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Discussing Sport Science Research and Statistics with Prof. Verma

It is a great honour for me to host this interview with Prof. Jai Prakash Verma on our Omniathlete blog.

We met about three months ago in Sofia (Bulgaria) where we were both invited as a keynote speakers at the National Sports Academy during the International Scientific Congress of Applied Sports Sciences dedicated to the 75th Anniversary of the National Sports Academy "Vassil Levski".

Prof. Verma from India is a leading expert in sport statistics as well as research design and i reached out to him for a few questions about this topic.

With Prof. Verma and Prof. Platonov in Sofia

With Prof. Verma and Prof. Platonov in Sofia

AR: Dear Prof. Verma, first of all it would be nice to have a general presentation of your background as well as your actual position and research projects for the readers of the Omniathlete website.

Prof. Verma: I am working as a Professor of Statistics and currently heading the Department of Sports Psychology and Dean Students Welfare at Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education (LNIPE) Gwalior, India. I have more than thirty six years of teaching and research experience. This institute is a deemed university under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Govt. of India. I have also served as an in-charge Vice Chancellor of LNIPE since Nov. 2014 to Sept 2015. I worked as Director, Centre for Advanced Studies for about three years. This centre used to deal with PhD and MPhil programmes in Physical Education of the Institute. I am working as a professor in the Institute for more than fifteen years now and i held three masters degree; in Statistics, Psychology and Computer application besides a PhD degree in Sports Genetics.

I have successfully guided ten PhD candidates and i have nine books being published by Wiley, Springer, McGraw Hills and Kindle on research and statistics in the area of sports, psychology, exercise science, physical education, health and management, and 40 research papers/articles to my credit.

I have developed sports statistics in the country as an academic discipline and produced a text book on this topic which is widely read in India and many of the other countries. I have a patent on FitnessWatch (A fitness assessment and management system for school children and youth).

Currently I am working on a major research project on talent identification in sports in the country sponsored by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Govt. of India with a grant of about 53K dollars.

Also, i was visiting fellow in the University of Sydney in 2002. I had an academic visit in Bulgaria, Qatar, Australia, Poland and Scotland and conducted numerous workshops on research methodology, research designs, multivariate analysis, and data modeling in the area of sports science, physical education, health sciences, management and social sciences in many of the foreign and Indian universities.

AR: What are, in your opinion, the main limitations in sport science research today? What are the elements that need to be improved in the process of study design?

Prof. Verma: One of the limitations in the sports science research is the lack of awareness in using the correct research methodology and advance statistical modeling techniques among most of the researchers. Before undertaking any research study in sports science one must properly design it in such a manner so that the effect due to the treatment/intervention can be detected by controlling the effect of extraneous variables. While writing research findings researchers must quote the sample size, effect size and power to make it more reliable. My comments on this aspect can be viewed on my Linkedin page.

AR: Communication is continually changing and evolving and social media are influencing the way research is conveyed to specialized audience. Sometimes researchers seems to act like "superstars" on twitter and this could be more a sign of egoistic powering rather than a real interest in contributing to advances in sport science and performance. We also assist to "social fighting" between different research groups and departments. Can this be a dangerous behaviour for the world of sport science research?

Prof. Verma: Social media are a good platform for sharing know-how in research. Research methodology is based on some basic principles of statistics hence if someone writes with justification it is well accepted by the community. The problem in sports science research is that few of the statistics professionals working in the area of sports research are available for guidance hence those without a background in statistics create confusion among the researchers.

To counter this I keep posting several write-ups related to research methods on my facebook page.

AR: How research can improve the outcome of sports performance and how much important is, in your opinion, proper communication between researchers and coaches?

Prof. Verma: Improving sports performance at top level requires lots of scientific inputs hence it is very important to use correct modeling to identify sports talent at an early age.

In most of the countries talent identification in different sports is done on the basis of the current performance but what if on competition's day the child does not perform well due to some reasons but he still have the potential to grow? Hence genetic intervention along with other methods may be used to enhance the validity in identification of talents.

Further, researchers in the area of sports and physical education should be trained in research methods for drawing valid conclusions in developing training schedules.

Instead having researchers communicating research findings to coaches, it would be better if coaches are also involved in the research projects so as to enhance the validity of findings and acceptability of results.

AR: Statistics is probably your main area of research and expertise: what is your advise in terms of statistics utilization and data analysis both for research purposes and practical applications in sport?

Prof. Verma: In order to orient researchers in using statistical methods and designs they should be exposed for at least one week course on Sports Statistics. The course may include areas like research methods, advance statistical methods, statistical designs and SPSS application.

In order to help researchers I have uploaded lots of presentations on my website


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