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The University of Wollongong issues a PhD in antivaccine pseudoscience

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.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

198 replies on “The University of Wollongong issues a PhD in antivaccine pseudoscience”

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?

““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

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.

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.

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.

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)

@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.

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.

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)

@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…

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?

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. 🙂

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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?

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.

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.

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

You aren’t the only one.

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.

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.

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.

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!”

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.

“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?

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.

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.

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.

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”.

… 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.

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.

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.

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).

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

Creative writing and geology is hard, Narad #47.

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

Vaccine Antiresearch.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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

Creative writing and geology is hard, Narad #47.

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

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.

“…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.

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?

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.

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.

@ 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.

@ 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.

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”.

@ 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

Denice [email protected]:

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.

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.

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).

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 :/

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?

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