The British Psychological Society Washes Its Hands of Hans J Eysenck’s Fraud

The Eysenck story continues…

Earlier today,  I posted about King’s College London’s May 2019 Enquiry into H J Eysenck.

It is a grimy affair with brushes busily sweeping dirt under the well-trodden carpet of historical fraud at London University.  The latest case is one of the largest in the history of science:

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

Open Letter

Here I describe  what happened when I alerted the British Psychological Society to the issue.  To recap, nearly one year ago I sent an advance copy of an Open letter to Mr Sarb Bajwa, Chief Executive of the British Psychological Society.

I received no reply.

In February we published a penetrating review by Anthony Pelosi concerning Eysenck’s bogus publications, connections with Big Tobacco, and eye-watering claims that psychotherapy could prolong the life of cancer and cardiac patients.  An editorial containing the Open Letters to KCL and the BPS was published in the same issue of the Journal of Health Psychology (Marks, 2019).

I still received no reply.

In August, Andrew Coleman,  Chris McVittie, Richard Smith and I tried another approach. We sent a letter for publication in the Psychologist, the magazine for members of the BPS. Under the title: A role in auditing Hans Eysenck? it was published in the September issue. Our letter began:

A recent paper (Pelosi, 2019) has provided prima-facie evidence, some of it from documents disclosed in the process of litigation against tobacco companies, that Hans J. Eysenck was implicated in what is described as ‘one of the worst scandals in the history of science’ (p.434). We believe that it is now incumbent on the British Psychological Society to conduct an audit of his scientific publications.

The British Psychological Society Finally Responds

After ignoring the Eysenck scandal for almost a year, the Society finally responded. The Society’s response was dismal:

The BPS is the professional body for psychology and psychologists in the UK, with a leading role in promoting the advancement of psychology and setting a high standard of professional education and knowledge.

Our code of ethics and conduct and code of human research ethics provide the framework for ethical decision making for our members. They make clear that research should be designed, reviewed and conducted in a way that ensures its quality, integrity and contribution to the development of knowledge and understanding.

However, the conduct of research lies with the academic institution which oversees the work carried out by its academics and we welcomed the investigation into this research carried out by King’s College, London.

The buck had been well and truly passed.

Peter Morris Responds

Our Psychologist letter triggered Professor Peter E Morris, a long-standing member of the Society, to explain why an audit on Eysenck would not be a good idea (Judging Hans Eysenck). Interestingly, he compares the scandal to the similar one that arose with Sir Cyril Burt: “as with Burt, there will be many psychologists who have strong opinions, both positive and negative, about Eysenck. Judging him would open up many positive and negative evaluations of him and the Society. I do, however, strongly support historical evaluations of his work that do not require the Society to pass judgement on the dead.”

The Burt Scandal is the stuff of legends. Coincidentally, Burt was H J Eysenck’s PhD supervisor.  A master and his apprentice.




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