Teesside doubt Prof Holford’s nutritional expertise?

We’ve been given some very interesting documents resulting from a Freedom of Information Act request: it seems like Teesside University were unhappy about their Professor Patrick Holford associating himself with the University’s (excellent) research on nutrition. (See Improbable Science for the FOIA documents.)

Tony Chapman (Teesside’s Assistant Dean for Enterprise) wrote to Holford on 24/8/07, to ask him to desist from referring to himself as “Visiting Professor in mental health and/or nutrition”. Chapman also asks Holford to make clear that he is in the School of Social Sciences and Law: Chapman informs Holford that

It would be helpful if you could refer to yourself as Visiting Professor in the School of Social Sciences and Law at the University of Teesside , rather than Visiting Professor, University of Teesside.

Going into more detail in a 6/9/07 memo, Chapman states that he and Holford “had a discussion about areas of expertise” (see Patrick Holford’s CV to get a sense of his level of nutritional expertise). As a result of this discussion,

Patrick has agreed not to refer to his position using the terms ‘mental health’ or ‘nutrition’. But will say that he is working with our ‘psychologists’.

Teesside then e-mailed Holford again on 7/9/07 in order to stress that he should not refer to himself as Visiting Professor in Mental Health and Nutrition.

We are glad that Teesside seem to be acknowledging Holford’s limited expertise in nutrition. However, we are finding it even harder to see why they believed it to be appropriate to offer Holford a Visiting Professorship.



Filed under patrick holford, University of Teesside

13 responses to “Teesside doubt Prof Holford’s nutritional expertise?

  1. draust

    Hmmm. Methinks I detect mutiny in the Teeside ranks.

    Think Kudos are probably due to the *real* Teeside nutritionistal scientists and other biosci people. The obvious inference is that they have been raising Hell behind the scenes about PH being able to associate himself spuriously with them.

    Which raises a further question. Who, one might ask, were Holford’s advocates within UoTeeside? It clearly wasn’t the nutrition people. So who was it?

  2. Wulfstan

    iirc David Colquhoun has uploaded the case for support. It doesn’t explicitly say who supported Holford but it looks like David Woodhouse – who is also involved in the F4TB studies, and the CACTUS Clinic from the School of Social Sciences and Law.

    Judging from his comment on the post, it looks like Paul Reay is dissociating himself from any case for support.

  3. afterforty

    As the case for support says “Food for the Brain
    Foundation would fund the researcher a £12,500 per annum bursary. This joint working would help to secure the future of the Cactus Clinic – which has the potential to provide a cutting edge research laboratory for the University – after the retirement of Dr Woodhouse.”
    Twelve and a half grand per annum, ffs, to sell your soul?
    Is this really the current state of university research funding?

  4. superburger

    12.5k doesn’t get you much, either. – a PhD students’ stipend, but without a single penny towards their overheads / costs?

    0.33 of a postdoc?

  5. draust

    Good spot, Wulfstan. The Cactus Clinic definitely looks like the place.

    No wonder the real scientists at Teeside are spitting tacks. Some guy in Soc Sci gets his buddy Pa-tricky a visiting appointment, and the real nutrition people get mocking emails from all their mates.

    I’d certainly be banging my head on the desk if I were them.

  6. We may have some interesting titbits to share about that studentship in the near future but it is a remarkably poor faustian bargain (to use a Dr Aust observation).

    The funds seem miserly when one considers the overhead costs of library access etc.

    One major concern is the prospect of being supervised by Professor Holford – given the quality of his own research and innate understanding of the delicacies of statistical analysis.

  7. yes – there’s some more bits and pieces still to come. It sounds like Teesside have had some really interesting discussions around this appointment.

  8. I like it… I can see the headline now:

    “Just how cheap can you get a visiting Professorship?”

    Or how about:

    “Cash for (academic) honours”

  9. Pingback: Patrick Holford -a professor?

  10. DMcILROY

    I don’t have any insider info on this question, but my students did a re-enactment of the appointments committee, based on the documents I got from David Colquhoun’s website.
    The two sciencey committe members were against the appointment, but PH’s main advocate put forward the arguments that a) having such a high-profile visiting professor would be good for the university’s image, b) he is an expert in his field (look at all the books he’s published) and c) he would bring more funding to Teesside from his nutrition business.
    Despite a good one-liner from the science side “Cure AIDS by eating an orange – what kind of expert is that?”, the committee chair was swayed by the financial argument, and gave the casting vote in favor.

  11. D McIlroy – interesting exercise.

    What is particularly odd about the actual meeting is that VC Henderson has distributed a letter in which he claims:

    I was not personally present at the meeting of the Professorial Conferment Committee (PCC) where Mr Holford’s case for conferment was discussed.

    However, the minutes for the meeting mark him as present. I don’t know what difference that might make to the outcome in your exercise, of course.

    Beyond that, the latest round of FOIA disclosures raise serious questions about the financial argument. It seems that the the case for financial benefits was not based on a solid foundation.

  12. Dr Aust, one feels that older relatives would have launched into a nudge-nudge, wink-wink rendition of Honours are cheap today, cheaper than yesterday to the tune of La Donna e mobile.

  13. Pingback: Patrick Holford and His Appropriate Title « Holford Myths: what is the problem with Nutritionist Patrick Holford?

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