I remember my PhD thesis.

In particular, I remember the years of work that went into it. I remember being grilled (with good, constructive intent) by my thesis committee a couple of times a year as I worked on it. I remember the many, many hours spend writing it. And, above all, I remember the hour-long seminar I had to give, followed by a couple of hours defending my thesis. The PhD thesis defense is usually the most stressful thing that PhD candidates go through on the path to earning their degree. Certainly it was for me.

Of course, the PhD thesis defense does contain a bit of an element of Kabuki theater, very stylized, with the outcome seldom in doubt. It is, after all, the responsibility of the thesis advisor and the thesis committee not to let the PhD candidate defend until they deem him ready. I learned this during graduate school when a PhD candidate in our department actually failed his thesis defense. His failure was a massive shock to the department, a profound humiliation. Much time and soul searching were spent trying to figure out how this could have happened and to prevent it from happening again. Kabuki or no Kabuki, none of this is to say that a thesis defense is ever a done deal; it’s just that failures are relatively rare by design, mainly because candidates who aren’t prepared are seldom allowed to defend. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. In any case, I can’t help but think my thesis committee was a bit more anal, a bit more rigorous, a bit more insistent that I dotted every i and crossed every t in my research before signing off on letting me defend. I also note that I was a much less skilled (and much more nervous) public speaker back then; so even despite my committee’s efforts my successful defense of my thesis was far from assured.

I bring all this up mainly because I’ve just learned of a PhD candidate who really, really needed to have some very uncomfortable questions asked by her thesis committee and at her thesis seminar and defense, questions that apparently were not asked. [Note added: I’m informed in the comments that Australian universities don’t do the traditional public thesis defense done in the US and Europe, but rather the thesis has to be read by two experts external to the University and the supervisor gets to make the call. Ugh.] Most supervisors take that responsibility carefully. Some, however, apparently do not. I’m referring to the case of Judy Wilyman, a prominent antivaccine loon from Down Under, whose PhD thesis has apparently been accepted by University of Wollongong:

The University of Wollongong has accepted a PhD thesis from a prominent anti-vaccination activist that warns that global agencies such as the World Health ­Organisation are colluding with the pharmaceutical industry in a massive conspiracy to spruik immunisation.

Judy Wilyman, the convener of Vaccination Decisions and Vaccination Choice, submitted the thesis late last year, concluding Australia’s vaccination policy was not a result of independent assessment but the work of pharmaceutical industry pressure on the WHO.

The WHO convened a ­“secret emergency committee” funded by drug firms to “orchestrate” hysteria relating to a global swine flu pandemic in 2009, Ms Wilyman said in her thesis.

“The swine flu pandemic of 2009 was declared by a secret WHO committee that had ties to pharmaceutical companies that stood to make excessive profits from the pandemic,” she wrote.

Several medical researchers and public health advocates have slammed the PhD thesis — to be awarded through the university’s School of Humanities — with some calling for it to be sent to the university’s academic board for review.

Whoa. That’s some high grade, super stinky antivaccine BS, more suitable for a cesspit or cow pasture than a PhD thesis at a reputable university. Don’t believe me? Read Wilyman’s PhD thesis for yourself! It’s entitled A critical analysis of the Australian government’s rationale for its vaccination policy and is anything but that. Rather, it’s a collection of antivaccine talking points and conspiracy theories, tied together with pseudoscience and borderline, if not outright, germ theory denial.

I had never heard of Wilyman before, surprisingly enough. I don’t know all the Australian antivaccinationists, any more than I’d expect that Australians would know all our local antivaccinationists in the US. There are just so many of them. It didn’t take long to figure out that Wilyman runs an antivaccine website called Vaccine Decisions, which is chock full of antivaccine misinformation. For instance, in its section, Vaccines and Autism, Wily makes the assertion that vaccines are a plausible cause of autism (they’re not). She regurgitates insinuations about the conspiracies, falsely claiming that the IOM was biased in selecting studies that favored rejecting a causal link between vaccines and autism, playing the Poul Thorsen card, and calling for the unicorn-like antivaccine priority “vaxed/unvaxed” study.

I wondered what was going on here. I particularly wondered in light of some of the quotes from Wily’s thesis, for instance (click to embiggen):

These are excerpts from a PhD thesis? They sound more like excerpts from NaturalNews.com

Each and every one of these statements is easily demonstrably false. Many of them are pure conspiracy mongering. Indeed, so bad is this thesis (which is available online now) that I’m seriously considering doing more posts on it. In the meantime, for a taste Luke Weston has been posting excerpts on Twitter. For instance, in her thesis she claims that the 2009 H1N1 pandemic was an “orchestrated” pandemic:

She also asserts that the WHO is controlled by the interests and corporations of the World Bank:

Even worse, she seems to have a problem with germ theory:

And she even writes:

Now that’s such burning stupid that not only could it be seen from space in low earth orbit but all the way from Jupiter. At least.

Let’s expand the quote on Germ theory from Wilyman’s thesis:

Infectious diseases have traditionally been referred to as a public health problem however from the 1990’s onwards the term environmental health became popular. These terms have similar meanings so I have introduced this chapter with a definition of these terms. In many countries government public health policies had a change of focus in the mid-20th century. This change was a move from strategies founded on a multifactorial theory of disease causation (ecological medicine) to the germ theory that underpins western medicine. The western medical model of health is founded on the concept of ‘scientific medicine’, which includes evidence-based practice, and infectious diseases were re-defined in the second half of the 20th century as a problem that could be addressed with a medical intervention. This was due to the progress in etiological theories based on microbiology. In contrast, the decline in infectious diseases in the first part of the century was brought about through political, social and economic interventions in behaviour and the environment: termed social or ecological medicine.

Later in that chapter, Wilyman writes:

For many decades, this model has been revered as one of the fundamental public health concepts of disease causality and the best method for determining the cause of infectious diseases (Friis and Sellers 2004 p398). The model illustrates that disease is caused by an interaction between the agent (the pathogenic organism), the host and the environment. More recently scientists have recognized that this is a complex interaction between many variables. Whilst an agent must be present for an infection to occur it is known that not all interactions will progress to disease (Friis and Sellers 2004). Infections can be ‘subclinical’ which means they do not produce any signs or symptoms, but they still confer immunity to future exposure (Friis and Sellers 2004 p402; McKeown 1979 p46). There are also many outcomes from infection including complete recovery, permanent disability, disfigurement and death. Many diseases are self-limiting and complete recovery can be expected in the majority of cases (Friis and Sellers 2004 p402). The likelihood of an infectious agent causing clinical signs and symptoms of disease is described as its ‘pathogenicity’. This characteristic and many others differ from one infectious agent to the next. Therefore the ability of an agent to cause disease in any environment is dependent upon the interaction of many variables within the ecological context in which it is found. It is commonly recognised that this diversity in health outcomes after individuals have been exposed to an infectious agent is not highlighted in the germ theory of disease that is adopted in western scientific medicine. These diverse health outcomes are a result of differences in the host’s immunology, physiology, social and emotional environment as well as differences in the ecological and agent characteristics (Doyal and Doyal 1984 p97; Friis and Sellers 2004; Gilbert 2004). In contrast, the germ theory describes disease as being caused by the infectious agent and resulting from internal biological changes. This simplified theory, termed a reductionist theory, is a central belief of the scientific medical model (SMM) and it lends itself to using a vaccine to prevent disease from infectious agents. A more detailed description of the germ theory is provided later in this chapter.

I can hardly wait.

It’s almost as though Wilyman doesn’t realize that her version of germ theory is what’s simplistic. Almost. Scientists understand that there are differences in susceptibility to different agents. Scientists understand that infections can be more complex than just “microbe + host = same kind of disease.” Scientists know that the immune response is complex. They know it far more than Wilyman does. They also know that She seems to be acting as though she alone has made some great discovery that those nasty reductionist scientists have missed. She hasn’t.

Oh, and she cites antivaccinationists like Lucija Tomljenovic and Christopher Shaw.

Wilyman has a long history of antivaccine activism in Australia. One of her most (in)famously nasty incidents occurred when a 32-day old infant named Dana McCaffery died of pertussis. In response, Wilyman, along with Meryl Dorey (the grand dame of the Australian antivaccine movement, in essence the Australian counterpart of our own disgraceful Barbara Loe Fisher) claimed that Australia’s campaigns for vaccination are based on promoting the whooping cough vaccine on anecdotal evidence (in particular, Dana McCaffery’s death) and the mantra of “seeing sick babies gasping for air.” The harassment of the McCafferys by antivaccine loons, including Wilyman, got so bad that David and Toni McCaffery, Dana’s parents, responded on Facebook with a blistering rebuke.

I haven’t (yet) read Wilyman’s entire thesis. I’m not sure if I can manage to force myself to power through it. However, what I’ve read so far reveals a level of ignorance and burning stupid so profoundly painful for anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of vaccine science and skepticism that it’s hard for me to figure out how even a humanities department could let such a travesty pass for a PhD thesis. the University of Wollongong should be utterly ashamed, and should be shamed far and wide throughout the blogosphere. It is an embarrassment. I wondered how any self-respecting university could allow such a thesis to pass or even admit such a woefully clueless antiscience PhD student. Hilariously, I found an article from three year ago about Wilyman entitled University stands by anti-vaccine student in which a spokesperson from the University of Wollongong defended her:

Vice-chancellor Paul Wellings refused to comment on Ms Wilyman’s ongoing candidature, but a university spokesman said the institution stood by Ms Wilyman because her personal views did not inform her work.

“Any ‘conspiracy’ theories she may have are independent of her relationship with the University of Wollongong. Her PhD has to meet the rigorous standards set by the university,” he said.

Ha.

Haha.

Hahaha.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Oh, me. At the time, that was a fair defense: Wilyman’s personal views shouldn’t matter as long as her thesis is held to rigorous academic standards. Knowing what we know now, I have to laugh to keep from crying. In light of Wilyman’s thesis being accepted, the reassurances of the University of Wollongong that Wilyman would be held to rigorous standards have been revealed for the humongous pile of fetid dingo’s kidneys that they were. Its claim was either a lie or a delusion on the part of the university administration. Take your pick.

Given that, I wondered who her thesis advisor, Brian Martin, who is described in The Australian article as “a professor of social sciences at the university with a long history of supporting controversial PhD candidates.” It occurred to me that what the story really should say, if Wilyman is representative of these “controversial candidates” is cranks because Wilyman is a crank par excellence.

Of course, Martin appears to be the perfect thesis advisor for an antivaccine crank like Judy Wilyman. Just take a look at his publications on scientific issues. For instance, his publications on vaccines include titles like On the suppression of vaccination dissent, which includes a portrayal of Andrew Wakefield as a sympathetic figure whose views were unjustly “suppressed” thusly:

Unlike most of his peers, Wakefield has been subject to a degradation ceremony, a ritualistic denunciation casting him out of the company of honest researchers (Thérèse and Martin, 2010). By degrading Wakefield’s reputation, vaccination is symbolically vindicated and the credibility of any criticism undermined. Supporters of vaccination have repeatedly used the example of Wakefield to suggest that criticism of vaccination is misguided (e.g., Grant, 2011: 105-124; Offit, 2010). The logic of using Wakefield’s ignominy as an argument in defense of vaccination is not replicated in the case of a single biomedical scientist who supports standard views. Considering that bias and conflict of interest are endemic to pharmaceutical-company-sponsored research, it is striking that no supporter of orthodoxy concludes that this discredits support for pharmaceutical drugs generally. (Some critics draw this conclusion.)

“The logic of using Wakefield’s ignominy as an argument in defense of vaccination is not replicated in the case of a single biomedical scientist who supports standard views”? Not exactly. Wakefield’s ignominy came about as his result of doing research bought and paid for by a lawyer wanting to sue vaccine companies for causing autism and his scientific fraud, not because he claimed that MMR vaccination was correlated with an increased incidence of autism. Martin also can’t help but add a healthy helping of anti-big pharma conspiracy mongering to the mix.

Overall, what I see in Martin’s work, after perusing some of it, is a man who doesn’t really care if the science is correct or not. He focuses on “orthodoxy” silencing “alternative views,” not understanding that it matters whether those views are rooted in evidence and science or not. It matters very much. Meanwhile, he portrays the efforts of Stop the AVN to counter the antivaccine message of the AVN as an unfair suppression, an exercise in power. He’s so enamored of quackery that another of his students was Michael Primero, associated with Medical Veritas, a self-described journal of “truth in health science” that alleged the Rockefeller Foundation had declared a war on consciousness through the imposition of musical tuning standards.

It’s utter bullshit, of course, as is his defense of his graduate student, Judy Wilyman, to any criticism of whom he counterattacks vociferously.

I understand that one of the key aspects of academic freedom is the freedom to explore controversial views. I also understand that the humanities are different from the sciences However, respect for controversial views and the freedom to explore them as part of a PhD thesis does not absolve the thesis advisor or university of the obligation to its students and reputation to make sure that any thesis consisting of examining such views is based in the highest academic standards and rooted in evidence. When the humanities critically examine science, the science must be represented correctly and based on evidence. Wilyman’s thesis clearly fails this test embarrassingly. The University of Wollongong and Judy Wilyman’s thesis advisor Brian Martin have utterly failed in this, preferring to allow Wilyman to use her thesis as a means of lending academic legitimacy to her pseudoscientific antivaccine crank views. In essence, the University of Wollongong allowed an antivaccine activist to use it as a means of getting a PhD rooted in antivaccine pseudoscience.

Epic fail.

Comments

  1. #1 herr doktor bimler
    January 13, 2016

    Unlike most of his peers, Wakefield has been subject to a degradation ceremony, a ritualistic denunciation casting him out of the company of honest researchers (Thérèse and Martin, 2010). By degrading Wakefield’s reputation, vaccination is symbolically vindicated and the credibility of any criticism undermined.

    Isn’t it cute when they dress up and play at science?

  2. #2 The Peak Oil Poet
    New Zealand
    January 13, 2016

    ““The swine flu pandemic of 2009 was declared by a secret WHO committee that had ties to pharmaceutical companies that stood to make excessive profits from the pandemic,” ”

    interesting how she captured that meme and ran with it. I assume it forms a large core of her thesis (i’m too stingy to pay for a copy)

    but

    i remember that time

    and i remember that that meme was everywhere – everyone seemed to be of the opinion the whole thing was a sham and i seem to recollect that there were some quite high profile news items that strongly suggested something not entirely Kosher about the whole deal – especially how much money was spent by governments reacting to what appeared to be media engineered panic

    too bad i did not keep track of it but it was not a main stream thing for me – i had my own ducks to line up so i really did not pay attention

    i will add this though – if 100% of experts in the field were in agreement about some aspect of immunology then i’d be scratching my head – isn’t mathematically impossible for 100% agreement on everything?

    are the whacko anti-vaccers the only contrary “studies”?

    if they were i’d be wanting to understand how it could be so

    my kids were all vaccinated, my grandkids too, my step-kids as well so i’m not in that camp

    but sometimes things do indeed smell and that pandemic sure as hell smelled bad back in the day

    pop

  3. #3 ParanoidMarvin
    January 13, 2016

    So his list of publications linked to includes:

    “The Myth of the Neutral Social Researcher in Contemporary Scientific Controversies”

    So his ideology is pretty clear. He thinks science is inherently biased, and nothing can reform it. I don’t know the journals and field, so I can’t say how seriously he is being taken by his colleagues, but his ideas are probably in line with a certain segment of post-modernist thought. The one which rejects that any sort of knowledge is “more correct” than any other as more or less a fundamental principle.

    In light of that, this all makes sense. They are wrong. Fundamentally wrong, horribly wrong. But within the standard of their community, this is not that far out.

  4. #4 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    January 13, 2016

    I know you’ve had fights with Sadmar, but given that Brian Martin is a Humanities Professor, I’d be interested to read his take.

  5. #5 Chris Preston
    January 13, 2016

    Ph.D. theses in Australia are examined in a different manner to the US or Europe. The thesis has to be read by two experts external to the University. The supervisor gets to make the call. Most supervisors take that responsibility carefully, because you don’t want to be embarrassed by a rubbish thesis.

    Martin has obviously not taken this responsibility carefully.

  6. #6 Yerushalmi
    Jerusalem, Israel
    January 13, 2016

    I admit, I had to look up the word “spruik”.

  7. #7 rhwombat
    King Coal's cloaca, NSW
    January 13, 2016

    Unfortunately, Wilyman & Martin’s political tracts are not unusual in the murky swamp of Bunyip Arts “Academia”. The UoW is a small, “new” place with quite a good Science Faculty, a very new Medical Faculty and a reasonable reputation for applied social research, however this award has created a stink that they are now rapidly running away from. This has strong analogy to several Oz ex-academic Climate Change Deniers such as Carter at James Cook University and Salby at Macquarie University. Oz PhD’s are not defended as such – they are sent out to 3 external reviewers, usually chosen by the supervisor, hence they can easily be gamed, as this one was. The UoW Senate is fuming, but under the Academic Bylaws, there is nothing that they can do about it. Fortunately there is no hope of any postdoctoral funding for Wilyman (or Martin) and no standing to be had from the awarding of the PhD.
    (Disclosure: I’m an ID physician in NSW, with a PhD in microbial pathogenesis and a son at UoW. Colour me ropable)

  8. #8 Renate
    January 13, 2016

    She got a degree in writing fiction?

    If not, something seems to be very wrong.

  9. #9 jo
    Perth, Aus
    January 13, 2016

    Peak Oil Poet – no need to pay, you can access the whole thing for free.
    go to http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/4541/
    download button is at the top

    Have a stiff drink before you start reading though.

  10. #10 MI Dawn
    January 13, 2016

    @Orac: Reasonable Hank (aka Peter Tierney) has several interesting posts on Judy Wilyman. While he doesn’t do insolent as well as you do, he does do snark quite nicely.

  11. #11 Nom de Guerre
    The Crystal Palace
    January 13, 2016

    More like University of Woollongong am I right? Right?

  12. #12 palindrom
    January 13, 2016

    I’m hopeful that post-modernist bullshit like this may finally have run its course, at least at my own university. Then again, our med school doesn’t even have a quackademic medicine department — yet.

  13. #13 Murmur
    UK-ia
    January 13, 2016

    Why am I strangely reminded of an old Monty Python routine?

  14. #14 Chris Hickie
    January 13, 2016

    Apparently no one is wanting to name the external reviewers. From ABC in Australia:

    The University has defended its acceptance of the thesis late last year, saying while it does not endorse the views of its academics or students, it does support researchers’ academic freedom of thought and expression.

    In a statement, it says all theses are assessed by at least two examiners with unchallengeable knowledge in the field of study.

    But the university has declined to reveal who the examiners of Ms Wilyman’s thesis were and whether they were from the field of medicine or social science.

    Vaccination supporter and surgeon John Cunningham says Ms Wilyman’s thesis contain errors.

    “The thesis needs to be reviewed by people whom have knowledge of vaccinations,” Dr Cunningham said. (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-13/wilyman-phd/7086346)

  15. #15 MI Dawn
    January 13, 2016

    @Orac: It wasn’t Dana McCaffrey who responded on FB – Dana is the baby who died. It was her parents, David and Toni.

    I never wrote a PhD thesis – the oneI wrote was for my M.S. However, I notice that most of the quotes have references that are at least 10 years old. I know for my MS I had to use the most current literature I could find on the subject. Is this not true for a PhD thesis? I’m guessing Judy used the older quotes because more recent research points out her information is all wrong…

  16. #16 Orac
    January 13, 2016

    I’m guessing the external reviewers were either not scientists or doctors or that they were antivaccine.

  17. #17 Orac
    January 13, 2016

    Oh, goody. Brian Martin has responded. Basically, he’s saying that the criticism is part of the same attacks by big pharma minions to silence criticism of vaccination policy.

    Final sentence:

    The attacks on Judy Wilyman and her PhD research should be understood as part of a campaign to denigrate and discourage anyone who dares to make public criticisms of standard vaccination policy.

    Holy hell. More blog fodder, perhaps? How clueless can you get?

  18. #18 Daniel Corcos
    January 13, 2016

    In France we did better, in a top Paris university, a PhD supporting astrology:
    https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Élizabeth_Teissier#Une_th.C3.A8se_de_sociologie_controvers.C3.A9e

  19. #19 Orac
    January 13, 2016

    A comment that was nothing other than a typo flame was deleted because that’s all it was. Remember, comments that are nothing more than spelling, grammar, or typo flames contribute nothing and will be deleted with extreme prejudice. I am a benevolent overlord who rarely, if ever, does much comment moderation, but typo and spelling flames annoy me enough to delete posts that consist of nothing more than that. 🙂

  20. #20 Chris Hickie
    January 13, 2016

    In a statement, it says all theses are assessed by at least two examiners with unchallengeable knowledge in the field of study.

    “unchallengeable” is problematic in itself. Not wanting to tell us just who has “unchallengeable knowledge in the field of study” for Wilyman is even more problematic. This really makes it sound like a doctoral system that can be rigged and not held accountable. I’m sure, Orac, that your PhD committee members had to sign their name to your thesis just like mine did before our respective American universities awarded us our doctorates. Getting a PhD is not and should not be the same process as the anonymity of peer-review for journal publications.

  21. #21 Orac
    January 13, 2016

    Certainly members of my thesis committee had to sign their names to my thesis on the front page. I believe that the published version of my thesis (which is now 22 years old) includes that page, but I don’t know for sure. I just looked at it and one of the signatures is illegible, but I know who it is because it’s my thesis advisor, whose signature was physician-like. In any case, it’s not a secret who made up my thesis committee.

  22. #22 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    January 13, 2016

    I see that Mr. Martin is originally from the states, just like Dorey. My sincerest apologies, Oz.

  23. #23 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    January 13, 2016

    What is the newly-minted Dr. Wilyman going to even do with such a ridiculously useless degree? Then again Wollongong has a numpty like Brian Martin on its faculty. This is as good a time as any to remind that Jake Crosby is on his third degree in anti-vaxx nonsense here in the U.S. Wollongong isn’t unique there.

  24. #24 Not a Troll
    January 13, 2016

    You’re right. It comes down to what you are rewarding; scholarship or contrarianism.

  25. #25 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    January 13, 2016

    I do love Martin’s 4 criteria for determining whether criticism is part of a campaign to “denigrate and discourage” or not. He appears to be getting too hung up on personal characterizations of Ms. Wilyman to pay attention to the legitimate criticisms of her work (and not just peripherals, but central themes).

    I especially like point #3, that her thesis should be judged in comparison to other theses and practice standards. Shouldn’t a work be judged on its own merits?

  26. #26 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    January 13, 2016

    @Not a Troll

    PhD in Contrarianism. I like that.

  27. #27 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    January 13, 2016

    In a statement, it says all theses are assessed by at least two examiners with unchallengeable knowledge in the field of study.

    Given that Orac has shown that the thesis contains demonstrably false claims, that is very dubious.

    The thesis has to be read by two experts external to the University. The supervisor gets to make the call

    Perhaps this will lead to calls for change in the PhD Process in Australia. One can but hope.

  28. #28 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    January 13, 2016

    Just some quick things about changes in WHO definitions of pandemic. First off, they did not change anything regarding seriousness of disease as part of the definition of a pandemic. They did make some minor changes to pandemic alert phases, making them more specific, but not in a way that would allow declaration of a pandemic earlier to somehow drive up sales of antivirals and vaccines.

    Even epidemiologist wannabe Peter Doshi notes that WHO did not change the definition of pandemic influenza.

  29. #29 shay simmons
    January 13, 2016

    Why am I strangely reminded of an old Monty Python routine?

    You aren’t the only one.

  30. #30 corax
    January 13, 2016

    I hope that Orac will not lump this comment with petty critiques of spelling and grammar, but I would like to point out that the humanities are not responsible for this particular load of fetid dingo’s kidneys. Martin appears to be in the social sciences, and so I presume his student would be too.

  31. #31 Orac
    January 13, 2016

    But the PhD was issued in the humanities, based on the reports:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-13/wilyman-phd/7086346

    Specifically, the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts.

  32. #32 Eric Lund
    January 13, 2016

    I’m informed in the comments that Australian universities don’t do the traditional public thesis defense done in the US and Europe, but rather the thesis has to be read by two experts external to the University and the supervisor gets to make the call. Ugh.

    Details vary by university and department, but generally speaking, in the US the candidate chooses the committee in consultation with his advisor. Often there is a requirement that at least one committee member be outside the department, but obviously that requirement can be gamed. It won’t prevent uncomfortable questions from being asked at the public thesis defense, but it’s possible for a sufficiently woo-infested department in the US to approve a thesis like this.

    Some departments (at least in physics; I don’t know about biomedical fields) have requirements that candidates demonstrate knowledge of the general field. That would help catch cases like this one before they start writing, but only if the requirement is enforced. Given that this Ph.D. was from a humanities department, I’m not sure such a requirement would have helped.

  33. #33 Orac
    January 13, 2016

    Well, in the US, at least in science departments, there is a preliminary examination that a student has to pass in order even to begin his thesis work. These days, frequently the test is to write a mock NIH R01 grant, which is then critiqued by faculty panels as though it were real.

    Moreover, in the thesis defense, virtually anything is open to questioning, not just the candidate’s thesis work. In thesis defenses for biochemistry, for instance, on occasion candidates have been asked things like to draw out the Krebs citric acid cycle, with chirality and then show where a labeled carbon atom would end up based on where it was in the starting sugar. They can also be quizzed on recent research. True, in most thesis defenses, little of this happens. Usually the questions are pretty tightly related to the candidate’s thesis. However, the candidate knows going in that anything is fair game.

    Obviously, I don’t know much about how they do it in humanities departments.

  34. #34 corax
    January 13, 2016

    I stand corrected – (thanks Orac) – although I’m guessing social sciences might have been folded into humanities in a small institution? “It’s not humanities as we know it, Jim!”

  35. #35 Denice Walter
    January 13, 2016

    What a load of crap!

    Seriously, now anti-vaxxers can claim support from parental intuition, mail order doctorates, self-taught experts, former doctors AND those with sparkling new doctorates from somewhat reality based institutions.

    Unfortunately, I can easily imagine material like this originating from humanities and even, social sciences. Sadly.

  36. #36 Dangerous Bacon
    January 13, 2016

    “What is the newly-minted Dr. Wilyman going to even do with such a ridiculously useless degree?”

    Write antivax books of course. They will be highly credible because she is, after all, a Doctor like Dr. Suzanne Humphries, Dr. Tetyana Obukhanych and Dr. Ralph Moss.

    You wouldn’t dare question a Doctor, would you?

  37. #37 Denice Walter
    January 13, 2016

    I wonder who is going to buy all of those books?
    Aren’t these parents so strapped for cash- as they continuously tell us?

    Career opportunities don’t appear to be so earth shattering for a well-known writer and editor of anti-vax as she’s trying to become part of the martial arts weapons cognoscenti/ establishment.

  38. #38 Daniel Corcos
    January 13, 2016

    In oncology, we have already the journals Cancer Research and Anticancer Research (the title of the later suggesting that the first one is for cancer supporters). Maybe soon we’ll have Vaccine Research and Antivaccine Research.

  39. #39 MarkN
    January 13, 2016

    Speaking of #33, I’ve seen kind of a funny one, presentation on some type of coronary problem & procedure, a surgeon stood up in Q&A:

    “I could ask you what are all the muscle attachments to the scapula, but I won’t….”

    it was more of a stress-breaker, quite funny at the time, but not for the focused presenter. And, of course we then started counting them up from the mnemonic.

  40. #40 doug
    January 13, 2016

    I especially like point #3, that her thesis should be judged in comparison to other theses and practice standards.

    My interpretation of point #3 is “we have out standards and they are lower than yours, so go away and quick picking on us”.

  41. #41 doug
    January 13, 2016

    … examiners with unchallengeable knowledge in the field of study …

    To me this is an absolute certification that the field of study is outside of science.

  42. #42 Rich Woods
    Not down under
    January 13, 2016

    @Todd W, #26:

    PhD in Contrarianism. I like that.

    I don’t.

  43. #43 Chris Hickie
    January 13, 2016
  44. #44 Eric Lund
    January 13, 2016

    These days, frequently the test is to write a mock NIH R01 grant, which is then critiqued by faculty panels as though it were real.

    Would it be incorrect to assume that NCCIH funds R01 grants, as the various counterpart divisions of NASA and NSF do for the physical science counterparts to the R01?

    Maybe the existing safeguards are sufficient to prevent something this egregious from getting through an American university department. But if there is a group sufficiently determined to subvert those safeguards, they will eventually succeed–basically, they only have to get lucky once, while anybody trying to stop them has to get lucky every time.

    Maybe there aren’t yet any departments that are sufficiently woo-infested to allow such a thing to happen. And maybe there will be enough pushback from SBM faculty to prevent a department from ever becoming sufficiently woo-infested. But you have to keep your guard up.

  45. #45 Orac
    January 13, 2016

    Most basic science departments are not so infested with woo that such a thing would be likely to happen. Clinical departments, on the other hand…

    Fortunately, most clinical departments don’t have PhD programs. Their job is to train clinicians and clinical researchers, not PhDs.

  46. #46 palindrom
    January 13, 2016

    Rich Woods @42 — We’re all individuals!

  47. #47 Narad
    January 13, 2016

    These days, frequently the test is to write a mock NIH R01 grant, which is then critiqued by faculty panels as though it were real.

    That sounds a lot easier than regular quals, but then again, I had changed fields for the Ph.D. that I wound up bailing on (in part because my advisor was actively stymieing completion of my regular coursework).

  48. #48 Gilbert
    January 13, 2016

    (in part because my advisor was actively stymieing completion of my regular coursework).

    Creative writing and geology is hard, Narad #47.

  49. #49 rs
    January 13, 2016

    38: “Maybe soon we’ll have Vaccine Research and Antivaccine Research.”

    Vaccine Antiresearch.

  50. #50 Orac
    January 13, 2016

    That sounds a lot easier than regular quals,

    Clearly, you’ve never written an R01 grant before.

  51. #51 Old Rockin' Dave
    ,,,in the light of freedom's call
    January 13, 2016

    Good thing she didn’t go into Judaic studies.
    (Orac, your spam filter must have been written by See Noinfo. I keep getting this message when I submit:
    “Go back and try again.
    Error: answer is wrong. [4.1]
    Comment was blocked because it is spam.”

  52. #52 Narad
    January 13, 2016

    Clearly, you’ve never written an R01 grant before.

    We did all have to pitch in on the NRL grant applications that were funding our positions, but no, I haven’t.

  53. #53 Narad
    January 13, 2016

    Orac, your spam filter must have been written by See Noinfo. I keep getting this message when I submit

    That’s the brain-dead WP “Anti-Spam” plugin. I see it periodically; reloading the page seems to help.

  54. #54 Professor Viv
    January 13, 2016
  55. #55 Kiiri
    January 13, 2016

    I am so tired of the loons spinning the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic. And it was a pandemic. I was working in PH at the time and I remember it quite vividly. It was a novel strain, and no one had any clue how bad it would really be. Those are only determinations that can be made AFTER a lot of people have gotten the disease. So what did the PH types do? We jumped all over it! We tracked cases, and we tracked outcomes, and we tracked everything we could get our hands on because WE DIDN’T KNOW IF IT WOULD KILL A LOT OF PEOPLE. Or not. We hadn’t seen it before. As it turns out, it wasn’t a super deadly strain (al 1918) but when we had to make a decision to do something we didn’t (and couldn’t) know that. As it turns out if you want to crunch the numbers H1N1 does turn out to be more deadly for certain subgroups than are normally affected by influenza. The elderly did not die in has high a numbers, but pregnant women, the obese, and other subgroups of relatively young people did die. In particular H1N1 was not good to get if you were pregnant. It was bad, just not as bad as it could be. And because WHO and CDC and every state and local HD jumped all over it, and did their best but there weren’t bodies in the street then we are accused of ‘manufacturing’ a crisis. There was no manufacturing about it. I was there I remember. I remember working on weekends and late into the evening. I remember phone calls with CDC about case data. I remember learning about young women who were pregnant dying in our hospitals. It was real, we just got lucky.

  56. #56 Denice Walter
    January 13, 2016

    You know this post makes me feel quite despondent that people like like
    THIS… creature manage a doctorate whilst Jake is currently acquiring one and throwing his M of PH about like confetti on a festival day – AS IF IT MEANT SOMETHING-
    then you think that you nearly frigging killed yourself when a youngster** to QUALIFY belonging in the race at all and then had to research and write and please advisors – all the while asking yourself questions about your own relevance to the real world etc etc.

    AND then absolute Bullsh!t like this comes to light and an actual university allows it to exist without rapidly demolishing it and sending its enablers/ perpetrators off into oblivion
    IMMEDIATELY
    REALLY.
    What’s the world coming to anyway?

    ** instead of behaving irresponsibly, out all night, drinking and carrying on – altho’ I didn’t entirely forsake that path

  57. #57 Science Mom
    http://justthevax.blogspot.com/
    January 13, 2016

    Creative writing and geology is hard, Narad #47.

    Says the person who thinks a terminal degree is his high school certificate.

  58. #58 Gilbert
    January 13, 2016

    That’s the brain-dead WP “Anti-Spam” plugin.

    I actually tried to comment on that paranoid WP spam filter the other day — It was rejected as *spam*.

    What the workaround appears to be is not to link to the post from clicking on the comments (insolence delivered) but to click on the article instead — I note that there seems to be some nag about ‘valid certificates’ when clicking through via the comments.

  59. #59 Not a Troll
    January 13, 2016

    “…instead of behaving irresponsibly, out all night, drinking and carrying on…”

    Entirely overrated, IMHO. I consider the only good to have come from it, outside of a few laughs, was that I didn’t end up a an alcoholic. I have my genes to thank for that as it certainly wasn’t my behavior.

  60. #60 Rich Bly
    Ocean Shores
    January 13, 2016

    Everyone, lets give this poor creature a break. She spent at least 10 years (according to when she accessed various reference materials she used) on this O-Puss of loose stool. She reference such great publishing houses as Skyhorse.

    Orac: she advocates the need for a randomized vaccine/placebo human study of the effects of the vaccines.

    Is there some department that has a post-doc available for her in javelin catching?

  61. […] University of Wollongong issues a PhD in antivaccine pseudoscience, Respectful Insolence am 13. Januar […]

  62. #62 shay simmons
    January 13, 2016

    I am so tired of the loons spinning the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic.

    You and me both. We had three fatalities in our county and every single ventilator in both hospitals was in use. At one point we were getting reports from school nurses of 20% absenteeism.

    It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was no walk in the park, either.

  63. #63 Chris Preston
    January 13, 2016

    I just want to put to bed the idea that because the examination process from Australian Universities is different that it is not rigorous. It is. I just wanted to point out that it was different and so arguments based on the US system do not necessarily apply.

    I have sat on US doctoral committees (I have an adjunct appointment at one of the US Land Grant Universities) and am aware that it would be possible to game the system there as well. Particularly as all the examiners are already invested in the student passing the examination.

    In Australia, doctoral students also go through a mid-term examination. It is different to the US, in that it involves several people not on the committee.

    Examination of theses in Australia is similar to peer-review of papers for publication. The examiners are offered confidentiality and that is why the University is not going to name them. I have had a look at the UoW nomination form and it is somewhat different to ours. There the student gets to list potential examiners, from which 2 will be selected. Here, the student can only object to examiners and must do that up front. The qualifications and reasons for using the examiners need to be specified. There are also prohibitions on using former members of the University or collaborators of the supervisors or student (over the last 5 years), anyone who has seen a draft of the thesis and several other situations.

    The problem here is Brian Martin. If you don’t care about what is real, then you will be able to find some plausible sounding examiners who will be sympathetic to any rubbish served up. Any bets on Christopher Shaw being one of the examiners? I am sure Martin could have managed exactly the same result in a lower tier US university by stacking the committee with people who thought the same way.

    Martin’s defence of Judy Wilyman’s thesis is full of anti-vaccine canards and conspiracy theories. I think it shows just how far Martin is willing to go.

  64. #64 Denice Walter
    January 13, 2016

    @ Not a Troll:

    Actually, I think carousing is too often written off as being frivolous when it provides many valuable learning experiences such as how to evaluate potential partners’ hidden qualities and never to mix wine with distilled products.

    AND I learned a great deal about fashion innovation in various gin joints, clubs, pubs, cafes and discos.

  65. #65 Denice Walter
    January 13, 2016

    @ Kiiri:

    The only person I known who caught H1N1 was my cousin’s daughter who was a university undergrad at the time and was ill for several weeks.

  66. #66 Denice Walter
    January 13, 2016

    I KNOW, that is

  67. #67 Brian Deer
    January 13, 2016

    Obviously I didn’t read more than two paragraphs of the monotonous rant, but it seemed a little odd to me that she didn’t actually quote anything that she purported to critique.

    So, not only was it close to unbearable to attempt to read, but I had no confidence at all that she was honestly representing information. In several cases I glanced at, I know she wasn’t.

    Mind you, I did see a British PhD thesis about MMR, the original contribution to knowledge of which was that some media coverage did give two sides of “the argument”.

  68. #68 Val
    January 13, 2016

    @ rhwombat

    This “PhD” is hardly unusual from academic Australia, an industry known for producing dodgy degrees.

    The analogy you draw on its sacking of scientists who dared to disagree is, however, ironic – a stunning own goal. Social activism masquerading as science is what those scientists disagreed with. Intolerant of dissent, it is the same movement that produced this so-called PhD thesis. The fruit of that industry should come as no surprise. Outside Australia, the university of Wollongong is, like James Cook and Macquarie universities – non existent.

    https://youtu.be/iKcWu0tsiZM

  69. #69 Gilbert
    January 13, 2016

    Swine flu 2009–*You little bastard, you’ve killed us all*:
    http://cheezburger.com/5169718016

    “Betty’s mother gave it to her best friend, Dottie. But, Dottie had a heart condition and she died.”–
    “Get a shot of protection; The swine flu shot”:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxLB9k2sSIM

    Guillain-Barre is for the sheeple.

  70. #70 has
    January 13, 2016

    Denice Walter@56:

    You know this post makes me feel quite despondent that people like like THIS… creature manage a doctorate […] then you think that you nearly frigging killed yourself when a youngster

    <cough> Literally so, in some cases; and not even for a shiny postgrad degree, just a boring ol’ BVSc. Luckily for the rest of the world, the school wised up and booted me out long before I got near anything with a heartbeat. Though to think, had I only gone to Wollongong U, I could now proudly say “That’s DOCTOR LunaticPuppyKiller to you!” when handing back the parts.

  71. #71 Ren
    January 13, 2016

    Wow. She’s not even trying to play the game, is she? I mean, she doesn’t even try to maybe throw in a truth here or there to cover up the BS.
    I used to believe that if I came at a thesis committee with some weird thing like this, they would laugh me out of the profession. Not so much now. I’m thinking that you could get a doctoral degree if you shop around for it well enough, regardless of what you decide to write on your thesis.

  72. #72 ausduck
    under a southern sky
    January 13, 2016

    Orac, you may already be aware that Professor Peter Doherty offered to assess Wlyman with the thesis to ensure factual integrity regarding the science of vaccines and vaccination. It would come as no surprise his offer was rejected.
    We at SAVN have been concerned over Wilyman and her supervisor (Martin defends Meryl Dorey to the extent of mutual admiration) and where this all was going, but UoW have made it very clear that academic freedom is valued much more than academic integrity and, indeed, the university’s reputation.
    For all those out there that may be confuzzled by how Australian Unis organise their faculties – Social Sciences is usually included in Humanities. And some unis chuck Nursing in with Social Sciences – but that is another story (and a personal/professional gripe).

  73. #73 ausduck
    January 13, 2016

    Erratum: Professor Doherty offered to ASSIST, not assess. My apologies.

  74. #74 ausduck
    January 13, 2016

    That’s it, I’m going to go punish myself. I got my Peters confused.
    Erratum: it was NCIRS Director Peter McIntyre, not Prof. Peter Doherty. Again, my apologies.
    Arrgh. I’m not usually this factually bad, honest!
    I need a proofreader for my posts :/

  75. #75 rhwombat
    Newcastle (AKA King Coal's cloaca), NSW
    January 13, 2016

    Val @#68:

    “…ironic – a stunning own goal”
    Long bow you draw there.

    From the attached clip, I suspect that you regard yourself as a misunderstood genius, cruelly shunned by the Oz Anti-Climate-Denial-Mafia. In fact you may well be one of Bob Carter’s acolytes. Your real name isn’t McLean, “Nova” or Marohasy is it?

  76. #76 Sbear
    Wollongong
    January 13, 2016

    As a PhD candidate at UOW I’ve been following this with some interest and did a little research on the PhD in question and her supervisor. First to mention, the PhD has come through the faculty of Social Science and is not affiliated with the Faculty of Science, medicine and health of the uni (first sigh of relief breathed). Secondly, if you look at the publication record of the supervisor you will see a long list of controversial and nay saying papers on such things as AIDS, drugs and vaccination. Third, the subjects taught by the supervisor are media and cultural studies subjects which raises the issue of the back ground of the supervisor and the veracity of any science. Finally, the article is mistaken about the process for examining PhDs, yes two external examiners are chosen (and the supervisor does have the final say) but the rules regarding who those examiners can be are quite struck regarding whether they have worked with the supervisor and the country they work in to try and get a fair and balanced opinion. To add to that, the final say on whether the thesis passes is decided by the examination board of the university, which includes high ups in the school, faculty and university and is a rigorous examination of whether the thesis is sufficient, in quantity and quality, to pass and for the student to be awarded the PhD.

    I would like to point out I don’t agree with any of opinions in this thesis or that it passed. But I suspect there is more to it and that if this same these is had been submitted by a student in the Science faculty the science would have been questioned. However from a social science perspective the issue is a different one.

    Disclaimer: I’m not social science bashing.

  77. #77 Orac
    January 13, 2016

    I would like to point out I don’t agree with any of opinions in this thesis or that it passed. But I suspect there is more to it and that if this same these is had been submitted by a student in the Science faculty the science would have been questioned. However from a social science perspective the issue is a different one.

    So you’re saying it’s acceptable in social sciences to do a PhD thesis on vaccine policy that grossly misrepresents the very science of vaccines upon which that policy is based? That’s what’s happening here, you know.

    I have no problem with criticizing vaccine policy in a thesis, but if that criticism is based on pseudoscientific antivaccine tropes it can’t be said to be academically rigorous, no matter what specialty the thesis comes from.

  78. #78 Delphine
    underneath a 130 lbs dog
    January 13, 2016

    I don’t know, I’ve always thought that the issuance of the PhD was directly correlated with the intensity/level of suffering experienced during the process.

    Here, the suffering is passed along to the reader…well played, Australia.

  79. #79 Delphine
    now under 190 lbs of dog
    January 13, 2016

    Disclaimer: I’m not social science bashing.

    We believe you, sweetie.

  80. #80 rhwombat
    King Coal's Cloaca, NSW, Oz.
    January 13, 2016

    Delphine @ #78 & 79:
    UoW Academia: Now under 190 lbs of flea.

  81. #81 Chris Preston
    January 13, 2016

    “To add to that, the final say on whether the thesis passes is decided by the examination board of the university, which includes high ups in the school, faculty and university and is a rigorous examination of whether the thesis is sufficient, in quantity and quality, to pass and for the student to be awarded the PhD.”

    I think you are being overly sanguine about the way the examination board operates. I work at a far more prestigious university than UoW and I cannot remember a single instance where the Examinations Board overturned passing recommendations from the examiners. There is no rigorous review, except in borderline cases. The examinations board are simply not expert enough to check for accuracy.

    “But I suspect there is more to it and that if this same these is had been submitted by a student in the Science faculty the science would have been questioned. However from a social science perspective the issue is a different one.”

    I suspect it would have been possible to pull off an exercise like this in any faculty. In a non-science faculty it would be easier on this particular topic, mostly because the basis of the research would have been questioned at the start and the possibility of the student surviving their major review limited. However, a determined supervisor could probably shepherd through a pseudoscience thesis even in a science faculty. It may well be career ending mind, but possible if you were not interested in working with any or your local colleagues ever again.

    Even in the social sciences, a Ph.D. is supposed to be a work of scholarship and contain accurate statements. This thesis appears to do neither.

  82. #82 Orac
    January 13, 2016

    I know you’ve had fights with Sadmar, but given that Brian Martin is a Humanities Professor, I’d be interested to read his take.

    I wouldn’t exactly call them “fights.” I am curious why he hasn’t commented yet, though. Normally this sort of topic would be something that he’d bury the comment thread with verbiage as copious or even more copious than mine.

  83. #83 JP
    January 13, 2016

    Maybe he’s tired out and doesn’t feel like talking. I get that way sometimes, too.

    Landed in a psych ward again, another week! Thanks, Ben! Not entirely his fault; I’m a lot like his dad, I gather, which can be scary for another sensitive poet type.

  84. #84 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 13, 2016

    Having completed her PhD, she can become a postdoc. And as they say, postdoc ergo propter doc.

  85. #85 ausduck
    there's that southern sky again
    January 13, 2016

    Sbear @ #76
    If I was a PhD candidate at UoW I’d be pretty livid that such a shoddy thesis has been successfully submitted. I’ve got no problems with critiques of public policy regarding vaccines, but surely such critiquing must be made with an underpinning of scientific/medical fact to ensure academic integrity and sound argument (and, dare I say it, credibility).
    Or, depending on the outlook, a candidate could be reasonably happy that the standards have been lowered to ensure practically any success.
    Which, either way, damages the reputation of UoW, to the detriment of the very good research that is undertaken by other faculties at the university and, indeed, other PhD candidates.
    As to Brian Martin, his background is well known and there is no way UoQ can put their head in the sand and cry ‘academic freedom’ or ‘we do not endorse the opinions of students/faculty members’. This is a situation that is as much of their making as it is Wilyman and her supervisor.

  86. #86 ausduck
    January 13, 2016

    Bloody typos.
    UoQ should read UoW.

    I’m going back to lurking. It’s safer.

  87. #87 Not a Troll
    January 13, 2016

    @ Denice Walter #64

    Haha! Yes, it was definitely a learning experience. But could I have learned the same things a different way? One will never know.

    Still those days will always be remembered as (for the most part) loads of fun.

  88. #88 Not a Troll
    January 13, 2016

    @ausduck

    No worries. We have all been there.

  89. #89 Militant Agnostic
    January 13, 2016

    Orac

    Normally this sort of topic would be something that he’d bury the comment thread with verbiage as copious or even more copious than mine.

    He has probably been working on it for the past 10 hours 🙂

  90. #90 Bob
    January 13, 2016

    Uggghhh, oh god, my head hurts.

    I’ve been encountering people like this PhD student and her adviser my entire life. People who really passionately insist on the “tell both sides” nonsense as an actual way of life, not just a way to write the news. These people think that every side in a debate has some innate right to argue its position without being criticized, though its only criticism if it’s directed at oneself.

    Maybe this works all fine and dandy in some humanities departments, but down here in the real world, we care about things that work. Science works. Science based medicine works. Vaccines work. Deal with it.

    PS: I’m also highly amused at her apparent belief that doctors are unaware germ theory has advanced since Pasteur.

  91. #91 Orac
    January 13, 2016

    @Militant Agnostic:

    Heheheh.

  92. #92 Chris
    January 14, 2016

    JP: “Landed in a psych ward again, another week! ”

    Oh noes! My best wishes to you. I am about to tuck in and try to finish reading Let’s Pretend it Never Happened by Jenny Larson, who is quite familiar with psychiatrists.

    I did read quite a bit of it yesterday during the three hours at the university medical center for son’s two appointments (including a psychologist). These big brains in us humans have so many ways of going off kilter.

  93. #93 VLTC
    Sydney
    January 14, 2016

    Haven’t seen it mentioned, and it makes it all worse;

    Martin’s PHD is in Theoretical Physics.

    Regardless of his current role, he does know better, and should be held accountable.

  94. #94 alison
    January 14, 2016

    Good take on this from immunologist Helen Petousis Harris, one of our NZ scibloggers: http://sciblogs.co.nz/diplomaticimmunity/2016/01/14/a-phd-by-stealth-bs-what-are-university-of-wollongong-thinking/

  95. #95 The Peak Oil Poet
    New Zealand
    January 14, 2016

    just finished reading her thesis

    and then i cam back here and read all the comments

    tomorrow i’m going to go through the thesis again

    it seems more like a political policy document than a science document or even a social science document

    when the banking system fell in 2008 it turned out that the rating agencies were in bed with the investment banks (to rate groups of bad mortgages as being AAA investments)

    but that can’t happen in medicine can it – it’s 100% impossible for pharmaceutical companies (or folk i them) to scam anybody at all

    right?

    impossible right?

    pop

  96. #96 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    a cluttered room somewhere in the snow-covered wastes of Vantaa, Finland.
    January 14, 2016

    Someonebody needs to tell that ‘supervisor’ that there’s a pissing HUGE difference between a Ph. D. and a Boll. D¹.!

    ¹ Doctor of Bollocks.

  97. #97 Chris Preston
    January 14, 2016

    Someonebody needs to tell that ‘supervisor’ that there’s a pissing HUGE difference between a Ph. D. and a Boll. D

    Colloquially Ph.D. stands for “Piled Higher and Deeper”. This thesis is a good example of this colloquial usage.

  98. #98 mho
    January 14, 2016

    Kiri@55
    I only found out after the fact that my pregnant niece didn’t get the vaccine in 2009, because “she never gets the flu”. She was at a teaching middle school, no less.
    I only see the niece and nephew once or twice a year. I try to keep my attitude(rage, actually) in check enough that they will still speak to me, but I manage to work in vaccine questions every time I see them. My nephew assures me his 6 and 4 year old have all their shots and she says she does too (except the flu vaccine). Their friends baby died within 2 days of getting a rare type of infection, so the niece knows how important vaccines are, except she thinks she can just pop her kids to urgent care for tamiflu if they need it.
    I was holding my breath when we got together for the holidays, since there was a lot of pertussis in their town and other nephew and wife were bringing their 3 month old baby. I never got a chance to ask about that nephews vaccine ideas, I was just relieved they hadn’t gone for a home birth.

  99. #99 Michael Armstrong
    Wollongong
    January 14, 2016

    Hi all!
    I’m a University student at the University of Wollongong (UOW). I’d just like to say that the students are just as outraged as you.
    However, I would like to point out that the thesis is in the law faculty, NOT the science and medicine faculty. While it is still horrible, at least it isn’t a medical paper.
    Also, my University really is a great Uni. It isn’t Harvard or Yale, but it is ranked around 10th in Australia and is always rising. In 2014 we were ranked 99th in the world for employability. Just thought I’d add this so people wouldn’t get the wrong idea about the Uni.

  100. […] I wrote about what can only be described as an academic travesty. What riled me up sufficiently to lay a heapin’ helpin’ of not-so-Respectful Insolence […]

  101. #101 LouV
    France
    January 14, 2016

    when the banking system fell in 2008 it turned out that the rating agencies were in bed with the investment banks (to rate groups of bad mortgages as being AAA investments)
    but that can’t happen in medicine can it – it’s 100% impossible for pharmaceutical companies (or folk i them) to scam anybody at all
    right?

    Impossible ? No, of course not. However, in this case, was the evidence presented good enough for her accusations ?
    I often am irritated by anti-vaxxers referencing real scandals, but then painting a cartoonish picture of what they imagine pharmaceutical corruption to be (when this corruption can take much more subtle forms). That way, they demonstrate they are not a credible counter-power.

  102. #102 Orac
    January 14, 2016

    Exactly. Just because something is possible does not excuse a crank arguing that that something actually did happen from presenting valid evidence to support her claim. Wilyman failed miserably on this count. I lost track of the number of false “facts” and claims before I even got through the first chapter of her thesis.

    Similarly, as I said before, if you’re going to criticize science policy (in this case vaccine policy) you really need to describe the science correctly. Wilyman failed at that as well.

  103. #103 Mikeh
    United Kingdom
    January 14, 2016

    Wakefield and Hooker (amongst others) had their peer-reviewed publications retracted.

    Is it possible for a phd thesis to be retracted or withdrawn?

  104. #104 MI Dawn
    January 14, 2016

    Mikeh @103: I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it, except for gross plaigerism, but I’m not in academia. Anyone in a university setting know?

  105. #105 Getafix
    January 14, 2016

    With a cup of tea on the table, I downloaded her thesis and attempted to read it. I could not even finish the abstract.

    “It is important that independent research is carried out to assess whether all the vaccines being recommended today are safe, effective and necessary for the protection of the community.”

    and later

    “The framework for undone science….”

    And….I’m done. Just can’t read anymore. There is a whole body of literature on exactly this. Vaccine science is *established*. And yet she talks about it like it never existed.

    As a PhD holder, I still can’t fathom how this thesis managed to fall through the cracks…

  106. #106 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    January 14, 2016

    @Mikeh:

    Is it possible for a phd thesis to be retracted or withdrawn?

    Yes and I’ve read of instances, but generally only for something like fraud or plagiarism. I don’t know if this crock of **** rises to that level.

  107. #107 Militant Agnostic
    January 14, 2016

    VLTC @93

    Martin’s PHD is in Theoretical Physics.

    Colour me unsurprised. Nothing cranks like a physicist outside of their are of expertise. The AGW denialism machine runs on cranky old physicists.

  108. #108 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    January 14, 2016

    outside of their are of expertise

    I initially read that as outside their arse of expertise.

  109. […] take it anymore. Helen Harris managed to read the abstract, and ripped it apart line by line. Orac read some more bits; would you believe she’s criticizing the germ theory of […]

  110. #110 Denice Walter
    January 14, 2016

    @ JP:

    Hope you’re feeling better.
    in the words of the Poet : Keep on keeping on!

  111. […] take it anymore. Helen Harris managed to read the abstract, and ripped it apart line by line. Orac read some more bits; would you believe she’s criticizing the germ theory of […]

  112. #112 The Peak Oil Poet
    New Zealand
    January 14, 2016

    You hand in your ticket
    And you go watch the geek
    Who immediately walks up to you
    When he hears you speak
    And says, “How does it feel
    To be such a freak?”
    And you say, “Impossible”
    As he hands you a bone

    Because something is happening here
    But you don’t know what it is
    Do you, Mister Jones?

    p

  113. #113 Jenora Feuer
    Toronto
    January 14, 2016

    Perhaps “Doctor of Horsesh*t”

    I don’t know… considering that the one of the first real vaccines used cowpox infection to protect against smallpox, I think Bullsh*t has a much more involved ring to it.

  114. #114 Chris Preston
    January 14, 2016

    Is it possible for a phd thesis to be retracted or withdrawn?

    Mikeh, indeed it is and I can think of a few examples. The main reasons for withdrawal of the degree has been fraud.

  115. #115 Bisiilki
    January 14, 2016

    As a former undergrad who studied in the STS department at UOW, I can’t say I’m surprised that this nonsense has come out of there. I never had the pleasure(??) of a class with Brian Martin, but his colleagues Stewart Russell and David Mercer (at least they were colleagues between 2005-2008) were impeccable, rigourous social scientists (so my comments should not reflect badly on them, because they were great!).
    I suspect I did actually have a class that was designed but not taught by Brian Martin (rather it was a weekly seminar by a PhD student). I didn’t end up majoring in STS, partially because of the class, Scientific and Technological Controversy, which pretty much was a tin hat anti government, anti vax, “salicylates cause my husband’s ADHD”, “Polio vaccines in the congo created AIDS”, “fluoride is mind control”, and my favorite “CHEMTRAILS are REAL”. Now, I have an anti-conventional wisdom approach to most things – I believe in alternative nutrition a-la PALEO/Ketogenic (but that is actually based on science, real science, in peer reviewed journals) and I am a massive political conspiracy theorist (because really, every single politician is corrupt, it’s just what flavour of corruption) – but that course frightened me. We had to “research” a scientific controversy, but it was so hard because all you could rely on was anti-everything blogs and books that were published by alternative presses. I found the whole thing to be entirely uncritical of the opinions espoused by cranks and loons, so decided that STS wasn’t for me.
    I didnt end up doing a PhD at UOW because of other reasons (even though I got first class honours and had a supervisor lined up, i had “ruffled feathers” in the arts faculty and as such was not even considered at all for a scholarship). Off I went to ANU (with an APA no less) and thankfully, I do not have a PhD from what is now a laughing stock faculty.

  116. #116 Sweatin' the Small Stuff
    United States
    January 14, 2016

    It’s interesting that you should mention Primero’s comments about standard tuning since the entire concept of “standard tuning” is nothing but a social construct. The only reason we think of an A as the pitch that it is is because we’ve all agreed to call that frequency an A. The current ‘standard tuning” of A = 440 Hz only comes after centuries of having the tuning wander all over the place. Back in the 1800s when most people tuned to A = 435 (Austrian tuning), were they “suppressing” music? In fact, the pitch for A has been steadily rising for centuries. Tuning forks from the 1700s show that the A was sometimes tuned as low as 409 Hz.

    It would seem that Primero has the same problem: Completely ignore reality so that you can get your rant on.

  117. #117 AP
    Australia
    January 14, 2016

    I would just like to add to the comment of #5. The examination rules vary from uni to uni. At the University of Sydney, the thesis is examined by 3 external reviewers and the PhD award committee decides, based on the reviews, whether the thesis is to be awarded or not. In addition, in the group where I did my PhD, we were required to do a public thesis defence.

  118. #118 Narad
    January 14, 2016
    Perhaps “Doctor of Horsesh*t”

    I don’t know… considering that the one of the first real vaccines used cowpox infection to protect against smallpox, I think Bullsh*t has a much more involved ring to it.

    I’m a prescriptivist on this matter. Once again,

    “Our victory is over horseshit rather than bullshit. Bullshit is a rare and valuable commodity. The great masters have all been bullshitters. Horseshit, on the other hand, in the common parlance, refers to downright crap. The free, playful, entertaining flight of ideas is bullshit; and more often than not will be found afterwards to accord perfectly with universal truth. Horseshit is contrived; derivative, superstitious, ignorant. We might take Gurdjieff as an example of a master bullshitter and Meher Baba as an example of a master horseshitter.”

  119. #119 Narad
    January 14, 2016
    Creative writing and geology is hard, Narad #47.

    Says the person who thinks a terminal degree is his high school certificate.

    I take it that Gilbertimmeh hasn’t figured out the upshot of that ‘*plonk*’ thing.

  120. […] the lead of Judy Wilyman of the now-discredited University of Wollongong, who has recently been awarded her doctorate, under the protection of her poor, maligned professor, Brian […]

  121. #122 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    January 15, 2016

    The only reason we think of an A as the pitch that it is is because we’ve all agreed to call that frequency an A. The current ‘standard tuning” of A = 440 Hz only comes after centuries of having the tuning wander all over the place.

    You learn something new every day.

  122. #123 TonyC
    USA
    January 15, 2016

    “…more suitable for a cesspit or cow pasture than a PhD thesis at a reputable university.”

    Make that “formerly reputable university.”

  123. #124 titmouse
    January 15, 2016

    A PhD thesis in any department should not have factual errors.

    If those errors were missed by reviewers, they can still be pointed out by post-dissertation reviewers, can they not? Peer review doesn’t stop,

    The author of the thesis has the duty to fix her errors. If she won’t, then those who have accepted her paper as complete need to fix those errors. If they won’t, then they should be challenged by some body that maintains academic standards within the university.

    I realize that this thesis will go poof if its errors are corrected. But that seems less important than allowing misinformation to stand as scholarship.

  124. #125 Lincoln Colling
    January 15, 2016

    Sorry, you’ve been slightly misinformed about the process of awarding PhDs in Australian. Depending on the University, it is read by up to 3 external people (some universities required these a certain number to be from outside of Australia). My university also had strict rules about whether they people could ever have been internal to the university, whether they could’ve published with your supervisors, held grants etc.

    When it comes to passing and failing, the external examiners make the call. Not the supervisor. The examiners reports got to graduate committee and they follow the recommendation of the examiners. The supervisor does have a say about whether you have addressed very minor corrections (deemed so minor that they thesis isn’t required to be send out to the examiners again). But in no way does the supervisor have the decision on whether you pass or fail. Chris Preston has this point very mistaken.

  125. #126 Lincoln Colling
    January 15, 2016

    Sorry, that was riddled with typos. I guess you learn the hard way not to type before coffee…

  126. #127 Mikeh
    United Kingdom
    January 15, 2016

    @ Chris Preston

    “Is it possible for a phd thesis to be retracted or withdrawn?

    Mikeh, indeed it is and I can think of a few examples. The main reasons for withdrawal of the degree has been fraud.”

    Thanks Chris, and others. Yes, plagiarism of course a reason, fraud another. Wondering if they can be retracted for being too low quality in terms of academic rigour (most will of course be picked up before they get approved). Brian Hooker’s paper was retracted by the journal for being a poor and inaccurate interpretation of the evidence. We have similar here. Can external people formally appeal (other than writing a terribly-British-stiff-letter-of-complaint which would of course be waved away by the university)?

  127. #128 MI Dawn
    January 15, 2016

    @Mikeh (122): It probably wouldn’t do any good. Peter Tierney (AKA Reasonable Hank) has several posts when he reached out to the University about Judy and either the University handwaved it away (personal expression and all that) or ignored him.

    I doubt UoW cares what the reasonable world thinks of it. They probably won’t take any action unless it starts to affect their pockets (students and grad students refusing to go there). Interestingly, there are some comments on Reaonable Hank posts from employers that they will refuse to hire grads from UoW because they can’t be sure of the education the grad received. I feel really sorry for those graduates if that threat is carried out.

    BTW…Judy believes her children “suffer” from vaccine-caused problems. If you read what they have (i.e. asthma, ADHD, etc), you know that NONE of those things have been linked to vaccines.

  128. #129 Michael J. Dochniak
    Iowa
    January 15, 2016

    MI writes (#128),

    … (i.e. asthma, ADHD, etc), you know that NONE of those things have been linked to vaccines.

    MJD says,

    I strenuously disagree and proclaim the “etc.” in your statement validates your deliberate suppression of known vaccine contraindications.

    In simpler terms, Orac has his minions sh@ting rainbows and unicorns when they talk about vaccines.

  129. #130 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    January 15, 2016

    @MJD, those things have NOT been linked to vaccines, so your strenuous disagreement counts for nothing.
    If you have good evidence linking asthma and ADHD, post it. Otherwise, you’re just trolling.

  130. #131 Michael J. Dochniak
    Iowa
    January 15, 2016

    @Julian Frost (#130),

    While the nasal spray flu vaccine is approved for use in people 2 years through 49 years of age, children 2 years through 4 years of age who have asthma or who have had a history of wheezing in the past 12 months should not get the nasal spray vaccine. Also, it’s important to note that people of any age with asthma might be at increased risk for wheezing after getting the nasal spray flu vaccine.

    http://www.cdc.gov/flu/asthma/

  131. #132 Michael J. Dochniak
    Iowa
    January 15, 2016

    @Julian Frost (#130),

    Furthermore, the Advisory Committee on Immunizations (ACIP) states:

    The probability of a serious allergic reaction following any vaccine is extremely low if the person is properly screened.

    ACIP does not recommend routinely checking a patient’s temperature or other vital signs before vaccination. Requiring these extra steps can be a barrier to immunization.

    http://www.immunize.org/askexperts/precautions-contraindications.asp

    MJD says,

    In my opinion, there are far too many contradictions when it comes to vaccine safety.

    Vaccine-safety contradictions and the anti-vaccine movement, who will write this PhD thesis?

  132. #133 MI Dawn
    January 15, 2016

    @MJD: (MI Dawn sighs, explains wearily like to a whinging child) – the “etc” has to do with the fact that I didn’t feel like typing *all* of the things she claims vaccines have done to her children, none of which have been conclusively linked to be being caused by vaccines. You could have just gone to Judy’s website and seen what she claims.

  133. #134 Chartinael
    Germany
    January 15, 2016

    In Germany several doctoral theses have come under scrutiny (link vroniplag, guttenbergplag) by other scientists checking for accurate citations and c/p plagiarism from other authors and not indicating sources properly. Several PhDs have been found guilty of scientific misconduct and had their academic titles revoked. Amongst them: Karl-Theo zu Guttemberg, Defence Minister, and Annette Schawan, Education Minister.

    Maybe it is time to really deal with her thesis appropriately.

  134. #135 Marry Me, Mindy
    January 15, 2016

    @Lincoln Colling

    Sorry, you’ve been slightly misinformed about the process of awarding PhDs in Australian. Depending on the University, it is read by up to 3 external people (some universities required these a certain number to be from outside of Australia). My university also had strict rules about whether they people could ever have been internal to the university, whether they could’ve published with your supervisors, held grants etc.

    What appears to be lacking, Lincoln, is the requirement that the thesis actually be a topic in the field where you have expertise.

    What in the HELL is a PhD dissertation on the effects of vaccination doing in a Humanities department? This is a science topic, not humanities.

    The biggest insult in this whole thing is to the folks in the science departments at the ‘Gong.

  135. #136 Peter Dugdale
    Germany
    January 15, 2016

    To make a free speech issue of this is totally spurious. What she wrote can be available irrespective of whether it’s recognised as PhD worthy or not.

  136. #137 Julian Frost
    South Africa
    January 15, 2016

    [C]hildren 2 years through 4 years of age who have asthma or who have had a history of wheezing in the past 12 months should not get the nasal spray vaccine.

    That is a PRECAUTIONARY measure. It doesn’t mean that vaccines start allergies, as you have been told several times already.

    In my opinion, there are far too many contradictions when it comes to vaccine safety.

    You know what they say about opinions being like a certain sphincter in the body? Everybody has one.
    Are you qualified to review the evidence and pass informed judgement? If not, your opinion counts for jack Spit.

  137. #138 Bpeth
    January 15, 2016

    Overall, what I see in Martin’s work, after perusing some of it, is a man who doesn’t really care if the science is correct or not. He focuses on “orthodoxy” silencing “alternative views,” not understanding that it matters whether those views are rooted in evidence and science or not. It matters very much.

    Martin is speaking as a sociologist. It’s not part of the sociological analysis to judge the validity of the science. Someone who is engaged in the debate – like Orac – would judge the validity of the science, but that’s not his province as a sociologist.
    He writes

    Note that the analysis of suppression is largely independent of an assessment of the scientific validity of the claims made. The index of suppression is whether norms of fair treatment are followed, including for assessing publications, allowing free speech and allowing investigation of unfashionable topics. It is quite possible for a researcher to be completely wrong scientifically and yet be suppressed

    And,

    the existence of suppression of dissent does not necessarily mean dissenters are correct, nor that researchers deserve funding merely for dissenting. However, even if dissenters are completely wrong, suppressing them can be damaging in several ways. It sets up a pattern of unfair behavior that can hinder open discussion of issues even within the dominant viewpoint. It discourages supporters from thinking for themselves about the evidence and arguments, because they encounter contrary views less frequently. Critics can keep advocates honest and alert, with their arguments well formulated. Finally, suppression can aid the cause of critics by making them feel unfairly treated: some observers may wonder why proponents cannot rely on the arguments. When the struggle is open and honest, the outcome will seem more legitimate.

    My own involvement in the vaccination debate is primarily as a defender of fair and open debate on contentious issues, given my long-term interest in dissent.

    He is explicitly stating the sociological perspective.

  138. #139 Orac
    January 15, 2016

    Martin is speaking as a sociologist. It’s not part of the sociological analysis to judge the validity of the science. Someone who is engaged in the debate – like Orac – would judge the validity of the science, but that’s not his province as a sociologist.

    Straw man. No one said it’s up to Martin to judge the validity of the science. However, sociologist or no sociologist, it is up to anyone commenting on policies based on science and issues involving science to show an awareness of what the science actually says and to represent it fairly and accurately. Wilyman and Martin utterly fail at this. Moreover, in a PhD thesis, academic rigor requires that the facts at least be correct. It’s fine to cover contentious issues. Everyone is subject to her own opinion, but she is not subject to her own facts, and when someone like Wilyman comes to sociological conclusions based on misrepresentation and misinterpretation of fact and science, that is anything but academic rigor.

    As for Wilyman’s statement:

    Note that the analysis of suppression is largely independent of an assessment of the scientific validity of the claims made. The index of suppression is whether norms of fair treatment are followed, including for assessing publications, allowing free speech and allowing investigation of unfashionable topics. It is quite possible for a researcher to be completely wrong scientifically and yet be suppressed

    Utter bollocks. It makes a huge difference. Wilyman is also incorrect that speech is being suppressed.

  139. #140 Bpeth
    January 15, 2016

    Orac,
    I wasn’t commenting on Wilyman’s thesis, but rather on Brian Martin’s writings. I didn’t quote Wilyman at all – only Brian Martin.
    It’s Brian Martin who is discussing people with dissenting views being suppressed.
    When Brian Martin discusses Wakefield, he says

    This assessment of the Wakefield saga has had a limited objective: to determine whether he has been dealt with in the same way as other scientists with similar records but who have not challenged orthodox views on vaccination. …
    This assessment does not address the question of whether Wakefield’s research was valid or whether he violated medical ethics by not declaring a conflict of interest, much less whether his views about the measles vaccine are valid.

    You write

    Wilyman is also incorrect that speech is being suppressed.

    That’s a sociological issue, not a scientific issue. And you don’t give evidence for your sociological claim.
    Brian Martin gives some examples of cases where dissenting views may have been suppressed.
    He gives some criteria for when suppression of dissent may have occurred:

    First is the timing of actions. If a scientist speaks out and shortly afterwards is subject to adverse actions, this increases the chance that the adverse actions were reprisals. Reprisals against whistleblowers often display this timing correlation.

    Second is the question of who receives criticism and complaints. When criticisms are made directly to a scientist, this usually can be understood as part of a process of dialogue and debate. When complaints are initially made to a scientist’s boss, a government agency, or professional association, this often indicates an attempt to suppress dissent, aside from those situations in which mandatory reporting procedures are applicable.

    Third is the double standard test. The scientist who is the target of adverse actions can be compared to other scientists who are not, in terms of publications, reputation, rank, seniority, and prior work evaluations. If the targeted scientist is equal to or superior to others in terms of performance, this raises suspicion that suppression is involved.

    Fourth is the relationship to vested interests. If the scientist’s research or public statements are threatening to a government, powerful corporation, profession or dominant orthodoxy, this is a plausible reason for suppression to occur.

    Fifth is a pattern of similar adverse actions. In some fields, there are many examples of critics who experienced adverse actions. For example, quite a number of scientists who are critics of nuclear power, pesticides, and fluoridation have been targets of attack

    It’s a question of whether the tactics used against these people are “fair play” or not.

    It’s not a question of the validity of their positions. That’s a matter for people like you who are engaged in the actual conflict.

    He’s right that not using fair tactics against people does damage.

    So that is Martin’s list of criteria for when people may not have been treated in a fair way. If a situation satisfies those criteria, he doesn’t conclude that those people were treated unfairly – just that it makes it more likely.

    Here’s an analogy for you: Suppose someone is a defendant in a criminal trial. They might be a horrible person who is completely in the wrong and should be convicted.
    But, the justice system has a high ideal of fair treatment for this horrible person.
    Criticizing the justice system, saying it didn’t measure up to that ideal of fair treatment, is separate from determining the guilt or innocence of the defendant.
    And, it’s very important to criticize the justice system, hold it to high standards.
    Regardless of whether the defendants are creeps or not.
    There are ways one could analyze the justice system to see whether a particular defendant got a fair trial. One could make analogies with some of Martin’s criteria. For example, if the defendant is impoverished, did their public defender do as good a job as the lawyer hired by a rich defendant?

  140. #141 Orac
    January 15, 2016

    Second is the question of who receives criticism and complaints. When criticisms are made directly to a scientist, this usually can be understood as part of a process of dialogue and debate. When complaints are initially made to a scientist’s boss, a government agency, or professional association, this often indicates an attempt to suppress dissent, aside from those situations in which mandatory reporting procedures are applicable.

    Ha. Hahahahahahahahahahaha! Project much, Prof. Martin? Ah, me. that was hilarious.

    I find it so amusing that he’s so angry at complaints directed at a scientist’s boss. You know who’s really good at harassing scientists through their jobs? Antivaxers! I know. I’ve been on the receiving end several times over the last decade.

  141. #142 But I Play One on TV
    January 15, 2016

    So, Bpeth used a quote from a crank that is a bingo card for how woomiesters and their acolytes deal with “dissent” from scientists who challenge their horseshit and projects it back? Look in a fucking mirror. Wakefield was taken to task because he was provably full of shit, not because he had a COI or was challenging an imagined status quo.
    Challenge an anti-(whatever science topic) with solid evidence, get attacked to the point you have to personally abdicate (like Folta) and have any argument labeled as quashing dissent.
    Bpeth, your cognitive dissidence is staggering. This thesis isn’t “dissent”, it’s a giant heap of shit that needs to be flushed after wiping with the paper it was printed on.

  142. #143 Not a Troll
    January 15, 2016

    Bpeth,

    Has Brian Martin ever see an argument against this thesis he didn’t consider to be a suppression of dissent?

  143. #144 DLC
    January 15, 2016

    For some reason, all I could think of was the Monty Python’s Flying Circus “Bruce” sketch. The Philosophy department of the University of wooloomooloo.
    https://youtu.be/_f_p0CgPeyA
    (and I apologize in advance if any Australians find it insulting.)

  144. #145 Chris Preston
    January 15, 2016

    This assessment of the Wakefield saga has had a limited objective: to determine whether he has been dealt with in the same way as other scientists with similar records but who have not challenged orthodox views on vaccination. …
    This assessment does not address the question of whether Wakefield’s research was valid or whether he violated medical ethics by not declaring a conflict of interest, much less whether his views about the measles vaccine are valid.

    This is so stupid it defies categorizing. It doesn’t even fall into the category of stupidity of the highest order.

    The Wakefield saga was all about Wakefield having fraudulently created a paper, having an undeclared conflict of interest and having given a press conference where he lied about the MMR vaccine causing autism (something that was not even supported by the fraudulent paper he wrote).

    It is not possible to adequately discuss the Wakefield saga without addressing those three topics. All you will be left with is Wakefield’s lies.

  145. #146 Chris Preston
    January 15, 2016

    What in the HELL is a PhD dissertation on the effects of vaccination doing in a Humanities department? This is a science topic, not humanities.

    Marry Me, Mindy

    The thesis was supposed to be about the Australian Government Vaccination Policy, which is arguably a fine topic for the Ph.D. in Humanities and Social Inquiry.

    The trouble is that this is not what the thesis is about. Instead it is a cherry picking exercise in Judy Wilyman supporting her own opinions about vaccines.

  146. #147 Orac
    January 15, 2016

    Yup. Commentary on a policy based on science and medicine needs to get the science and medicine right and represent any scientific controversies in the science underlying the policy fairly. This thesis utterly fails at that.

  147. #148 Narad
    January 15, 2016

    Martin is speaking as a sociologist. It’s not part of the sociological analysis to judge the validity of the science.

    Then again, this position forces one to decide who the “dissenters” are in the first place. As I’ve already mentioned, a quick shake of the tree dropped an apple in which he didn’t even hew to his own stated criteria, and moreover, the example was in his original field.

    Just to stick with physics (as in the link), MOND has never been mainstream, nor has it been suppressed by some sort of fight-or-flight reaction on the part of journals. Does this de facto make it ‘not dissent’? After a while, though, one’s choices can coagulate into the equivalent of personal “politics.”

    Indeed, Chris Preston brought up Martin’s time trend in the very first comment of the follow-up post.

  148. #149 Julian Frost
    South Africa
    January 16, 2016

    You write
    “Wilyman is also incorrect that speech is being suppressed.”
    That’s a sociological issue, not a scientific issue. And you don’t give evidence for your sociological claim.

    I’ll just leave this here. I would advise you to not only read it, but to mouse over the picture.
    http://xkcd.com/1357/

    It’s a question of whether the tactics used against these people are “fair play” or not.

    In Wilyman’s case, the bashing she is getting IS Fair play. She made numerous claims that are not only false but that can very easily be shown to be false.

    [Martin]’s right that not using fair tactics against people does damage.

    He is claiming that people are using “unfair tactics” against Wilyman. He is not only wrong, he is engaging in one of the very tactics he is decrying (ad hominem).

  149. […] A writer from Science Blogs apparently shares such Nazi sentiments, as well as basic confusion over how things work. […]

  150. […] and at her thesis seminar and defense, questions that apparently were not asked. [Note added: I’m informed in the comments that Australian universities don’t do the traditional public thesis defense done in the US and […]

  151. #152 Charles Simon
    Canada
    January 18, 2016

    Orac, thank you for this article. You may be interested in knowing that Canada’s new Minister of Science has a history of support for quackery and conspiratorial claims about medical research. She hasn’t said anything about vaccines yet, but she has about multiple sclerosis: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/trudeaus-new-science-minister-kirsty-duncan-was-advocate-of-controversial-and-largely-disproven-ms-treatment

  152. #153 dingo199
    January 18, 2016

    I see from Brian Martin’s website that he has numerous publications supporting other debunked ideas – like the one that polio vaccine contaminated with HIV caused the AIDS pandemic.

    He also has submitted an article (in press) on the “Mobbing of a PhD student”, but doesn’t say who accepted this for publication.

    http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/16mobbing.html

    Interestingly, having spent some time criticising the ad hominem “attacks” on Judy Wilyman, he then uses the same ad hominem tactics he decries in order to attack the Stop the AVN organisation. Martin is of course one of Meryl Dorey’s admirers and the main public face of the criticism of the SAVN.
    http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/14savn/

  153. #154 Brian Deer
    January 18, 2016

    I wonder what Martin has to say of the day in and day out abuse that anyone who sticks their head above the parapet and challenges the vaccine denialists.

    The poison pen letters to employers, vexatious complaints to the police, attempts to disrupt academic events and speaking invitations, threats of violence, hate mail bombings, lying internet videos, as well as carefully-orchestrated deluges of fabrications.

  154. #155 LW
    January 18, 2016

    This assessment of the Wakefield saga has had a limited objective: to determine whether he has been dealt with in the same way as other scientists with similar records but who have not challenged orthodox views on vaccination. …
    This assessment does not address the question of whether Wakefield’s research was valid or whether he violated medical ethics by not declaring a conflict of interest, much less whether his views about the measles vaccine are valid.

    “Other scientists with similar records” would be those who falsified evidence, violated medical ethics, and had undisclosed conflicts of interest. If there are such, and they were not dealt with equally harshly, one would condemn those who let them off the hook.

    I don’t see how you can decide if adverse actions were “retaliatory” without first considering what the adverse actors were responding to. That makes no sense.

  155. #156 Will
    USA
    January 19, 2016

    The simple fact is that science has never proven the efficacy and safety of vaccines. Orac’s ‘science’ is just a smug defense of consensus.

  156. #157 Chris Preston
    January 19, 2016

    ” I wasn’t laughing, however, at the official statement from the university in question, laden with platitudes towards academic freedom of thought and lacking any acknowledgement of the genuine concerns of the scientific community. My unease was not soothed with their reassurances of strict ethical and quality standards and I almost fell of my seat when they invoked the “unchallengeable knowledge in the field of study” of the two external examiners. Unchallengeable?? ” Who did they ask? God and Vladimir Putin?”

    From here

  157. #158 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    January 19, 2016

    @Will, go to PubMed and search on Vaccine Safety and Vaccine efficacy. Science has proven both.

  158. #159 Helianthus
    January 19, 2016

    @ Chris Preston

    God and Vladimir Putin?

    Eh, according to some articles on the site pingbacked on 150-151, Vladimir Putin is on the antivax bandwagon. Or at least, he called all Europeans hypervaccinated autistics. So he did give his opinion.
    Now, the articles of this royal thrutiness website do seem slightly biased in their interpretation of world events.

  159. #160 Chris
    January 19, 2016

    I just learned that there is now a facebook created just to critique the thesis:
    https://www.facebook.com/Judy-Wilyman-PhD-thesis-critique-227627864236230/?fref=ts

    Will, so the number of kids getting measles plummeted 90% between 1960 and 1970 in the USA because of happy thoughts? Or is it that you don’t know the difference between the words “mortality” and “morbidity.”

  160. #161 herr doktor bimler
    January 19, 2016

    He also has submitted an article (in press) on the “Mobbing of a PhD student”, but doesn’t say who accepted this for publication.

    It is almost as if he prepared and submitted his manuscript well in advance.

    I hope I never resort to lowering the bar for a problematic candidate simply as a way of increasing my publication list.

  161. #162 Brian Deer
    January 19, 2016

    “This assessment of the Wakefield saga has had a limited objective: to determine whether he has been dealt with in the same way as other scientists with similar records but who have not challenged orthodox views on vaccination. …This assessment does not address the question of whether Wakefield’s research was valid or whether he violated medical ethics by not declaring a conflict of interest, much less whether his views about the measles vaccine are valid.”

    Of course, Martin makes such an assertion,but it quite incapable of addressing his own objective, since he is unable to identify any scientist who has done what Wakefield did, and if he could identify any such scientist, he would then have to account for the extraordinary cost of an investigation that could only be justified by the public interest issues raised by the MMR crisis.

    In other words, all Martin has done is square his story with Wakefield himself – in other words conspired with Wakefield – and then put in a little line by which he seeks to absolve himself of his collusion with a research cheat.

    And, of course he put in his article about mobbing before the mobbing occurred, just as Wakefield put in his “new sydrome” of enterocolitis and autism before a single child was investigated. These people always know in advance what they are going to find.

  162. #163 Chris Preston
    January 19, 2016

    It is almost as if he prepared and submitted his manuscript well in advance.

    In fact this article was written some time ago and was in response to the complaints being made to UoW that Judy Wilyman was using her connection to the University to make it look like her statements about vaccines were the result of real scientific research. She was also using the title “Ph.D. Researcher” and, I understand, was told by the University to stop doing that.

  163. #164 herr doktor bimler
    January 19, 2016

    according to some articles on the site pingbacked on 150-151, Vladimir Putin is on the antivax bandwagon. Or at least, he called all Europeans hypervaccinated autistics.

    Gilbert helpfully provides a link to what may be the same articles:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2015/12/30/quoth-vox-day-antivaxers-are-more-educated-quoth-the-study-vox-cites-not-exactly/#comment-427380

  164. #165 Orac
    January 19, 2016

    Meanwhile, Brian Martin digs himself in deeper with a hysterical defense of Judy Wilyman:

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/opinion/hysteria-over-judy-wilymans-phd-academic-freedom-under-attack/news-story/d794a73c08539b3098800c12f3f80fd6

    I was the principal supervisor for Judy Wilyman, who recently received her PhD from the University of Wollongong. The reaction to news of her graduation, much of it bordering on hysteria, suggests that understanding of and commitment to academic freedom in Australia is more tenuous than I had imagined.

    In the late 1970s, I first began studying suppression of dissent, cataloguing cases in which environmental researchers or teachers were targeted.

    In the following decades I studied attacks on dissent in a number of scientific controversies, including nuclear power, pesticides and fluoridation.

    The usual pattern is that someone with qualifications or credibility threatens common beliefs or vested interests through their research or public comment, and then comes under attack.

    Methods include public denunciation, censorship of publications, denial of research grants, expulsion from professional associations and dismissal.

    The reason for targeting technical experts is they puncture the apparent unanimity of expert opinion in a controversy. Citizen campaigners are usually left alone.

    With this background, I became aware of attacks on dissent in the Australian vaccination controversy.

    As in many other countries, critics of vaccination had remained marginal given the overwhelming support for vaccination among researchers, medical associations and health departments.

    The most prominent vaccine-critical group in Australia was the AVN, the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network. In 2010, an opponent group, SAVN, Stop the Australian (Anti) Vaccination Network, set itself the task of destroying the AVN, using a variety of techniques, including unsupported claims, verbal abuse and numerous complaints to official bodies.

    Personally I do not have strong views about vaccination, but felt it worthwhile to enter the debate to defend free speech. In my studies of suppression of dissent, never before had I seen such a sustained and abusive attack on citizen critics of a public policy.

    SAVN sought to censor or demonise anyone who publicly criticised vaccination. Many parents with reservations became reluctant to voice their views for fear of SAVN’s response.

    It so happened that before SAVN’s emergence, I had become a supervisor for Judy, who is a critic of the Australian government’s vaccination policy. Because she went public with some of her criticisms, she became a side target for SAVN. Their actions included abusive comment and complaints to the university.

    Therefore I anticipated that Judy’s graduation would generate hostility.

    In a piece I posted to coincide with announcement of her graduation, I wrote that when people criticise a research student’s work, it is worth checking for telltale signs indicating when these are not genuine concerns about quality and probity but instead part of a campaign to denigrate viewpoints they oppose.

    First, they attack the person, not just their work. Second, they concentrate on alleged flaws in the work, focusing on small details and ignoring the central points.

    Third, they make no comparisons with other students or theses or with standard practice, but rather make criticisms in isolation or according to their own assumed standards.

    Fourth, they assume that findings contrary to what they believe is correct must be wrong or dangerous, or both.

    Most of the recent attacks on Judy’s thesis exhibit one or more of these signs.

    Within a day of her thesis becoming available online, opponents had taken a few sentences out of context and used them to create a misleading narrative, meanwhile ignoring the central themes in her thesis.

    Opponents, following SAVN’s line that open criticism of vaccination policy should be censored, have condemned the thesis, questioned my supervision and the expertise of the thesis examiners, and condemned the university for allowing the thesis to proceed.

    I was not all that surprised, since for years Judy’s opponents had been condemning her thesis before it was completed. Apparently they did not need evidence to declare it deficient. Likewise, many people lacking evidence about my supervision and the operation of university procedures surprisingly feel entitled to pass adverse judgment.

    I believe it is worthwhile for vaccination issues to be publicly discussed, without censorship of dissident views. SAVN and others apparently believe otherwise.

    I am proud that the University of Wollongong has taken such a strong stand in support of academic freedom.

  165. #167 brad
    california - vaccine dictatorship
    January 19, 2016

    Couldn’t read all this here, but interesting that i continually find people “rebutting” points they don’t like about “antivaxxers” but who are always going to do it “later”. Hmm

    Everyone seems to ignore the fact that people making the decision to buy and use that swine flu vaccine were drug pusher friends/employees, consultants, etc. Everyone conveniently forgets the fact that there was hardly any swine flu, and wasn’t there a narcolepsy issue involved? But WHO CARES – somebody did things with test tubes and claims to make people healthier – despite limited evidence, and most suggesting the contrary – but if you don’t blindly support “technology” or “science” as “progress” you are flogged mercilessly.
    Who cares if your breath contains less than 65% of the oxygen it should have because of technology – petro poison on food/land, petro plastics in the ocean – KILLING you, but hey – that’s the by-product of (hushed awe here: ) “SCIENCE” *thunder rumbles as the gods of science are pleased mightily*

  166. #168 titmouse
    January 19, 2016

    Re: #164, I googled and found a post on the SGU blog:

    Re: Putin: Human Evolution Under Threat By Big Pharma, GMO, Vaccines
    « Reply #13 on: Today at 03:46:21 PM »
    I can’t find a legit news source confirming this article which apparently first appeared here: http://yournewswire.com/putin-human-evolution-under-threat-by-big-pharma-gmo-vaccines/

    I’ve seen stuff in Pravda indicating Putin is anti-GMO so the PR might be accurate. But it is possible Putin never said the stuff in the press release.

    Edit: Lol, I just looked at the “yournewswire” author’s other posts: http://yournewswire.com/author/baxter/

    Example: “Putin unleashes cyborg rats in war against ISIS.”

    So the author is not serious. Yet I notice a lot of health freedom sites taking this PR release quite seriously, e.g. http://drrimatruthreports.com/open-letter-general-bert-to-russian-president-putin/

  167. #169 Chris
    January 19, 2016

    “Everyone conveniently forgets the fact that there was hardly any swine flu, and wasn’t there a narcolepsy issue involved?”

    There was plenty of H1N1 cases, and there would have been more without the vaccines. You seem to conveniently forget the large number of children and pregnant women who died from H1N1.

    You are also forgetting the narcolepsy occurred with a flu vaccine not used in the USA, and occurring in just a couple of countries.

  168. #170 Sarah A
    January 19, 2016

    Who cares if your breath contains less than 65% of the oxygen it should have because of technology – petro poison on food/land, petro plastics in the ocean

    As if those greedy airlines diluting their cabin air with up to 50% nitrogen wasn’t bad enough!

  169. #171 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    January 20, 2016

    Everyone seems to ignore the fact that people making the decision to buy and use that swine flu vaccine were drug pusher friends/employees, consultants, etc

    Supporting evidence needed, or you’re just using the Pharma Shill Gambit.

  170. […] was a steaming, stinking, pile of BS. As I said at the time, the University of Wollongong had granted a PhD in antivaccine pseudoscience. Of course, I was by no means alone in my criticism. Allison Campbell criticized it. So did PZ […]

  171. #173 LouV
    France
    January 20, 2016

    Couldn’t read all this here

    I can see that yes.

    Everyone seems to ignore the fact that people making the decision to buy and use that swine flu vaccine were drug pusher friends/employees, consultants, etc

    While there has been discussions on conflicts of interest after the pandemic, it is not in itself evidence that said pandemic was forged.
    Also, given the egregious mistakes already pointed in the thesis and her other works, I don’t think this Wilyman person is the best person to represent the faults in the public health system with accuracy and nuance. Believe it or not, I want to see these faults exposed ; but bad activists with bad arguments aren’t useful in the least and bring a good cause down.

  172. #174 Victoria Hay
    January 20, 2016

    “I would like to point out I don’t agree with any of opinions in this thesis or that it passed. But I suspect there is more to it and that if this same these is had been submitted by a student in the Science faculty the science would have been questioned. However from a social science perspective the issue is a different one.”

    As an academic editor, I’ve read many theses in the hard and soft sciences. In my experience, the perspective from a social science viewpoint is no different from that of the hard sciences: woo-woo is woo-woo, no matter what your discipline. Superstition is not a recognized discipline in the social sciences.

  173. […] January 13 the bloggers, including Orac at Science Blogs, PZ Myers,  Helen Harris and  Alison Campbell to name a few. What followed was a […]

  174. #176 JGC
    January 22, 2016

    Everyone conveniently forgets the fact that there was hardly any swine flu, and wasn’t there a narcolepsy issue involved?

    Glad you mentioned this, brad. There did appear to be an association between the Pandremix vaccine used overseas and increased risk of narcolepsy: the incidence was IIRC 1 additional case in every 100,000 people vaccinated.

    What does this mean? Postmarketing surveillance is demonstrably capable of detecting even very, very rare adverse events associated with vaccination. If vaccination was causally associated with the development of autism spectrum disorders, with sufficient incidence to drive the observed increase in new diagnoses (i.e., the ‘autism epidemic’) the surveillance systems in place would have no trouble spotting the linkage.

    Yet no indication of such a causal association has been seen.

  175. #177 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 22, 2016

    Who cares if your breath contains less than 65% of the oxygen it should have because of technology

    Are you perhaps cruising at 12,000 feet?

  176. #178 herr doktor bimler
    January 22, 2016

    I can only suppose that Brad is into the hyperbaric-chamber grift.

  177. #179 Delphine
    removing crayon from the kitchen wall
    January 22, 2016

    Brad, typing on his laptop hewn from twigs and leaves, his internet powered by the almighty hamster wheel.

  178. #180 Krebiozen
    January 22, 2016

    Technology includes fire, of course. Perhaps Douglas Adams was right when he suggested we should never have come down from the trees in the first place.

  179. #181 madder
    January 22, 2016

    your breath contains less than 65% of the oxygen it should have because of technology

    Though I must admit a certain morbid curiosity about how someone could arrive at that conclusion, I am loath to ask for any elaboration.

  180. #182 Meg
    January 22, 2016

    @brad

    Who cares if your breath contains less than 65% of the oxygen it should have because of technology

    The atmosphere is about 21% oxygen and has been that way for thousands of years. Even at its peak, 280 million years ago, it only had 30%.

  181. #183 Meg
    January 22, 2016

    Oops. Blockquote fail.

  182. #184 TBruce
    January 22, 2016

    Who cares if your breath contains less than 65% of the oxygen it should have because of technology

    Are you perhaps cruising at 12,000 feet?

    Well, that takes technology, doesn’t it?
    Checkmate!!!

  183. #185 rs
    January 22, 2016

    Well, brad, it’s not only vaccines, I think it is outrageous that corporations profit from selling seat belts, hard hats, kevlar vests, air bags, hand rails, fire extinguishers, etc. We’d be so much better off without these products and their profiteers.

  184. #186 Chris
    January 23, 2016

    Tbruce: “Well, that takes technology, doesn’t it?
    Checkmate!!!”

    Not if he is at that height via the consumption of certain mushrooms.

  185. […] A writer from Science Blogs apparently shares such Nazi sentiments, as well as basic confusion over how things work. […]

  186. #188 Narad
    January 25, 2016

    The foregoing trackback has a hilarious reverse payload, BTW, but cut and pasted from the earlier “Gary TruthKings“* one.

    * HostGator.

  187. […] accepted by the University of Wollongong, or, as I put it, that the University of Wollongong had issued a PhD in antivaccine pseudoscience. I did not say that lightly, because I had actually perused Wilyman’s thesis and found many […]

  188. #190 Elena
    Perth
    March 13, 2016

    Just skimmed through the initial comments, and there you go – pro-vaxxes all pouring out their sarcastic poison about how non-scientific the paper is. BUT THEY FORGET! the paper not about the efficacy or dander vaccines, its not about the medical science that, as claimed by some, only doctors have the right to talk about – and let them keep this right. the paper is about FLAWS in the SYSTEM, LACK of SUPERVISION and DOUBLE CHECKING. it about COMPLETE TRUST in those who seem to have vested interest in this industry. The paper is about LACK OF ONGOING STATISTICS on side effects and ANALYSIS of data to make sure that the vaccination process is going well, that the people are not getting hurt, that all the side effects are reported and examined and scrutinized in due manner, which IS NOT HAPPENING – Thats what the paper is about. it is estimated that only 10% of all the side effects are properly reported and even then this information is not made public.

    and on the side issue – if some think that vaccines are harmless and do not cause autism, you are wrong. just read pages and pages of vaccine inserts and there you will find a list all sorts of side effects, including brain damage. and with this insert the vaccine producers wash their hand of all the responsibility for any damage to health and lifes of people.

  189. #191 Delphine
    feet imprisoned by 195 lbs of dog
    March 13, 2016

    or dander vaccines

    THERE’S A DANDER VACCINE??!!

  190. #192 Chris
    March 13, 2016

    Elena, the comments were about the paper cherry picking data and making stuff up about national vaccine safety and policy.

    “and on the side issue – if some think that vaccines are harmless and do not cause autism, you are wrong. just read pages and pages of vaccine inserts and there you will find a list all sorts of side effects, including brain damage. and with this insert the vaccine producers wash their hand of all the responsibility for any damage to health and lifes of people.”

    Except package inserts are not scientific evidence. Since you brought it up and since my son suffered seizures from an actual disease: Please provide the PubMed indexed studies by reputable qualified researchers that any vaccine on the present American or Australian pediatric schedule causes more seizures than the actual disease.

  191. #193 herr doktor bimler
    March 13, 2016

    Just skimmed through the initial comments
    After all, there is no point reading the original post, or the bulk of the commentary, before voicing one’s own ignorance.

  192. #194 alison
    http://sci.waikato.ac.nz/bioblog
    March 13, 2016

    the paper not about the efficacy or dander [sic] vaccines, its not about the medical science that, as claimed by some, only doctors have the right to talk about – and let them keep this right. the paper is about FLAWS in the SYSTEM, LACK of SUPERVISION and DOUBLE CHECKING. it about COMPLETE TRUST in those who seem to have vested interest in this industry. The paper is about LACK OF ONGOING STATISTICS on side effects and ANALYSIS of data
    As someone who’s read (& commented fairly extensively) on both this ‘thesis’ and the MSc that preceded it, I have to thank you for clarifying that it’s not about the medical science. That totally explains how the author could get the science so wrong. [/sarcasm]
    You might also want to consider just where the flaws in supervision & analysis lay.

  193. #195 Murmur
    UK-ia
    March 14, 2016

    #190

    And don’t forget (as I have just been reminded by a comment under another post) that VAERS reports a bairn turning into The Incredible Hulk following a vaccination…

  194. […] A writer from Science Blogs apparently shares such Nazi sentiments, as well as basic confusion over how things work. […]

  195. #197 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    April 7, 2016

    This now has its own Wikipedia Page.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Wilyman_PhD_controversy
    Notably, our esteemed host is quoted under his real name.

  196. #198 LouV
    France
    April 7, 2016

    From the Wikipedia article :

    Within two months of UOW publishing the thesis it was reported that Dr Wilyman was falsely claiming her “PhD provides evidence that all vaccines are not safe and effective and that the combined schedule of vaccines is doing more harm than good in the population through the increase in chronic illness”.
    But, but… I thought this paper wasn’t “about the efficacy or dander vaccines, its not about the medical science”.

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