3 December 2018
Dear Professor Byrne,
I am writing about a serious matter concerning the research integrity of a late employee of your institution. In the interests of openness and transparency, this is an Open Letter. If left unresolved this is a matter that can be expected to produce potential harm to patients, to biomedicine and science, to your institution, to its staff and students. Although Professor Hans Eysenck died in 1997, the issue of alleged falsified science committed by the late Professor remains current to the present day.
To give a few examples, the 2017 edition of Eysenck’s autobiography published by Springer, in relation to the causal link between smoking and cancer, states, ‘On a purely statistical basis the causal efficacy of smoking – if this can be deduced at all from a simple correlation – is very much less than that of psychosocial factors; about one-sixth in fact’ (Eysenck, 2017, Rebel with a Cause. Kindle Locations 3759–3761). Is the claim that psychosocial factors are six times more important than smoking something that King’s College London is content to endorse or is it a claim that KCL would like to see corrected? Or consider where Eysenck describes the effectiveness of psychotherapy in preventing cancer: ‘The total number of deaths in the control group was 83 per cent, in the placebo group 81 per cent, and in the therapy group 32 per cent, again demonstrating the efficacy of the method in preventing death from cancer and coronary heart disease’ (Eysenck, 2017, Kindle Location 3804–3806). Or the section where Eysenck claims that ‘there is some evidence that behaviour therapy may be useful in prolonging life, as well as in preventing disease’ (Eysenck, 2017: Kindle Locations 3821–3822).
I hope that King’s College London will add its voice to those who are requesting that the relevant publishers and journals should correct or retract Eysenck’s publications wherever they can be shown to contain questionable data-sets or claims that are known to be false.
A complete dossier of information is published herein and so I can be brief. It is recorded on the King’s College London website that ‘King’s has adopted the UKRIO Code of Practice for Research’. In line with the COPE guidelines I am referring this matter to you as the President of the relevant academic institution. I bring to your attention the research programme led by the late Professor Hans J Eysenck at the Institute of Psychiatry over a 40-year period. The evidence reviewed in the attached documentation suggests the late Professor’s research involved systematic breaches of conduct by himself and his collaborator, R Grossarth-Maticek. The joint publications of immediate concern are from the period 1985 to 2000 when Professor Eysenck was employed at the Institute of Psychiatry, now administratively a part of KCL. During the period 1985–1990, there are at least 27 publications authored by Eysenck and Grossarth-Maticek, 19 of which cite the Institute of Psychiatry as Grossarth-Maticek’s only affiliation (see Supplementary file).
The case to be answered is fully documented in Dr. Anthony Pelosi’s peer-reviewed article: ‘Personality and fatal diseases: revisiting a scientific scandal’. As the Editor responsible for the peer review and publication of Dr. Pelosi’s article, I have every confidence that Dr. Pelosi’s evidence and conclusions are reliable and true. In light of the policies and statutes of King’s College London concerning research integrity I bring this case to your attention for investigation. A full and thorough investigation would be good for science, for the research integrity of your esteemed institution and for the welfare of patients and the general public.
I look forward to your response.
Editor, Journal of Health Psychology
Professor Byrne replied:
“Research integrity is of the highest priority at King’s and we will deliver a considered response following our review.”
That considered response is currently awaited.
To be continued…