The Wilyman PhD

Our first child took a cruel week in dyin’
I’ve pulled three through, and buried two
Since then- and I’m past carin’

Henry Lawson 1899

I would like to make an a priori apology: I am about to make a good number of you feel very old. I am currently one rotation away from becoming an emergency physician, yet in all my years of training I have never shepherded a drooling, toxic child, nestled in a parent’s arms, for a gaseous induction in theatre. My lack of airway experience in the setting of paediatric bacterial epiglottitis is an unanticipated but quite delightful side effect of the introduction of the HiB vaccine to the Australian National Immunisation Schedule in 1993.

Immunisation is one of the great triumphs of the 20th century. If you are ever feeling a little despondent about the human condition, you could always remind yourself that you belong to a species that eliminated smallpox. For this reason I am deeply troubled by a farcical situation currently imploding within academia.

Dr Judy Wilyman is a tireless and determined anti-vaccination campaigner. She is also the proud holder of a brand spanking new PhD from the University of Wollongong School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, for her thesis entitled, “A critical analysis of the Australian government’s rationale for its vaccination policy.” It is currently available for download from the University of Wollongong Research Online Thesis Collection, replete with the University of Wollongong official logo. It was supervised by Brian Martin, a Professor of Social Sciences.

I have spent the better part of two days neglecting my fully vaccinated children while scouring her thesis, which rounds out at a whopping 390 pages, including appendix, bibliography and a tribute to a who’s who of the global anti-vaccination junk science community. (The only thing missing was a dedication to Andrew Wakefield) Please note this is intended as an opinion piece rather than a true academic critique. (Dr Helen Petousis-Harris, amongst others, is far more qualified than I for that task, and has already done so quite brilliantly). Rest assured I will not be submitting my ‘opinion’ for academic publication.

Her PhD opens with the statement, “Vaccination policies in Australia need to be scrutinised because the use of a medical intervention in the prevention of infectious disease has serious health and social implications.” I agree with Helen Petousis-Harris that this sounds very much like an a priori conclusion. After making a few other quite absurd and incorrect claims regarding international vaccine policy, she concludes her abstract with, “This investigation demonstrates that not all vaccines have been demonstrated to be safe, effective or necessary. It also concludes that the government’s claim that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks cannot be sustained due to gaps in the scientific knowledge resulting from unfunded research and inadequate monitoring of adverse events after vaccination.” Those are big statements that one would think would require some scrutiny of a scientific nature before being accepted for doctorate level publication. Apparently not though.

The kindest way I can describe her thesis is as a wordy opinion piece. A poorly written one. That’s not a crime though, as much as I’d like it to be. The real travesty, however, is that she wades heavily into the scientific fields of immunology, epidemiology and public health, seemingly without any expert scientific review or guidance.

Brian Martin, in his written defence of his student, describes her thesis as “long and detailed.” I cannot argue with him on this point, though I would not consider either of those words as virtues, unless accompanied by another descriptor along the lines of “factually correct.” He also had the following to say, “Some…apparently believe that the only people qualified to comment on vaccination policy are “experts” who have degrees and refereed publications in scientific journals, for example is immunology or epidemiology….Being an expert in immunology or epidemiology gives no special insight into vaccine policy. If anyone can lay claim to having special knowledge about policy, it is those who have researched policy itself, including critics of the Australian government’s policy such as Judy.”

I take his point. But it’s very obvious at even a cursory read that Wilyman strays well beyond the field of policy.

My conclusion: This thesis is the inevitable product of someone with an ideology based agenda, described by director of the National Centre of Immunisation Research and Surveillance for Vaccine Preventable Diseases Peter McIntyre as “not willing to entertain evidence” which contradicted her beliefs, spending the better part of a decade dwelling within an echo-chamber of misinformation. It is an admirably complete assembly of the arguments the global anti-vaccination lobby have been using for years, the majority of them irrelevant, deliberate or unintentional misunderstandings, or just plain wrong. Helen Petousis-Harris referred to it as “a PhD by stealth.” I see it, quite simply, as a junk thesis and a stain upon the university who accepted it.

Up to this point the whole situation is so bad it’s almost funny. Almost. I wasn’t laughing, however, at the official statement from the university in question, laden with platitudes towards academic freedom of thought and lacking any acknowledgement of the genuine concerns of the scientific community. My unease was not soothed with their reassurances of strict ethical and quality standards and I almost fell of my seat when they invoked the “unchallengeable knowledge in the field of study” of the two external examiners. Unchallengeable?? ” Who did they ask? God and Vladimir Putin?

There are two potential scenarios regarding the external review process. One is that neither reviewer had any expertise in epidemiology or immunology. Another is that at least one of them did but still considered her thesis to be of an acceptable standard. I am not sure which is the lesser of two evils. Let’s call it a draw and leave it at that.

I will not pre-empt the findings of a hopefully inevitable investigation into potential academic misconduct, but I will offer a plausible explanation for how such a situation could occur:

  • A grossly unsuitable candidate for doctorate level study.
  • A slightly rogue supervisor with a passion for dissent and a keen sympathy for the anti-vaccination movement.
  • Handpicked external reviewers, perhaps experiencing a touch of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
  • An institutional focus on academic freedom resulting in a lackadaisical attitude to academic rigour.

And there you have it. The classic Swiss cheese effect.

Judy Wilyman has every right to hold and express these views (And believe me she does. Frequently.). What she doesn’t have the right to do is express them as a competing narrative to
modern science by ignoring any evidence which doesn’t suit her argument, nor be sanctioned to do so by a major Australian university.

Acceptance of such junk, belief-based pseudo-science into mainstream academic literature (albeit via the back door) cheapens all that responsible scientific research stands for, and has very real potential to do harm to the patients we provide clinical care for every day.

They say you pick your battles. This is one I’m prepared to fight.

The above post is solely the personal view of the author.


References


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Emergency physician and keen follower of #FOAMed | @KristinJBoyle | LinkedIn

4 Comments

  1. Hi,

    Thanks for linking to my and Helen’s posts on this. There’s quite a bit more at Sciblogs too, including from Alison Campbell who writes bioBlog. Like you she has read Wilyman’s thesis. I started on the thesis, but didn’t get very far…! I admire both of you for reading it right through…

    https://sciblogs.co.nz/?s=wilyman

    There’s also a review of the thesis published in an academic journal (which, naturally enough, we reviewed). Let’s say they also found it wanting.

    The university did set up a review of thesis examinations, but if I recall correctly they set it up in a way that avoided including the Wilyman thesis… I’ve a post on this somewhere. There’s also that in the initial review of Wilyman’s thesis, apparently one reviewer strongly rejected it & they had to find a new reviewer. You’d have wished that were a strong hint to kick the thesis upstairs, and check it’s sound.

    The whole affair is odd, to say the least.

  2. Dear Kristin,
    You can read about the processes that I and university officials used
    to ensure the quality of Judy Wilyman’s thesis in “Defending academic
    integrity”, https://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/17ijei.pdf
    For a wider perspective, see Vaccination Panic in Australia,
    https://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/18vpa/
    The 2019 critique of the thesis, “PhD thesis opposing immunisation:
    Failure of academic rigour with real-world consequences” is available
    at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X18316955
    Judy’s reply, “PhD thesis on vaccination policy: scholarly and
    socially relevant”:
    https://www.vaccinationdecisions.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Response-final-to-the-Vaccine-Article-by-Wiley-et-al190417.pdf
    Regards,
    Brian Martin
    [email protected]
    http://www.bmartin.cc/

  3. I am in agreement with Judy Wilyman. I find it hard to understand how ‘vaccines’ require neurotoxic metals to enable them to ‘work,’ and to then declare these mandated toxic brews are ‘safe & effective.’
    Terry Robinson.

    Please find herein an article (my brief extract summary) of alarming significance…

    The Putative Role of Environmental Aluminium in the Development of Chronic Neuropathology in Adults and Children. How strong is the evidence and what could be the mechanisms involved? https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11011-017-0077-2 J Metabolic Brain Dse.
    Abstract: The conceptualisation of Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Alzheimer’s Disease has undergone something of a paradigm shift in recent years and rather than being viewed as single illnesses with a unitary pathogenesis and pathophysiology they are increasingly considered to be heterogeneous syndromes with a complex multifactorial aetiopathogenesis, involving a highly complex and diverse combination of genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors. One such environmental factor implicated as a potential cause in both syndromes is Aluminium, as an element or as part of a salt, received, for example, in oral form or as an adjuvant. Such administration has the potential to induce pathology via several routes such as provoking dysfunction and/or activation of Glial cells which play an indispensable role in the regulation of Central Nervous System homeostasis and neurodevelopment. Other routes include the generation of oxidative stress, depletion of reduced Glutathione, direct and indirect reductions in Mitochondrial performance and integrity, and increasing the production of proinflammatory Cytokines in both the Brain and Peripherally. The mechanisms whereby environmental Aluminium could contribute to the development of the highly specific pattern of Neuropathology seen in Alzheimer’s Disease are described. Also detailed are several mechanisms whereby significant quantities of Aluminium introduced via immunisation could produce Chronic Neuropathology in genetically susceptible children. Accordingly, it is recommended that the use of Aluminium salts in immunisations should be discontinued and that adults should take steps to minimise their exposure to environmental Aluminium.

    Extracts: In a landmark post-mortem microarray study, Voineagu and fellow workers identified 444 genes which were differentially expressed in the Cerebral Cortex, and two genes which were differentially expressed in the Cerebellum, of children with ASD – compared with neurotypical age- and sex-matched controls. They reported that the dysregulated patterns of expression of Immune and Glial gene markers were not associated with any known ASD risk genes, so that Immune changes are likely to be either secondary phenomena or the result of environmental factors. A recent post-mortem study cited evidence of hypomethylated and upregulated miR-142 in the Frontal Cortex (Brodmann area 10) in children with ASD, which is of interest as this miRNA plays a major role in regulating the neurodevelopmental activities of Microglia and maintaining them in a quiescent state.

    The view of ASD as an illness or illnesses exclusively affecting the brain is also changing. While many ASD children display evidence of activated Microglia and Astrocytes, which are characteristic of many neuroimmune and neurodegenerative diseases there is also copious evidence of abnormalities in the Peripheral Immune System. Such evidence includes data demonstrating excessive pro-inflammatory cytokine (PIC) expression, reduced anti-inflammatory cytokine expression, modulated or increased T-cell responses, altered natural killer T-cell responses, activated complement responses, major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I abnormalities and increased autoantibodies in the periphery as well as in the brain. The pattern of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in Immune Genes is similar to those seen in several Autoimmune Diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS). There is also evidence of abnormally robust pattern recognition receptor activity linked to the presence of SNPs in encoding genes leading to exaggerated immune responses.

    It is also noteworthy that genes governing immune and inflammatory responses are upregulated in some children with an ASD diagnosis and that the presence of such abnormally expressed genes can predict the development of ASD in male children with some 83% accuracy. It is also of interest that polymorphisms in cytokine and HLA genes are associated with unusual responses to vaccines. The evidence of immune abnormalities in many, but by no means all, children afforded an ASD diagnosis has led to the proposal of a neuroimmune subtype of ASD. The formation of such DAMPs (Damage-Associated Molecular Patterns) and the resultant chronic stimulation of Pattern Recognition Receptors (PRRs), leading to the development of an “autotoxic loop” of increasing inflammation and oxidative stress, is considered to play a major role in the maintenance and exacerbation of systemic inflammation, neuro-inflammation and neurodegeneration in a range of Autoimmune and Neurodegenerative diseases such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), MS and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

  4. I agree that more research must be undertaken into vaccines and jab solutions. There appears to be many unknowns especially with the current roll out of this mRNA solution. It appears that Research Protocols have not been adhered to. The side effects are coming to the fore and being ignored. There must be an openness of the makeup of the solution for injection and side effects.dialogue must continue and not be stifled. To move forward we as humans must be open to listening to others concerns on issues. Thank you for allowing me to comment on this issue.

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