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There is no nutrional “therapist” whose doings have been the butt of more attention on the web. Ben Goldacre has been through his writings in meticulous detail. “Patrick Holford – “Food Is Better Than Medicine” South Africa Tour Blighted By HIV Claim” is particularly rivetting. The Holfordwatch web site is a mine of carefully-researched information.

It is bad enough that the University of Bedfordshire (in its previous incarnation as the University of Luton) accredited a Foundation Degree course in ‘nutritional therapy’, at`his Institute of Optimum Nutrition (IoN).

That saga was discussed in “Science in an age of endarkenment” as an example of how university accreditation committees can produce long pompous official reports that fail to discuss anything that matters (like ‘is it true?’).

Then came the even more mind-boggling news that Patrick Holford had been made a visiting professor at the University of Teesside. What on earth can be the university’s criteria be for awarding the title of professor? Download them and find out.

One criterion is “their contribution by research to the furtherance of knowledge”. Well it’s obviously not that one.

Another criterion is

“the application of knowledge in a systematic and original manner, designed to enhance wealth creation and/or the quality of life”

Well he has certainly created a lot of wealth for himself. The “application of knowledge” bit is just a little worrisome though.

Case for Patrick Holford as a Visiting Professor is a university document, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (download the whole document). The opening words are “Patrick Holford has an international reputation in terms of nutrition and mental health.”

I guess he has an international reputation. But to find what sort of reputation, just check the references at the top of this post. Unfortunately the document is anonymous. I guess that makes it safe to say that whoever wrote it must be a scientific ignoramus.


The case for Holford mentions the possibility of starting a northern Brain Bio centre. If you want to know more about that wheeze, check Holfordwatch. And now Holfordwatch has done a nice analysis of the whole document

Teesside’s Assistant Dean Research, Dr Barry Doyle sent an email to his vice chancellor, Graham Henderson, with this case document and “curriculum vitae, with extensive personal commentary” (missing -I’ve asked for it) (download the email).

It did the trick.

An “Extract from minutes of University of Teesside Professorial Conferment Committee, 25/06/2007” (download it) recorded the conferment of title. If there was any real discussion it has been cut out (I’ve asked for more). Or perhaps there was no discussion. It seems to be just another example of the box-ticking mentality that has become so prominent as universities succumb to the cult of managerialism. Those present were

Professor G Henderson, Vice-Chancellor (Chair)

Professor A Unsworth, University of Durham

Professor C Hardcastle, Deputy-VC (Research & Enterprise)

Professor E E Green, School of Social Sciences & Law

Professor F Nabhani, School of Science & Technology

Professor M Rampley, School of Arts & Media

How is it that the combined intellect of these luminaries seemed to be incapable of finding out about the candidate the facts that any teenager could unearth on five minutes with Google?

One despairs

Postscript

It seems that some of the staff at Teesside are not at all happy about the appointment either. On 24th August, this email arrived.

Colleagues

I wish to confirm that Professor Patrick Holford has been Conferred with the title of Visiting Professor at the University of Teesside through the School of Social Sciences and Law.He has not been Conferred with the title of Visiting Professor in Nutrition. He has no association with the School of Health & Social Care and in particular, the Institute of Health Sciences and Social Care Research which is led by Professor Carolyn Summerbell, Professor in Nutrition and Assistant Dean for Research.PaulProfessor Paul Keane, Dean
School of Health & Social Care
Centuria Building
University of Teesside


Some more information

In response to a Freedom of Information act request, sent on 7 December 2007, the University of Teesside has been quite forthcoming in providing documents that relate to Holford’s appointment. It is pretty clear that the whole episode has been a bit of an embarrassment to them. As a result of internal dissension within Teesside, Holford was banned from using the title “Visiting Professor” or “Visiting Professor in mental health and/or nutrition” but to use only “Visiting Professor in the School of Social Sciences”.

Download all the documents. (zip file, i.5 Mb)

There are comments on some of these documents here.

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