Holford’s visiting professorship at Teesside: is the business case collapsing?

When we first saw the draft proposal for the merger of Holford’s Brain Bio Centre (BBC) with Teesside University’s Cactus Clinic (CC) we were concerned by the scope of what was proposed: it could have seemed that Teesside were endorsing poor-quality research for business reasons. However, looking over how the business case for this (or lack thereof) developed over a number of documents, it actually begins to seem that this is a very unpromising business ‘opportunity’ for Teesside. We’re going to discuss this business case, drawing on the Freedom of Information Act response in this zip file.

Document 1 is a draft proposal, which suggests merging BBC and CC to create a “self sufficient and profitable [BBC] of the North”. It was hoped that this new BBC could draw in both NHS and private insurance funding. Document 2 – the minutes from a 3/8/06 meeting – is still optimistic that Holford’s and BBC’s involvement would let Teesside expand CC and to take the clinic “to the point of self-sufficiency and profitability”. Again it is hoped that a BBC North would be able to bring in both private insurance and PCT money.

There were proposals to publicise the launch of the BBC North in Feb/Mar 2007 (Document 1) – but, clearly, this hasn’t happened. The FOIA documents released by Teesside will help to give a sense as to why. We are not entirely clear as to what happened over the intervening months, but Document 3 (2/3/07) made clear that CC and BBC would not merge. The document does express “doubts about the ability of N clients to pay”, which may have been an issue. There are also concerns about the “size of the market” and who would “carry the can” if the venture loses money.

Document 4 (10/7/07) notes that Food for the Brain had awarded a £12,500 bursary for a Teesside PhD student (more on that later) while Tony Chapman – Assistant Dean (Enterprise) – expresses concern at the continuing lack of a written business plan. In a 24/10/07 memo (Document 16) Teesside’s Deputy Vice Chancellor notes that:

While negotiations are ongoing about linkages between [CC and BBC] and a possibility of establishing a second Brain Bio Centre at Teesside, nothing is agreed.

These memoranda signal doubts about the economic viability of such an association. Worries have also been expressed about the proposed evaluation of the intervention (especially if this evaluation was construed as lacking proper independence from the intervention teams) as this may have a reputational impact on the School…

We have checked our finances in the School and confirm that [the agreed FFTB bursary] has not been paid. In any case, the criteria for accepting the bursary has not been agreed pending further questions on costs.

Oh dear, that seems like the sound of a business case collapsing. If it weren’t for concerns about the patients of any Northern BBC, I’d feel bad for Teesside and for Holford’s colleagues there.

Of course, if Teesside is concerned about ‘reputational impact’, they would have been well-advised to think carefully about whether to appoint Holford as visiting professor. They would also be well-advised to consider the damage that retaining an association to Holford, FFTB and BBC is doing to their reputation.

As far as I can tell, Teesside is failing to even get the anticipated business benefits of their association with Holford. However, the academic and reputational damage will be priceless.



Filed under patrick holford, University of Teesside

18 responses to “Holford’s visiting professorship at Teesside: is the business case collapsing?

  1. Mac

    Certainly, Holford must not be Professor, because he is quack.

    However, there is more interesting fact.
    The “proud and mighty” David Colquhoun is not Professor longer. Here is his words from his blog:
    “”5 March 2008. Next Monday there will be a meeting of Academic Board to ‘discuss’ new proposals for professorial pay. Since I’m now a research assistant, I have no vested interest in the outcome. The system so far has been wrapped in mystery, Every year you got a letter to tell you what your pay would be for next year. The proposed system is available here. There are some good things about it. Unlike many of my colleagues, I have always felt that it should be possible for pay to go down in late life for people who cease to be productive. As long, of course, as people who remain productive after 65 can continue to make contributions (UCL has implemented the latter in a manner so stingy that there must be doubts about its legality).”


    UCL doesn’t consider Colquhoun deserves Professor title and doesn’t think that his present work is the fitting contribution into science.
    Criticism of bad science is useful thing, surely. But critic must not forget that good science is his own MAIN duty. He must be good scientist himself.

  2. Mac

    The honest public asks – why does quack Holford try to thrust himself into Professors.
    This is good question, surely. Holford has not the right.
    However, why does he dare to act so? Whose behaviour is the example for him?
    As it turns out he makes an example of … you, dear honest scientists!
    I ask question – where does David Colquhoun be recorded as Professor?
    I see that both webpages of UCL’s Depts, where he works (by the way, interesting question is also why there are TWO Dept’s webpages) write his title as “Research Professor”.
    Moreover, he calls himself “Professor” in his Radio and TV interviews, he called himself so in his trip in America.
    But is it the true? Is he really Professor?
    Where is official document, which confirms that David Colquhoun is Professor?

    If he retired, then he is not Professor already. If he received the title Honorary Fellow, then this fact does not infer that he is Professor simultaneously. He is not Professor from 2004.
    Moreover, his Department (I don’t know even how his Department is named now!) tells a lie calling David Colquhoun as “Professor”.

    You are surprised, sirs, why the quacks became so impudent, why they try to thrust themselves into academics.
    Because YOU became dishonest, sirs honest scientists! Look at yourselves! You tell a lie.

  3. LeeT


    It would be very easy for a reader of DC’s blog to miss the fact that he is a professor. I would guess he underplays that fact because he wants people to take his science seriously rather than his academic title.

    I think if he were not a professor Patrick Holford or Martin Walker or some one else would have discovered it by now.

    Not sure what the situation is in your part of the world but here in Britain it is fairly to common to hear references to professors in retirement as “emeritus professor”.

    Anyway, why don’t you ask him. His blog gives an email address.

  4. Mac

    Pardon! You are wrong. “Emeritus Professor” is official title. It must be documented.

    As for my part of world, in my country the retirement law doesn’t exist already from 90s of XX century. Moreover, the title of Professor in my country is lifelong. Our professor will die as Professor even if he was sitting at home and watching TV all latest years of his life ;) Maybe it is not best situation in the world. Nevertheless, the state thinks that Professor has deserved this honor.

    There is only one similar solution in Britain – it is official title of Emeritus Professor. But Colquhoun has not this title.

    As for the letters to David… Do you think that he will answer? He doesn’t want to answer at all. He prefer to keep silent and continue the idle talks in blogs.

    I can allow that David is not to blame for this situation. But then – his colleagues are to blame for this! On the one hand they don’t create the conditions for his normal work, on the other hand, they allow him to tell a lie and to idle.

  5. superburger


    UCL (DCs employers) seem to call him a Prof. I don’t imagine they’d get this detail wrong on their own website)

  6. superburger

    He’s also listed here


    As a ‘research prof.’ Generally this means someone doesn’t have an undergraduate teaching role, so concentrates on running a research group.

    I’m sure UCL would be happy to confirm the status of one of their academic staff…..

  7. Mac

    Do you want to know the exact info?
    Here is the words of David Colquhoun himself from his blog :
    “5 March 2008. Next Monday there will be a meeting of Academic Board to ‘discuss’ new proposals for professorial pay. Since I’m now a research assistant, I have no vested interest in the outcome. The system so far has been wrapped in mystery, Every year you got a letter to tell you what your pay would be for next year. The proposed system is available here. There are some good things about it. Unlike many of my colleagues, I have always felt that it should be possible for pay to go down in late life for people who cease to be productive. As long, of course, as people who remain productive after 65 can continue to make contributions (UCL has implemented the latter in a manner so stingy that there must be doubts about its legality).
    Is it clear?
    And now I want to say – who dares to pay to Professor Colquhoun as to simple assistant??

    It is his UCL’s colleagues.
    I can call their names.

  8. superburger

    AFAIK once you reach the dizzy heights of professor, you can call yourself that until the day you die.

    In general though, you can yourself professor if you feel like it – there’s no legal meaning.

    Holford’s trouble is that he chose to link himself and his honoury chair to the wrong deptmnt at Teeside.

  9. Mac

    As for Holford, in normal scientific community it would be enough one day to kick away the person such as Holford from University for one day!
    But all you waste time for several years!
    It is not surprising!
    In scientific environment where Professor Colquhoun have not the title of Emeritus Professor and is paid like assistant, different holfords prosper… :(

  10. Mac

    I must say several ungracious words about the community so-called “antiquacks”, fighters for good science, etc.
    All you either don’t work in science at all or work in science badly. You don’t produce good scientific results. You do nonsense.
    However, often you occupy the places in universities and don’t allow good scientists to receive the job in universities. And other your people invent for themselves unexisting scientific titles and degrees (see above).
    You pretend that you fight against charlatans, but in reality rather help them to survive, because you are liars and idlers yourselves and your “anti-quackery” is sort of your parasitism with using of nice words and roles of fighters!
    And all your “struggle for good science” is only your mask, false.
    You pretend the good people and the good scientists.

  11. draust

    Posted most of this elsewhere, but since we’re hashing this over again:

    David Colquhoun is past the UK University compulsory retirement age for PAID employment as an academic (retirement at 65, or in a few Universities 67)… though it has not slowed him down scientifically, or quack-bustingly. Anyway, being officially “retired” he is not on a Professorial salary any more, which is what he was referring to a while back on his blog.

    UCL currently lists DC as a “Research Professor” (formally retired but in fact still active in research). I suspect he pays himself a small salary – research assistant equivalent, hence what he says in the post – out of his research grant. So he could also be described as a “research fellow” or even “research assistant” (though the last is a sort of DC deadpan joke).

    Incidentally, UCL do seem to appreciate him (most of the time) since they made him an Honorary Fellow of the College, where he is in distinguished company, a few years back.

    All the above can be inferred from DC’s bio here.

    Some UK scientists in DC’s position choose to move at 65/67 to other countries where retiring age does not apply so that they can keep earning a full Professorial salary – e.g. Hugh Huxley, one of the doyens of muscle physiology, moved on reaching retirement age from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge to Brandeis in Massachusetts. Others, like DC, who have a strong institutional loyalty, choose to stay put under various kinds of ad hoc arrangement.

    There is, it goes without saying, no comparison between titles people have earned through their scientific work (like DC’s Professorship and FRS), and honorary visiting nothing-Professorships gifted to people with absolutely no record of scientific scholarship whatsoever.

    As a final comment, on the whole scientists in the UK are not that fussed about precise titles, as long as they are ones that people actually earned on merit. One eminent British biophysicist I knew who worked in the US as a visiting researcher used to demur whenever people called him “Professor” Whatsitsname (he was not a Professor back in the UK). His standard response was:

    “I answer to (Christian name), but if you want to use a title, call me Dr Whatsitsname. That was the one I actually worked for for 5 years”

  12. Mac

    It is merely your opinion, Dr.

    Well. I’ll tell honestly my point of view.
    For a long period of time I thought (like you, Dr. Aust) David Colquhoun good and clever man. But now I begin to doubt in this estimation. Unfortunately, I have reasons for it.

    Certainly I would be glad to dispel these doubts.
    But at moment there is no occasion for it…

  13. Professor UKdietitian

    your comments say it all.

    You obviously don’t work in science.

    You demonstrate no knowledge of the subject of science, nor its practices, choosing instead to influence opinion with ad hom attacks and inferences of dodgy practices by those you care to disagree with.

    Truly sad.

    I look forward to your (awe and shock) ‘dispelling of doubts’ regarding Professor Colquhuon.

    Meanwhile, we have to endure the tedium of these sad postings. Never mind. The replies are always entertaining.

    Oh, and incidentally. My Professor status was ‘awarded’ on a whim – which makes me akin to ‘Professor’ Holford. Walking amongst giants with Professor Colquhuon

  14. ProfessorLeeTDipNut

    Has anyone heard of Dr John Briffa who, “lectures and seminars at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in London”?

    He is a doctor, don’t you know? Unlike David Colquhoun and Ben Goldacre he seems very keen to stress his medical credentials.


  15. Mac


    “You obviously don’t work in science.’

    What do you mean under “science”? Maybe that work which you do? You are in delusion. It is NOT science. Unlike you I work in science really.
    However – interesting persons defend David Colquhoun! 8-O
    If it continue, then probably soon the quacks will be best defenders of Prof. Colquhoun. ;)


    Is Ben Goldacre good medical doctor really?

    As for Prof. Colquhoun… Unfortunately I can say that his earlier works were much better than latest ones… :( Sadly, but it is so.

  16. Mac

    And MAIN question!!!
    “Delenda est Carthago!” (lat.)
    When will Carth… pardon! … when will Holford be kicked out from Teesside once for all???
    You are blabbering about it for years! But he works and works…. :(

  17. Mac

    Today David Colquhoun has shown, that he CAN work in science really. I make nothing against him longer and I withdraw my words against David Colquhoun. David has vindicated that he is worthy to be Professor.
    He has shown, that he is real Scotchman ;)

    PS. By the way, it is my merit too ;) I have made him to do it! :P
    Nevertheless – bravo, David :)

  18. Ephistopheles

    So, your community takes the part of Colquhoun :)
    The critic comments by Spring Hunter in address of Colquhoyn were deleted.
    But have in your mind – Mac is unfaithful to your DC ;) She’s found Nobel winner :P
    David, David, you are losing … ;)

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