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Awarding Science Defense

A psychiatrist and a science writer win the first John Maddox Prize for promoting science despite opposition.  

By | November 9, 2012

Flickr, SnapThe truth-seeking Chinese science writer, Shi-min Fang, and British chronic fatigue syndrome researcher Simon Wessely this week (November 6) became the inaugural recipients of the John Maddox Prize, which honors individuals who promote science in the face of adversity, in honor of the former Nature editor who championed robust science.

Fang, a biochemist by training, turned into a scientific watchdog, exposing fraudulent research on his website New Threads. In 2010, he was physically attacked for challenging the efficacy of a urologist’s surgical procedures. In the award announcement, Nature lauded Fang’s work because it “imposes transparency on an opaque system. He has opened a forum for criticism and debate in a community that is otherwise devoid of it.”

Wessely, a researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry of King’s College London, studies the link between chronic fatigue syndrome and clinical depression, developing successful cognitive-behavioral treatments. But despite his advances, a vocal minority of the chronic fatigue syndrome community was outraged by his emphasis on neurophysiological aspects of the disease, rather than the physical symptoms. “All along the way, Wessely has had to suffer continued abuse and obstruction from a powerful minority of people who, under the guise of self-help organizations, have sought to promote an extreme and narrow version of the disorder,” the anonymous individual who nominated Wessely told Nature. Wessely received hate mail and death threats for more than 2 decades, but continued his research despite the risk.

The prizes, sponsored by Nature and the Kohn Foundation, and are organized by the London-based charity, Sense About Science, award $3,200 to each recipient.

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Avatar of: KAL

KAL

Posts: 1

November 9, 2012

Congratulations to Chinese science writer Shi-min Fang. More science writers should follow his example.

It is highly unfortunate that Dr. Wessely has received so many obnoxious emails, but there appear to be no arrests or convictions of patients most likely too ill to leave their beds and homes -assuming the emails came from patients. As science writer Carl Zimmer blogged, it is not like labs were blown up.

Nor is there any mandate saying people must agree with researchers particularly when the researcher's theory varies from the lived experience of those disagreeing. AIDS patients were no different in the 80s.

Perhaps equally courageous are the numerous biomedical researchers whose equally sound science does not validate Dr. Wessely's – in part because they do not use the same definition or study the same patients. And who soldier on despite a historic lack of funding and universities demanding they stop their research or be fired.

Avatar of: throughhiker

throughhiker

Posts: 1

November 9, 2012

This is heart-breaking. Simon Wesseley's efforts to psychologize a devastating physical illness have outraged pretty much the entire population of people afflicted with "CFS" (dreadfully silly name for a horrible disease), and are decried by every single patient group. This is surely a situation far more comparable to the history of AIDS activism than to the anti-science and pseudo-science communities who won't accept scientific refutation of their pet theories of a particular disease. There is far more (and stronger) research supporting a physical origin for CFS than there is supporting Wesseley's view, and this body of research is growing every day. Virtually every CFS expert outside of the UK treats this as a physical disease. 

It is of course wrong for Wesseley to have to endure hate mail and threats. There are always people out there, in any group of patients or other interest group, who will stoop to hostile, aggressive, and even unlawful tactics to try to put their point across. But Wesseley is far from a hero of science, nor a bold defender of good science. As a scientist, he is more of a retrograde, reactionary defender of the indefensible, and one who willfully ignores scientific advances in "his own" field (although, since he is a psychiatrist, the important research isn't really in his own field!).

This award is an outrage and a shame. The time will come when Nature magazine, sponsor (!) of this prize, will regret its part in championing this man and his quack "science."

 

Avatar of: MR AIDAN G WALSH

MR AIDAN G WALSH

Posts: 4

November 10, 2012

It is a total disgace the Wesseley is able to win an award to for anything when he sits in the back pockets of the insurance industry to not pay people with serious illness and depict them with as lazy, depressed, crazies or pure phyciatric...I will be filing a motion for Wesseley to be charge for criminal activities and I ask that this award be taken back from him...For decades he has stopped research into chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis and actually lied about all of his published datas...I will be asking the British Police to investigate all this man's financial records and his monetary connections to the insurance industries where these frauds have been carried out...I am suing him for millions and I will request he be arrested...I suggest also to your organization to investigate fully all sides of his lies when it comes to cognitive behavior disorder when the true fact is that he has known for decades that this is actually 'internal alpha or beta ionization radiation injury' so please editors above stop giving out awards to people until you investigate both sides of you award decisions and he knows already that his c.b.t. theories could never be replicated and you can ask DR. NANCY KLIMAS to show you the proof now...How can any man be awarded when he abuses children who actually have radiation injuries...by the way syndrome, disease, illness, phycosomatic, it is not 'it'sradiation injury' and Simon Wesseley I will see that you are prosecuted and the world knows your lies and that you not ever practice meedicine again...There is no doubt whatsoever that you have been paid by the insurance industries and medical research monies has gone missing 'no doubts' Sincerely and always the full truth Mr. Aidan G. Walsh southampton united in this kingdom...I look forward to the full Police investigations forthcoming...

Avatar of: MR AIDAN G WALSH

MR AIDAN G WALSH

Posts: 4

November 10, 2012

 

I look forward to seeing you in handcuffs soon...

Avatar of: MR AIDAN G WALSH

MR AIDAN G WALSH

Posts: 4

Replied to a comment from MR AIDAN G WALSH made on November 10, 2012

November 10, 2012

 

Thanks to top chromosone experts and leukemic scientists who care about patients lives...millions sick now millions more will be...Iraq women advised do not have babies...radiation has no borders and is a threat to every person in labs emergencies and to all doctors even doctors performing autopsies...come on people let's get human please please please move on from the Wesseley's we need radiation experts NOW....Qualifuified scientists not fraud artists...'INTERNAL IONIZATION ALPHA OR BETA RADIATION' we are sick and we deserve treatments...I will make a challenge right now 'EXCLUDING WESSELEY' take my bloods now and my urines and announces all my radiation tests on B.B.C. News now...Let's tell the public the truth I am now going to get the Queen involved in my case I want Wessely gone...i WILL NOW TELL THE WORLD...I want Wesseley charged and I demand this award be pulled...

Avatar of: MR AIDAN G WALSH

MR AIDAN G WALSH

Posts: 4

November 10, 2012

 

See 2007 documentary on gulf war illness veterans who are sick not crazy sick...discovery channel u-tube parts 1 to 5 called 'gulf war vets conspiracies blood test' cromosones breaage and translocations...brain damage as a result of 'internal alpha or beta ionization radiation 'injuries' time now for the lies to stop radiation id worse than hiv/aids and that's a fact...1986 chernobyl, 3 mile island, japan, barrels dumped by militaries in our oceans containing radiation, nuclear missiles testings by france and numerous other countries across the globe, ammuniations containing plutoniums...canada is the largest exporter or grain and plutonium...lies lies lies lies now for decades lawsuits forthcoming and full criminal and full public enquiries...heads are going to spin now...the truth will be told now in courts of laws...I CHALLENGE ALL OF YOU NOW TO TEST MY URINE, BLOOD, BIOPSY AS WELL PROVIDING WESSELEY IS NOT INVOLVED AND MY RESULTS PUBLISHED IN LIVE BBC NEWS AND INTERNATIONAL MEDIAS COVER THESE RESULTS AND THESE RESULTS BECOME LEGAL EXHIBITS' I AM SUING FOR 122 MILLION POUNDS THINK I'M JOKING WATCH ME DO THIS NOW....MR AIDAN G WALSH SOUTHAMPTON, U.K. 'ENOUGH IS ENOUGH' WE WANT TO BE TREATED LIKE HUMAND 'NOW'

November 12, 2012

 

I strenuously object to SAS’ choosing Prof. Simon Wessely for its award for standing up for science. It is particularly ludicrous because Prof. Wessely is on the advisory board of SAS and because of his consistent anti-science publications.   I have had ME and studied it and the sociopolitics surrounding it for the last 10 years. I agree with the comments posted at the main article by Dr. Royster, esq. and all the others critical of this award. Prof. Wessely has indeed been compared to Dr. Mengele, and with good reason.   Those who oppose Prof. Wessely are not a “powerful minority” issuing copious death threats. This is a fiction that Prof. Wessely has concocted and promoted in his own media campaign.   Prof. Emeritus Malcolm Hooper, PhD, said it best: Prof. Wessely operates entirely in “defiance of science” (in a monograph with that quoted title).   Making such an award only serves to further people’s distrust of science, which is the opposite of the award’s ostensible goal.  

November 12, 2012

The formatting gets all messed up.  I used paragraph breaks, I swear!  :  )

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