by Amy Louer, EdM
Considering that the company was providing very different instructions for measuring the same thing, I should NOT have been surprised when my dress came back 6 inches too short and two sizes too big. Two hundred dollars in alterations (and a visit to the Better Business Bureau) later, I was left wondering, if differences in measurement instructions can affect my apparel this dramatically, what is it doing to the quality of our research?
In research, especially longitudinal research, where individuals are assessed at several points in time, it is essential that protocols are standardized so that a participant’s waist isn’t measured at her belly button one day and at her bra-line the next. At Project Viva, a longitudinal pre-birth cohort study, we have collected anthropometry measurements from mothers and children for over 17 years. In order to maintain high quality data collection in the face of a changing study team, we have developed a stringent, yet easy-to-follow protocol for obtaining anthropometry measurements. With this protocol and attention to quality control procedures, our research team has, and will continue to, produced high-quality, reproducible results. Most recently, with the help of an online video journal, we have published our protocol, quality control, and training procedures for the purposes of improved data collection and pooling of results. We have put in the ground work, so other studies don’t have to.
This post is a call for everyone doing similar research to use standardized methods that can withstand the test of time. Or they could just use our procedures, so that we are all on the same page about where our waists are. Please don’t let your research turn out as imperfect as my bridesmaids dress.