I’ll be brief because honestly, I’ve got better things to do.

A few days ago, I received an email via the organisers of a talk I’m giving in Canberra in a few weeks’ time. I’ve decided to publish it here with comments correcting the person’s accusations as I was frankly gobsmacked at their lack of ability to research some very simple claims.

Backgound: The email is from Judy Wilyman who is a PhD student who is being supervised at the University of Wollongong (UoW) in NSW by Dr Prof Brian Martin (yes, THAT Brian Martin).

Ms Wilyman began her PhD at UoW in 2007, then in 2008-2010 she transferred supervision to Murdoch University, WA, where she was supervised by Dr Peter Dingle (who no longer works there, and yes, THAT Peter Dingle). She transferred back to UoW in 2011, to Dr Prof Martin again, where she is completing a project entitled “A critical analysis of the Australian government’s rationale for its vaccination policy”.

Phew, so far that’s a long PhD!

It seems she objects to me giving a talk to the Canberra Skeptics on February 15th. I won’t copy paste the entire email, for clarity I’m going to address each claim separately, but there is a copy in full here.

Firstly, she got the date wrong (15.1.12). I’m speaking on 15.2.12.

“…she is regularly observed putting misinformation about vaccination on websites such as ‘The Skeptics Book of Pooh Pooh.”

I like to think I only publish accurate information, so I always check references and sources to the best of my ability before publishing. It would have made it easier for me if Ms Wilyman indicated which information on my site was wrong, because I can’t find any.

Note that she says “regularly” which leads me to think she doesn’t agree with much of what I post here. She also mentions other websites, and perhaps she means the piece I wrote some months back for Mamamia. There was a healthy debate about the info I posted there, mostly from people who don’t agree with vaccination full stop, but the information was very well received. I would have thought if it was an example of my “regular misinformation”, I would have been thoroughly corrected by the health professionals who applauded me for the piece and passed it on to their patients and colleagues.

“She recently received a letter from Murdoch University asking her to remove a poster (presented by myself at the National Health Promotion Conference in Perth in 2009)which she had inaccurately presented on this website”.

Not exactly. I received an email following a very polite phone call from IP lawyer Madeleen Rousseau from Freehills in WA on January 20th, 2012. To say she sounded exasperated on the phone is an understatement. You see it appears she has been given the job of chasing down where Ms Wilyman has misused the Murdoch logo on said poster and without permission. Her job is to try to remove all traces of it from the Internet.

I removed the poster from the above link, sent a confirmation email to Ms Rousseau, she responded with a thank you, that was it. Notice she says in her correspondence, “Murdoch…has spent considerable time and energy in having the poster removed from various (anti vaccination) websites and cannot allow the poster to be used in any format on any website”. She was polite, I co-operated, there were no stand-over lawyer tactics or threatening letters.

As for Judy’s allegation that  I had somehow “..inaccurately presented (the poster) on this website..” I’m not entirely sure what she means by this. On the contrary, it appears that Judy has misused the Murdoch logo which is why their IP lawyers are trawling the Internet and attempting to erase the poster from history.

 

Next she says I was asked to remove derogatory comments about academics. There was no such request in the email I have published in full above. I don’t ever recall being asked this. This is a fabrication as far as I can tell.

Next she says I left derogatory comments about her on my site, incorrectly referring to her as anti-vaccine. I did indeed call her anti-vaccine and for good reason. Let’s see why.

Ms Wilyman has pieces published on well recognised anti-vaccine sites including Whale.to, SaneVax, the AVN blog (whose website was called anti-vaccine by the HCCC), she has given lectures with Meryl Dorey, President of the AVN in Western Australia.

In June 2010, she wrote a letter to the West Australian newspaper which contained the usual anti-vaccine canards and scaremongering we have come to expect from her mates over at the AVN. It was covered in detail over at Second Sight who reported on what she wrote:
“…childhood vaccination schedule is “not based on science”. Vaccines contain toxins. Vaccines are not monitored by doctors. Vaccines are a “known cause of allergies, anaphylaxis and autoimmune diseases”. “There is no proof for the theory of herd immunity”. “Infectious diseases declined by 1950 in Australia due to improvements in sanitation, hygiene and nutrition.”

Even by this short account (and there is much more I don’t have time to cover), Ms Wilyman is anti-vaccine. See Dave The Happy Singer here and here for further information.

Ms Wilyman, you can claim you’re not anti-vaccine all you like, but your writings contain well known anti-vaccine canards and are published on high profile anti-vaccine websites. If you can show me evidence to the contrary I will look at it and remove my classification of you as anti-vaccine if I am satisfied you have changed your stance. At the moment, I’m not.

Update: Whilst Judy Wilyman claims not to be anti-vaccine, this recording suggests otherwise.

Next “and her derogatory remarks about the ABC’s policies are offensive to the community who would like an academic debate on this important topic”.

The community wants a debate on the ABC’s policies? That’s a first to me.

“She is openly spreading misinformation about the vaccination topic and yet your organization has invited her to speak about vaccination and the misinformation on Dr. Google?”

Below is the description of my talk sent to the organisers

Firstly, she hasn’t cited the apparent misinformation I am spreading and secondly my talk is about health information on the Internet with vaccination as an example. This does not mean the entire talk will be about vaccination. And is she saying that conspiracies and chemtrails are not misinformation? Curious.

Ms Wilyman is a PhD student, approximately 4/5 years into her project. She seems to know my blog/website quite well. As a research student one would have thought she would be able to do one of two things: 1) click the “About/contact” button on my website – I get plenty of email via this method; 2) Google my email address as the organisers of the talk did to forward me her email. Perhaps she didn’t contact me directly because she was attempting to tarnish my reputation with the organisers hoping they would cancel my talk? Pure speculation of course…

No, you’re not an “independent researcher”, you’re a PhD student. And why do I need to contact you to find out your views about vaccines? They’re pasted everywhere on the internet on lots of anti-vax sites.

“Please could you also inform me of the qualifications that Rachael Dunlop has to speak on the topic of vaccination as my understanding is that her specialization is heart research”.

My qualifications are easy to find Ms Wilyman. And if you are, as you claim an independent researcher you could have done some, you know research, and found out that my specialty is not heart disease.

Are you really too lazy to look further than the name of my employer (The Heart Research Institute)? This shows your complete lack of research ability. You see there are lots of research groups under the roof of HRI. Some work directly in heart disease, some work on diabetes, some work on nutrition. Me? I’m a cell biologist who happens to work on ageing and MND. You could have found that it you went to PubMed. Or even Google (chortle). Or even my Twitter bio. Fail.

As for my qualifications? You know she just might have me on this one. Given that the theme of my talk is Dr Google I can think on someone who is better qualified than me to talk about this issue, Wilyman’s mate Meryl Dorey. She’s had more than 20 years of education on Dr Google.

But there’s one thing that I have that Ms Dorey doesn’t have and that’s the ability to critically analyse information, whether it be a scientific study or a news article or a website.

You see, I have a PhD already (sorry to rub it in Judy) and more than 6 years of research experience which includes writing, reviewing and critically analysing scientific information. So my BS meter is pretty finely tuned. Thus, I can confidently say I’m more than qualified to sift between fact and fiction on the Internet. And given that I’ve been studying the tactics of the anti-vax movement for more than 3 years, this is a bonus. One might say, a desirable but not essential qualification.

Finally. “I will copy this across to the community as it is important that the public is aware of the credibility of the information they are receiving”.

And I will also copy this critique of your lack of ability to do your research across the community.

You’re welcome and thanks for trying.
—-

 

UPDATE: It seems Ms Wilyman has been alerting a lot of people to my talk. This just in

—-

Another update: Judy Wilyman has again written to Canberra Skeptics and the email has been published on Meryl Dorey’s blog. You can see the text in full on Reasonable Hank’s blog here. Contains the text that because I’m on the editorial board of a CAM journal I’m somehow a Big Pharma Shill. It’s worth a look. You will LOL.

 


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  • DavidP

    Keep up the good work Dr Dunlop. Well written.

  • Chris

    That is just wonderful, especially that this article was taped on her supervisor’s door! Perhaps Ms. Wilyman want to grow up to be just like Dan Olmsted: How to Seek and Not Find.
    .
    It should be noted that the Australian Skeptics are getting much more activism done than us poorly organized American skeptics (I like the z’s!). I did manage to get the incredibly horrible rag “Autism File” removed from the hospital gift shop after my son spent a couple of nights there. I pointed out that Wakefield was on its editorial page, and it seemed ironic for them to have it in their gift shop when the nurse offered my son an influenza vaccine before he was discharged. They removed it, explaining the supplier had accidentally included it in a shipment.

  • http://scepticsbook.com Maggie

    A mischievous UoW person took it upon themself to print out my post and stick it on Brian Martin’s door this morning. Oh dear.

  • http://shellity.blogspot.com Shelley

    Ms Wilyman scares me a little bit. In an ‘OMFSM-stop-before-you-sound-more-nutso’ kind of way, not the ‘Girlfriend-need-to-cancel-her-talk-before-Judy-gets-all-up-in-her-face’ way that she seems to be aiming for.
    .
    Apart from that, I like the way she makes stuff up and sends it to people who can prove she made it up. Winning. Strategy.

  • http://immaletyoufinish.blogspot.com Marty

    I thought you were gonna be brief?? :p

    Well done, doc ;)

  • Pingback: Judy, Judy, Judy…are you attempting to censor others’ right to free speech? | reasonablehank

  • http://shockwaveplasma.net Shockwave

    I actually hope she gets her wish and the Health Dept does make a number of statements on vaccination misinformation.

    Changing her spellchecker from English (USA) might help with the readability, who needs all those Zs ?

  • Craig

    Please post a photo of the new Merc big pharma bought you? ;-) Based on what anti-vaxers would have you believe you must be rolling in their rotten money.

  • http://scepticsbook.com Maggie

    Hi Andy, to be honest I’ve never heard the term “PhD researcher” & I’ve known a few PhD students in my life. It’s convention to use the term PhD student or candidate, but researcher just sounds like you’re trying to make yourself sound more important than you are, which I suspect is the case here. Don’t forget Wilyman put the health minister “on notice” only a few weeks ago. And she calls herself an independent researcher. The LOLS just keep coming from her.

  • http://thinkingisreal.blogspot.com/ AndyD

    “Canberra Skeptics”. D’oh!

  • http://thinkingisreal.blogspot.com/ AndyD

    I’m sorry… she wrote to the Australian Skeptics to, effectively, warn them about you?!?!
    .
    .
    .
    I assume they immediately cancelled your talk?
    .
    Can you please confirm for me if there are differential definitions of “PhD researcher” versus “PhD candidate”? And are the terms “protected” or at least readily understood where it matters?

  • Mick

    I’m sure – though I wouldn’t claim to speak on behalf of Dr Dunlop or the Canberra Skeptics – that Ms Wilyman is welcome to attend the talk herself if she wishes. Given her misapprehensions about the Australian Skeptics and many other things, it might be beneficial to do some actual research on a subject.

  • http://cyberchalky.wordpress.com CyberChalky

    Vicariously satisfying. I love seeing a good (rhetorical) disembowelment.

    Keep them on the hop; I wish it would be effective to pass along the misrepresentations to the University Admin & their lawyers. Maybe a good cautioning from the PTB would knock a little sense into her noggin!

  • Barnesm

    A well constructed and reasoned response to Ms Wilyman’s. I applaud your efforts in your continued struggle against such willful and dangerous ignorance.

    Keep up the fight.

  • http://www.scribd.com/ken_mcleod Kenny

    Well said, Dr Rachael
    .
    I can confirm to the readers that what is said about the approach from Freehill’s and Murdoch Uni is correct. I also received a phone call from Madeleen Rousseau of Freehill’s and we had a lovely conversation in which she asked me to remove Wilyman’s poster from my website. I also received that polite email, not a letter as alleged by Wilyman. I also removed the poster as requested.
    .
    So I can confirm that Madeleen was polite, I co-operated, there were no stand over lawyer tactics or threatening letters.
    .
    It also appears to me that Judy Wilyman has misused the Murdoch logo, but I’m prepared to hear other explanations from her.
    .
    I can add one thing to all of the above; when I receive a nice phone call from a delightful lady with a slight French accent, I’m a real sucker.

  • http://skepticalhumanities.com Bob Blaskiewicz

    I enjoy the occasional utter demolition of an antivax crank in training (who one day aspires to be a full-fledged crank of their own). Is there any chance that her dissertation would be approved?

    RJB