King’s College London Enquiry Into Hans J Eysenck Fails to Address All of His Bogus Publications

HANS EYSENCK EXPOSURE

Earlier this year we exposed the largest fraud ever perpetrated in the history of psychology (Marks, 2019Pelosi, 2019). This audacious fraud was carried out by the UK’s most published and best known psychologist, the late Professor Hans J Eysenck (1916-1997), by all accounts, a maverick and controversial figure.

We called for an enquiry (Marks, 2019).  H J Eysenck’s ex-employer, the Institute of Psychiatry in Denmark Hill, is now a part of King’s College London (KCL).

The enquiry at KCL concluded that 25 publications were unsafe. However, the enquiry report remains unpublished and incomplete.  

KCL reviewed publications written by Eysenck with his collaborator Ronald Grossarth-Maticek. The enquiry failed to investigate 36 other bogus items based on exactly the same data collected by Eysenck’s collaborator.

The KCL enquiry must be properly completed to include the entire set of 61 bogus publications.

The Eysenck affair makes a strong case for a National Research Integrity Ombudsperson.

WHAT HAPPENED

The Journal of Health Psychology published a penetrating review  by Anthony Pelosi (2019) into Hans J Eysenck’s research on fatal illnesses and personality.

Eysenck’s research had been conducted with a German sociologist, Ronald Grossarth-Maticek, while claiming affiliation to Eysenck’s employer, the Institute of Psychiatry, now part of King’s College London (KCL). In a survey of Eysenck’s publications about fatal illness and personality, I identified  a provisional total of 61 that exceeded any reasonable boundary of scientific credibility. Based on Pelosi’s case and my review of these dubious publications, I called for an investigation by KCL into these publications (Marks, 2019).

On 3rd December 2018  I sent a pre-publication copy of Anthony Pelosi’s review and my editorial to the Principal of KCL, Professor Edward Byrne. On 13th December 2018,  I received a reply informing me that a considered response would follow a KCL review.

FOUR MONTH DELAY

On 25th June 2019 I was informed that KCL had completed its enquiry to examine publications authored by Professor Hans Eysenck with Professor Ronald Grossarth-Maticek.  Professor Byrne said that KCL had contacted the University of Heidelberg where Professor Grossarth-Maticek is associated. Professor Byrne confirmed that the enquiry had found “a number of papers” to be questionable and that KCL would be writing to the editors of the relevant journals to inform them. I requested a copy of the enquiry report but heard nothing more until October 4th 2019  when I received the enquiry report dated ‘May 2019’.

The reason for the 4-month delay is unclear.

THE REPORT

According to the enquiry report, the Principal had asked the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) to set up a committee to examine publications authored by Professor Hans Eysenck with Professor Ronald Grossarth-Maticek.

Why only the publications co-authored with Grossarth-Maticek? The reason for this limitation in the scope of the enquiry is not given.

The enquiry committee expressed its concerns about the Eysenck and Grossarth-Maticek papers in the following terms:

“The concerns are based on two issues. First, the validity of the datasets, in terms of recruitment of participants, administration of measures, reliability of outcome ascertainment, biases in data collection, absence of relevant covariates, and selection of cases analysed in each article. Second, the implausibility of the results presented, many of which show effect sizes virtually unknown in medical science. For example, the relative risk of dying of cancer for individuals with ‘cancer-prone’ personality compared with healthy  personality was over 100, while the risk of cancer mortality was reduced 80% by bibliotherapy. These findings are incompatible with modern clinical science and the understanding of disease processes.”

REPORT’S CONCLUSION

“The Committee shared the concerns made by the critics of this body of work. We have come to the conclusion that we consider the published results of studies that included the results of the analyses of data collected as part of the intervention or observational studies to be unsafe and that the editors of the journals should be informed of our decision. We have highlighted 26 papers (Appendix 1) which were published in 11 journals which are still in existence.”

 

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SHIFTING THE BLAME

As noted, the KCL enquiry was based on the publications Eysenck co-authored with Ronald Grossarth-Maticek. Was this a manoeuvre designed to try and shift the blame away from Eysenck towards Grossarth-Maticek?

If so, it failed.

Any implication that Eysenck was a hapless victim of a dishonest act of data manipulation by Grossarth-Maticek is inconsistent with the evidence. After all, a large subset of 36 single-authored publications by the great man himself were  based, partly or entirely, on the same body of research data as the co-authored publications.

There are so many publications both with and without his collaborator. Many of these publications cover exactly the same material. Multiple publication of the same material is definitely not part of the normally recognised process of academic publication.

There is indubitable evidence in Eysenck’s multiple publications of the Questionable Writing Practice of self-plagiarism. 

OTHER EXAMPLES OF EYSENCK’S FRAUD

The KCL enquiry failed to identify the full extent of Eysenck’s fraud. Its enquiry must be extended to examine the ‘safety’ of Eysenck’s 36 bogus single-authored publications.  It should also examine Eysenck’s multiple publications covering the same ground for evidence of self-plagiarism.

On no less than 20 co-authored papers. Grossarth-Maticek was falsely shown as being affiliated to the Institute of Psychiatry  This fraud can be laid squarely at Eysenck’s door. Grossarth-Maticek could not have asserted this false affiliation without the deliberate connivance of Eysenck.

Recent personal communications with Ronald Grossarth-Maticek indicate that Grossarth-Maticek does not have even a minimal command of English.  It can be reasonably assumed that Grossarth-Maticek was 100% reliant on Eysenck to produce the English language versions of the 25 unsafe papers.

TOTAL BODY OF BOGUS WORK MUST BE CONSIDERED

In total, Eysenck was responsible for no less than 61 publications using the bogus data sets. This total body of 61 publications includes more than 40 peer-reviewed journal articles, 10 book chapters and two books, each in three editions.

The proper thing for editors and publishers is to retract all 61 publications.

To quote James Heathers: “Eysenck would eclipse Diederik Stapel (58) as the most retracted psychologist in history, a scarcely believable legacy for someone who was at one time the most cited psychologist on the planet” (Heathers, 2019).

INABILITY TO PROPERLY INVESTIGATE FRAUD INSIDE ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS

There are strong reasons to doubt the capability of KCL and other academic institutions to properly and fully investigate academic misconduct because of the obvious conflict of interest. In a previous case when I brought a complaint of academic misconduct to KCL, the institution failed to follow its procedures for investigating the complaint. In the Eysenck case, it has investigated less than half of the publications pertaining to the complaint.

All of which leads one to conclude that there is an urgent need to establish a National Research Integrity Ombudsperson to investigate allegations of academic misconduct.

The need for an independent UK body to promote good governance, management and conduct of academic, scientific and medical research could never be stronger than in the present situation. The Eysenck affair requires the full attention of the institutions that govern scientific practice.

The only professional body for psychologists, the British Psychological Society, washed its hands of the problem by passing the entire responsibility to KCL.

This is not an issue about a single individual’s alleged misconduct, or a single institution, it is about the integrity of science. Without a genuine ability to assure governance, quality and integrity, science is a failure unto to itself, to reason and to ethics.

As James Heathers points out:

the question is, does anybody have the will to do anything about it?

REFERENCES

Heathers, J. (2019). Do we have the will to do anything about it? James Heathers reflects on the Eysenck case. https://retractionwatch.com/2019/10/07/do-we-have-the-will-to-do-anything-about-it-james-heathers-reflects-on-the-eysenck-case/

Marks, D.F. (2019). The Hans Eysenck affair: Time to correct the scientific record. Journal of Health Psychology, 24, 4: 409-420.

Pelosi, A. (2019). Personality and fatal diseases: revisiting a scientific scandal. Journal of Health Psychology,  24, 4:  421-439.

[1] Only 25 papers were listed in Appendix 1.

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