Patrick Holford has recently corrected the dates of his degree which must be helpful to the Conferment Committee at the University of Teesside who awarded him the post as Visiting Professor. There have been several more amendments to Patrick Holford’s profile on his website but there are surprising inconsistencies that still exist.
Holford Watch is interested in whether or not there is any need to correct the title of Holford’s degree. Holford writes that his BSc is in Experimental Psychology (pdf) but the Registrar of York refers to him as a graduate in Psychology in an email to Prof David Colquhoun.
Holford Watch is interested because Holford has made some notable errors in number handling and the understanding of statistics which rather jibes with someone who has a degree in Experimental Psychology because this tends to involve extensive work with numbers.
It may also be that the degree in Experimental Psychology has misled some people (including journalists who really should have checked) into believing that he has some formal training as a clinical psychologist. Because, it has to be said, Experimental Psychology sounds so much more applied, directly vocational and clinical that a plain, ordinary qualification in Psychology.
So, if you graduated from the University of York in Psychology, in 1978/9, we would be grateful if you would check your degree certificate or otherwise let us know if you graduated in Psychology or Experimental Psychology. No particular reason: any rumours that Holford Watch is engaged in compiling a contestant for the greatest number of errors in an otherwise content-light CV are somewhat exaggerated. For those of you playing CV fuzziness bingo, a cribsheet:
- Date of degree studies and graduation.
- Subject of degree, Experimental Psychology or plain, ordinary Psychology.
- Amount of time spent in clinical study and training with Drs Hoffer and Pfeiffer before beginning to treat patients in 1980 (implied rather than stated, but, even so…). We are trying to find out how much time this was rather than the face-reading of around 4 years. Presumably, if we don’t find out directly, we will be able to find out from the amended CV that Patrick Holford might need to submit for the post of Visiting Professor (sometimes, the FOIA is your friend).
- Endorsements by Dr Marks and Prof Tylee. [NB, in the course of writing this post, we checked the latest version of Holford’s profile on his website, and see that there is a clarification about the Holford-Tylee involvement:
Together with Professor André Tylee, professor of primary care mental health at the Institute of Psychiatry, he formed the special interest group in mental health and nutrition, now operating as the charitable Food for the Brain Foundation. The Brain Bio Centre is owned by the Food for the Brain Foundation. Professor André Tylee has since retired from his involvement with the Food for the Brain Foundation and the Brain Bio Centre.]
- Unnamed journalists and their endorsements, characterised elsewhere as effusive endorsement from uninformed lay media; not withstanding that comment, except for one, they are so far proving difficult to identify.
- Holford lists 1995 as the year of his (honorary) Diploma from the ION. However, in Dirty Medicine, Martin Walker refers to the dispute between Holford and Duncan Campbell. Walker refers to a piece by Campbell, Duncan (1989). The rise of the New Age pill pushers. Sunday Correspondent, 3 December. He writes the following and quotes Campbell (pg 614):
Holford’s entire learning experience and expertise are reduced and described in terms of self-publicity.
Holford describes himself as a ‘nutritional counsellor’, credited with the ‘Diploma of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition’. But Holford awarded the ‘diploma’ to himself.
It is of course fairly easy to write this kind of cynical junk about anyone, it is much harder actually to get to the social and personal heart of the matter and understand people’s attitudes within their social and inter-personal context.
It is interesting that Walker refers to Holford having an ION Diploma in 1989; presumably this differs from the honorary one awarded to Holford (as per his CV) in 1995? [The information about Patrick Holford in Dirty Medicine is said to be drawn from an interview with Holford; we have not verified the interview or other information as presented in the book.]
- Later in his CV for the post as Visiting Professor at Teesside, Holford mentions that he is an honorary Fellow of BANT but omits honorary when he lists his qualifications which is a niggling mistake.
- As part of his employment history, Holford lists 1984-1998 as Director of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition. It is a little difficult to comment on this because it omits the information that:
Within three years [of its foundation in 1984], the [ION] was in deep financial trouble and went into liquidation.
Undaunted, [Holford] set the organisation up again in 1987. [pg 148, Dirty Medicine.]
The information within the CV isn’t consistent because later in the text, we find:
Patrick retired as Director of ION in 1997…
In 1984 Patrick founded the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION), a charitable and independent educational trust for the furtherance of education and research in nutrition…
Well, yes and no. It doesn’t seem as if the ION has been in continuous existence in that form. In Dirty Medicine Walker mentions that the ION went into liquidation within three years of its foundation before being re-established at a later date (as above). It also seems as if the ION was not registered as a charity until July 1992 and it was incorporated as a business in June 1992 with Companies House. Previously, according to Companies House, ION seems to have existed in a form that was dissolved in December 1989. Unfortunately, it is not possible to link to the Companies House search results but interested parties should find this information by using the WebCHeck to search for institute for optimum nutrition. (Current Co. No. 02724405; previous Co. No. 01788333.) This does, of course, suggest a need for a slight amendment to the CV where it describes Holford’s directorship of ION as if it had been continuous.
Soon after this failure, Holford was offered a place in the Chemistry Department, working under Dr Neil Ward, a lecturer who was particularly interested in hair mineral analysis. By 1989 Holford had re-established the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, this time with stronger foundations. [pg 151, Dirty Medicine.]
It’s not clear from this whether Holford took up the position in the Chemistry Dept. of Surrey University or not.
There are several others quirks and oddities in the Holford CV and biography but these seem to be enough for a small game of bingo. One other little curio that we have mentioned but might address in another post is that although Patrick Holford’s current profile states that he is “Visiting Professor, School of Social Sciences and Law, University of Teesside”, last week’s press releases referred to him as Professor of Mental Health and Nutrition (UK Press Releases; This Is London; Manchester.com and an item on the Food for the Brain website) although there is, as yet, no confirmation of the detail of the title (according to a recent communication from the University of Teesside). A case of premature self-promotion?
Update: 17 September: According to Companies House records, Holford’s recorded resignation date as a director/Company Secretary of ION is July 1 1998.
Update: 21 Jan 2008: We are entertained to see that Holford Myths has produced a handy annotated version of the Patrick Holford CV – as submitted to the University of Teesside in support of his application for the position as Visiting Professor.