long, long time. As one speaker said, “We know a lot about what we know. But where is the change?” That’s the real question, isn’t it? And it’s where the real work is. Time to get busy.

3 Responses to “What Goes Around, Comes Around…”

  1. tlknottgmailcom October 13, 2020 at 5:46 pm #

    On point as usual! Thanks, Sally!

  2. Catherine October 13, 2020 at 8:02 pm #

    Wow – interesting! Freaky too because I had just finished reading a bibliometrics article before reading your post. I wonder if you could do a bibliometrics study about these bibliometrics studies?

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