If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? This philosophical thought experiment raises the question about research, and its value.
Research is key to advancing our understanding of the world, and to achieving positive changes. Yet, if advancements in research are mentioned, but no one hears or understands it, what good is it? Who will care?
The irony of research is that the more we expand the body of knowledge, the more we realize how little we know. As a result, we are part of a process of advancement that clears a path and we hope enough people will investigate to create a trail, then a road, then a highway.
It has been over nine years since I had the privilege of joining the National Swimming Pool Foundation. Since then, our Board has invested about $2 million in supporting health benefit research that has marked a trail for interested therapists, physicians, government policy makers, industry leaders, and more. The World Aquatic Health Conference will host its 10th anniversary on October 16-18th in Indianapolis. There will be nine seminars on aquatic health benefits – including a synopsis of the terrific ECEBAT 2013 conference held in Turkey. For the tenth year, there will be two days of research and advances on not only health benefits, but on other research in our field including disinfection by-products (DBPs) and recreational water illness. Our Board has also invested an additional $2 million in supporting this kind of injury prevention research. This year, we launched two initiatives to keep pools open and safer, including more DBP research and a workshop at the WAHC to change attitudes regarding peeing in the pool.
We are now in our seventh year of publishing the International Journal of Aquatic Research & Education that has had 18 peer-reviewed papers authored by 299 different individuals under Dr. Stephen Langendorfer's leadership. Also, the publishers of the National Aquatic Journal (1983-1995) were kind enough to allow us to scan and make those journals available for free on the NSPF website.
I think anyone who works in a scientific discipline: Medicine, Chemistry, Biology, Physiology, for example, will acknowledge that the Aquatic Health field is decades behind in our focus on scholarly research and having that research steer our daily practices. Though this lapse is disappointing, I am encouraged by the growing body of resources available to help us pave a path to a healthier society. I am encouraged by the professional interest of more people in our field to follow the path of research and forge ahead.
When a research article is mentioned in the forest (aquatics industry), let's make sure we hear it and spread the word. The alternative is that the world will not care about what we hold so dear – the positive impact water can have on so many lives.