This is Part 2 of my blog post series on the first peer-reviewed paper about ASMR.
As a refresher, the paper is titled, “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): a flow-like mental state”. It was authored by Emma Barratt and Nick Davis and was published on March 26th, 2015.
This post is going to focus on the significance of this first peer-reviewed research paper about ASMR.
Lets begin with asking: what does it mean when a paper is “peer-reviewed?”
The peer-review publication process is common to scientific papers, especially those reporting research data.
The process begins with the authors of a paper sending it to a journal. The paper is then reviewed by the internal editor of the journal and also by external scientists who have published papers on a similar topic and/or used similar methods.
The external reviewers are called “peers”, and hence the paper is “peer-reviewed.”
The reviewers will critique the paper for suitability for the journal, readability, appropriateness of methods, significance of data, accuracy of the data, and interpretation of the data.
The reviewers can accept the paper, reject the paper, or request for changes to be made to the paper.
In short, the review process is a mix of “checks and balances” and “quality management.”
The peer-review process is not a perfect process. The quality of the peer-review process is only as good as the quality and effort of the peer-reviewers – which can vary widely.
Overall though, the peer-review process works well or well enough as it has guided most of our modern scientific advancements.
And so, Emma Barratt and Nick Davis were the first authors of a paper about ASMR who went through this “peer-review” process.
Does the journal that published their paper have a rigorous peer-review process?
The journals with the most rigorous peer-review processes are mostly those that have been around for a long time and are highly selective about the papers they publish.
PeerJ is a new journal, publishing their first papers in 2013. It is hard to determine the rigor of their peer-review process, or the established quality of the journal.
But if the journal selects papers to publish that end up being frequently referenced by other papers, then this journal could quickly establish itself as a high quality journal.
I have not looked into other papers published in PeerJ, but I do think that Emma Barratt and Nick Davis’s paper will end up being frequently referenced by other papers.
Why wasn’t this paper published in a more established journal?
Established journals prefer papers on established topics.
Unfortunately, ASMR is not an established topic, area or field of study.
It will take many more peer-reviewed publications about ASMR before top-level established journals would even think about publishing about a topic such as ASMR, which still has so many basic questions unanswered.
How long will it take before research about ASMR will be published in a top established journal?
Hard to say. That depends on how much effort is put into researching ASMR by scientists around the world.
There is a quote often used by scientists that goes, “If I have seen further it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” It means that every discovery by one scientist builds on top of the prior discoveries of many other scientists.
The authors of this ASMR paper don’t really have any shoulders to stand on because they are the first scientists to publish about ASMR. They are the first “giants” who are helping others to see further.
Their paper will help to give direction and understanding to other scientists whom can further add to the understanding of ASMR. And the more papers that are published about ASMR then the more likely journals of all levels will publish quality research about ASMR.
The data in the paper only came from online surveys, is that scientifically meaningful?
It is meaningful when your paper is the first data about something as unstudied as ASMR.
Another expression used by scientists is that “it is best to walk before you run.” The direct meaning of this common saying is obvious of course.
For scientists, this saying means that you must start with the most basic questions and methods before proceeding to the more difficult and challenging questions and experimental methods.
The basic survey data reported in this ASMR paper gives justification to more complex and focused methods.
Their sample size was 475 participants, is that scientifically meaningful?
The real question is if the sample size is appropriate for their method.
Experimental methods that have health risks to the participants, like a new experimental surgery, are expected to start with low participant numbers. Papers with these methods may have less than 20 participants.
Experimental methods that don’t have health risks for the participants and are also trying to sample the population, like online surveys, are expected to have high participant numbers.
So 475 participants is a good starting point for the first published survey about ASMR.
At this stage of the game for ASMR data, high numbers are not necessary because early publications about ASMR are just validating its existence and basic characteristics.
What about the meaning of the data, isn’t that the real significance of this paper?
I don’t plan on discussing the meaning of the data in this post, but I will do so in an upcoming post in this series.
Although the data is very important, it is only a small part of the major significance of this paper. The biggest significance to me is the fact that a scientific journal peer-reviewed and published the first research paper about ASMR.
Their published paper is a vessel that will reach the scientific minds of many current and future scientists.
I am hopeful that this paper will initiate and inspire these scientific minds to muse about the following: the meaning of the data, unanswered questions, using different methods, reaching different populations, doing biological studies, and most importantly, doing clinical studies to investigate the potential therapeutic application of ASMR for insomnia, anxiety, depression, and other disorders.
Whether you are a scientist or a student somewhere, I encourage you to read their paper and ask yourself, “What study would I do that would contribute to the understanding and/or potential applications of ASMR?”
That is your first small step to being a giant.
Click HERE to read the first peer-reviewed publication about ASMR.
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This post brought to you by ASMR University. A site with the mission of increasing the awareness, understanding, and research of the Art and Science of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.