Judy Wilyman, PhD candidate, Wollongong University ‘false, dangerous, misleading and disrespectful’

Here is a fact:

At 32 days old, Dana McCaffery died of whooping cough – also known as pertussis.

Here are some more facts:

Dana was born perfectly healthy.

She was not yet old enough to be vaccinated for pertussis.

At the time Dana was admitted to Lismore Base Hospital, Australia was already in the grip of one of the worst whooping cough epidemics on record – the result of vaccination falling well below optimum levels.

Dana’s was not an isolated case. There were an alarming 19,000 cases of whooping cough reported in Australia in the year Dana was born and Dana’s death was the third fatality. As Dana fought for her life in the Lismore Base Hospital, two other babies suffering from the same disease were airlifted to Brisbane for emergency treatment. This was not some rare, seldom seen disease. It was common, well-known, well-documented and rampant.

Dana’s parents watched her die. They were eye-witnesses to the distressing symptoms which killed their daughter. There is no doubt in their minds that Dana died of whooping cough.

Similarly, Dr Chris Ingall, who treated Dana at the Lismore Base Hospital, has no doubt about the cause of Dana’s death. According to Dr Ingall, Dana died of pertussis. No question.

But not everyone believes this. Two women in particular have persistently claimed that Dana did not die of pertussis.

No, they were not in the hospital watching Dana die as her parents were. No, they did not treat Dana as Dr Ingall did. No, they do not have medical degrees, or any qualifications in paediatrics or immunology. Still, these two women believe they know better than Dana’s doctor and her parents. What’s more, they have made the McCaffery’s lives a misery by intrusively and persistently questioning the diagnosis because it doesn’t fit with their unscientific, anti-vaccination ideology. One of these women, Judy Wilyman, is a PhD candidate at the University of Wollongong.

I wonder what unmitigated gall, what inflated sense of importance makes these people think they know better than a specialist paediatrician and a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Physicians.

Let’s just stop for a moment to consider what’s required to earn the right to add the post nominal FRACP to one’s name.

First, you need to get a medical degree. That takes 4-6 years. After graduation you have to work as an intern for a year, before working as a resident for another year. Vocational training as a registrar takes a further 3-8 years. Then you can apply to study for membership of a college. This will probably involve two stages of examinations (basic and advanced) which you must pass in order to become a ‘fellow’.

I think it should probably go without saying, that for someone with these qualifications, diagnosing a common, well-known, well-charted childhood disease would hardly require the diagnostic gymnastics one sees in an episode of House.

Dana McCaffery died of pertussis. That is an established, unequivocal, indisputable fact.

And now, I will pass you on to my good friend, Reasonable Hank, to take up the story (with some comments from me [CS]):

Judy Wilyman is a PhD student at the University of Wollongong, under the supervision of Professor Brian Martin. [CS: Prior to that, Ms Wilyman studied under the supervision of Dr Peter Dingledo check the link if you haven’t heard of him.]

Last week, Wilyman sent a letter to the Australian Human Rights Commissioner; and, Meryl Dorey published it on the Australian Vaccination Network blog.

[CS: Wilyman signed her letter “Judy Wilyman, PhD candidate” in order, one imagines, to give greater weight to her opinion. In my opinion, this means that her submission was made ‘officially’ in her capacity as a PhD candidate at the University of Wollongong and the university should either take responsibility for its content, or consider disciplinary action.]

Amongst the claims made by Wilyman is that the death of baby Dana McCaffery is “anecdotal evidence” used in the Government’s tainted agenda to immunise children:

These programs have been promoting the whooping cough vaccine on anecdotal evidence (in particular, Dana McCaffery’s death) and the mantra of ‘seeing sick babies gasping for air’.

Pretty ghastly stuff.

[Dana’s father] David McCaffery was again forced to issue a statement in the hope that Dorey and Wilyman would leave them alone, and cease inflicting unnecessary pain on the family, by abusing the memory of their daughter:

Meryl Dorey, you have been asked time after time not to mention our daughter Dana on your website. The recent article by Judy Wilyman is false, dangerous, misleading and disrespectful. She has no expertise in the area of vaccines and has not asked, nor does she have, our permission to discuss our daughter’s death.

Let’s be clear, Dana’s death to whooping cough and the issues related to it, are not anecdotal. How can you and Ms Wilyman be so callous?

Dana died from whooping cough, a vaccine preventable disease. And we mourn her death every day. You and your friends add torture to our pain.

Ms Dorey, you and your group simply do not know us and we ask you to stop discussing Dana’s death. Her tragic death is not something that you can toy with to promote your misleading ideology.

Once again, you and Ms Wilyman are not friends of ours, or medical doctors and know nothing about Dana’s life or death.

BTW – Both of you, do not take this post as an invite to respond in any way. Leave us and our little girl alone!

David McCaffery

In August 2010, [Dana’s mother] Toni McCaffery had previously issued a remarkable take-down of a previous Dorey blog post, in which Dorey again spread misinformation about the circumstances surrounding Dana’s death. How many times do these people need to be told to act honourably?

Toni concludes:

Enough is enough. We just simply ask the AVN and Mrs Dorey to stop spreading false information about our daughter. She caught whooping cough. She died a torturous death. Leave her in peace and stop misleading the public.

Whooping cough is dangerous, and deadly for 1 in 200 babies.

Now after having to deal with these lies, I have to take my children to a birthday party and try to be normal.

Mrs Dorey and the AVN…please leave my family alone.

How many times, indeed.

Today, Wilyman accused the McCaffery family of being beneficiaries of monetary payment, from vaccine “lobby groups”, for their work in ensuring the community receives accurate information about vaccine preventable diseases. In effect, Wilyman used the Pharma Shill Gambit, on a family whose baby daughter died from Whooping Cough:

[CS: Toni McAffery has since responded on Facebook:

Mrs Dorey and Ms Wilyman – you are enabling harrassment. I am writing here because I know you read this. Retract your comments immediately. Dana IS NOT an anecdote. We DO NOT receive money for warning people about whooping cough. That is the most disgusting allegation – one we have tolerated over and over again from your members. The money we received [from] the Australian Skeptics we donated to research to save babies from Pertussis. Government has not ‘used us’ to promote vaccines in recent media stories. We agree to such interviews in our own time without any agenda other than to give people the warning we did not receive. I wish the Government did more – but it has taken 3 years to get a brochure that I would have given anything to receive. We gave permission for Dana’s story to appear on the brochure. We give up our time to support other families. Parents have a right to be warned about whooping cough and given accurate information. We did not get that warning. It is up to parents if they want to vaccinate. It is also up to any parent to go public and speak to media. Do not use us against other families. We are not your toys to play with.

Toni McCaffery

I’m a little lost for words…

Nice friends you have there, Professor Martin.

Please: let all of your friends and colleagues know about these horrid, dangerous people.”

Thanks Hank. Now, I have some questions.

Does Wollongong University condone its PhD students harassing and distressing the parents of a dead child?

Did Ms Wilyman seek the permission of her supervisor or the university before using her PhD candidature at the University of Wollongong to give weight to the pile of absolute crap she peddled to the Australian Human Rights Commissioner?

Does Wollongong University really pay a professor to supervise nonsensical ‘research’ like Wilyman’s; a quixotic and apparently interminably long venture which seems more intent on ignoring credible scientific evidence than collating it?

Has Wollongong University considered how awarding a PhD to Ms Wilyman will bring the university into disrepute and devalue all PhDs awarded by that institution? Surely, if Wilyman can get a PhD for her unscientific bilge, a PhD from Wollongong is not worth the paper it’s written on!

Isn’t it time that Wollongong University had someone other than Professor Martin take a long, hard look at Ms Wilyman’s ‘research’ and determine whether it’s in the best interests of the university for her to continue?

And I have one more, personal question. Why did I recently receive an email from a professor at the University of Western Sydney ‘casually’ inquiring into a remark I made against Meryl Dorey and saying “I understand (from colleagues) that Dorey is often accused in the way you accused/dismissed her but no evidence is provided.”

No evidence? Really? Are professors at the University of Western Sydney not required to know how to google?

And who were these ‘colleagues’ I wondered. Who could they be?

The good professor didn’t divulge their names but it took me, oh, all of three minutes to find by amazing coincidence that her PhD supervisor was also Professor Brian Martin from the University of Wollongong. Yes! The same academic who’s supervising Ms Wilyman’s PhD. Yep! Jinx! Isn’t that just too spooky?

And yes, Wilyman and the despicable Ms Dorey are as thick as thieves.

You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to connect the dots, do you?

Surely the time has come for Wollongong University to take a long, hard look at Ms Wilyman’s ‘research methods’ and consider whether her ethics are consistent with those required by the university.

Surely it is time for Wollongong University to take a long hard look at Professor Martin and ask what his role is in this whole sorry affair.

And maybe the University of Western Sydney should ask why one of their staff, a former student of Professor Martin’s, seems to be buying Meryl Dorey’s persecution story ‘hook, line and sinker’ without, apparently, possessing even the basic ability to google some scholarly literature on the subject.

Is incompetence and unsubstantiated ‘woo’ becoming an epidemic in NSW universities? And is there a vaccine for it?

Chrys Stevenson

Reasonable Hank’s original blog post: Judy Wilyman and Meryl Dorey: as low as it goes

See also:

Peter Bowditch: Almost unimaginable filth

Update: U of W reins in Wilyman?

and my follow up blog post:  Why Wollongong’s abdication of responsibility for Wilyman won’t wash

82 thoughts on “Judy Wilyman, PhD candidate, Wollongong University ‘false, dangerous, misleading and disrespectful’

  1. Christine Bayne

    I agree completely with Chrys that Judy signing off with “PhD Candidate” puts the university fair and square in the firing line. I didn’t think Judy could disgust me more than she did with her cruel and calculated use of the term ‘anecdote’. But her irrationality, ignorance and ideology knows no bounds. Her comment about payment took me to places I’ve never been before.

    It is time for the AVN Committee to issue a statement to its members and to the general public in regard to whether what is being published on behalf of the AVN by one of its committee members is condoned by them or not. I’d also like the AVN committee to confirm that it was involved in the creation of the austscep website. When a committee member is acting in such an unprofessional manner and bringing the organisation into disrepute, the AVN committee has a responsibility to take action. A public statement, preferably in the form of an apology, is required.

    It appears that the AVN committee need an urgent reminder that they all carry equal responsibility for the activities carried out on behalf of the organisation. If they do not support the recent carry-ons and despicable behaviour shown by Meryl Dorey, they need to speak up now. I don’t think this situation is going to end well for any of them.

    1. Graham

      My brain hurts. How could anyone ” …. bring the organisation (AVN) into disrepute”?

      Is that like giving a sewerage farm a bad smell?

  2. John Turner

    According to Steven Pinker (The Better Angels of our Nature) vaccination has prevented 20,000,000 premature deaths over the last 30years. I wonder how many AVN, its supporters, and similar groups have caused. One is two many.

  3. Vicki

    I have a friend who’s baby contracted whopping cough because her own sister was misinformed by a herbal ‘practitioner ‘. Her sister did not vaccinate her three children and did not let my friend (with a new baby) know of her deadly decision. The baby survived after much suffering and damage to his lungs! Vaccination is about being a good citizen and contributing to the 90 percent (maybe more) to ensure we are all safe from deadly diseases (protecting all those that are unable to be vaccinated). If you have new baby, make sure you stay away from areas (like Byron Bay, Lennex Head) where misinformation is rife.

  4. Vicki

    By the way well done Chrys… this needs to be heard and understood by EVERYONE. The witch doctors should not have a say in such a significant issue that effects lives.

  5. mochuck

    I really hate to keep dragging Dana’s death up but when vile people use it to further their own agenda, I feel I must.

    How does someone get to the level of studying for a PhD and not know what “anecdotal evidence” means”? Judy Wilyman is at best completely ignorant and at worst, disingenuous and vindictive.
    Unfortunately, Dana’s story is not just an anecdote. She became part of the hard statistics that are compiled by state and federal health department of notifiable diseases such as pertussis.

    Chrys, do you know what the context was for Wilyman to send the letter to the Australian Human Rights Commission?

  6. Debra

    Yes, well done Chrys. I have shared it on my Facebook. And what kind of a professor spreads dangerous misinformation! It not only brings disrepute to Wollongong university, but to all academics. How deep must be your obsession when even the death of babies doesn’t give you pause for thought.

  7. Eva Brych

    I take it no PCR or culture for Bordetella were done on nasopharyngeal aspirate or postnasal swabs.

      1. Eva Brych

        Yes Chrys. A la Second Sight blogspot – “Science. Sense. Sarcasm.” These people make me sick because they think they can call into question a clinical diagnosis without having a clue as to what may have gone into it.

  8. Rodney Cruise

    I have just emailed Wollongong University referencing this piece (and others) asking for a comment. Will I get one? Probably not, but it will hopefully get on their radar (no doubt it already is). The more they know that others know about this “scandal” (which is what it is) the better.

  9. Dave Ingram (@dingram)

    As a PhD Candidate myself, I don’t think that stating as such in a reply makes it a university response. It is a job title (for want of a better term).

    Sending something out on uni letter head or using a uni email account is a different story.

    [This post is personal opinion and does not reflect the views of the unnamed university at which I am currently enrolled]

    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      It may not be a ‘university response’ but it exploits one’s candidature in order to give weight to the opinions contained within the document. It may not be technically wrong, but I believe, given the content and the use of Dana McCaffery’s name it is certainly ethically wrong in that it brings the University of Wollongong into disrepute.

      1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

        That’s what I’m calling for. I believe her ‘research’ should certainly be reviewed by an independent academic with the ability to determine whether her approach is scientific or ‘pathological’ – http://www.skepticblog.org/2012/03/08/pathological-science/ – consider the ethics of her approach, the public risk caused by advocating an unsupportable anti-vax stance, and the disrepute caused to the university by allowing her exploit its reputation to give weight to her arguments.

    2. Guy

      Dave, on reading this I had the same thought, PhD candidate is much like identifying yourself as any other occupation – student, teacher, doctor, etc. However, in my experience universities get quite precious over people representing themselves as being from the university when commenting outside of their area of expertise. I am a psychology academic and some years ago wrote a political opinion and Identified myself with where I work and in what capacity. The university’s media office contacted me a couple of weeks later and said that although clearly you are not speaking on behalf of the university, identifying it as where you work could be misconstrued that way so if you write something like that again please omit our name. I know there have been instances in the past where Judith Wilyman has written pieces identifying herself as a PhD candidate at one of the two universities where she has been one and I’d be surprised if she hasn’t had a similar “talking to” as I had some years ago.

      1. Debra

        Guy, I concur. It is pretty well-known that if you speak publicly on an issue, you should not mention your university and position as it implies you are speaking as an expert.

    3. Clare

      Hmm, only a job title? I don’t agree. If I wrote something with the sign-off Clare, Research Fellow, X University or Clare, Treasurer, Y Community Group, I would expect, and intend, the reader to assume that I was writing in the capacity of the position and that what I expressed was representative of that of the named organisation. Using “Dr” to assert educational and intellectual superiority is a different story, but not one Ms Wilyman is qualified to claim.

  10. dandare2050

    Given the number of groups trying and possibly succeeding in infiltrating cultural power centers (you know – the seven pillars) it is about time our society in general started calling people to account like this. Universities that allow themselves to be used in this way must be hauled over the coals if they don’t take action. It disturbs me greatly how hundreds of years of due process and careful balancing of powers and interests seem to be being undone by things like this, the oppositions behaviour in parliament, and the media.

      1. g moore

        You don’t have to be religious to teach in Cath Ed just prepared to stay within their values, ethics, and morals

  11. Moar Noir

    Great blog article! The AVN should be stopped, pronto, misinformed tards that they are. Completely disgusting behavior on their part! It is a shame that in this day and age such hurtful and harmful actions are allowed to continue. Perhaps if the AVN wanted to be useful they could promote vaccination so that the few children who cannot be vaccinated, or who slip through the cracks, will be protected by the herd immunity that comes through vaccination. It is a shame that children are still dying from preventable illness, and the problem is not just present in Australia, for example the US is having just as many problems! We have the opportunity to wipe out these diseases and prevent the suffering and deaths of countless people… Organisations such as the AVN get in the way of this. How they are allowed to continue peddling their, quite frankly: fucked, opinions is beyond me. They do the human race a huge disservice.

    As to universities handing out under-grad and post-grad degrees to anyone who has the money or ability to click the ‘apply’ button, regardless of their academic merit…don’t get me started! Nothing quite like spending 6 years working my butt off, to have my degree undermined by my university handing them out like candy. I hope UW has the common sense to take disciplinary action against this >insert appropriate insult here<… if only to protect their other legitimate PHD students. I will follow this story with bated breath…


  12. Helen Leung

    Hi, one of my good friends, and fellow UOW alumni directed me to this blog post. (We’re both final year medical students now.) I’ve been following the whooping cough story on and off, and am quite aware of the blatant misinformation that is pumped out by the AVN about vaccinations.

    However, despite how unsavoury these characters are, I don’t think it’s fair to attack UOW for letting one of them to do a PhD. I think her PhD thesis should be awarded on its own merits, even if she has outrageously stupid ideas on vaccination, immunology or science in general. I have enough faith in the PhD process to believe that if her thesis is a regurgitation of AVN-type propaganda, her 2 independent accessors would not let her pass.

    I’ve spent 3 years working in a lab environment after I finished my biotech degree at UOW. It is the norm for PhD students to have in their email footer that their a PhD candidate, at X institution. To be addressed as such, like Dave Ingram above said, is just a job description, and no one would or should believe that whatever they say is the view of the institution that they are working in.

    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      I completely disagree, Helen. Ms Wilyman is not a first year PhD candidate. She’s not even a THIRD year PhD candidate. She’s been at this interminably . Surely a responsible supervisor should have picked up by now that she’s exploiting her status as a PhD candidate to give weight to her unscientific drivel. Why is she still taking up the time (and supposedly money) of the University? If I had repeatedly turned up at my supervisor’s office with wild hypotheses which relied on insubstantial or discredited evidence, rejected mainstream scientific consensus in favour of my own uninformed opinions, and exploited my ideological bias and status as a PhD candidate to spew out utter rubbish, I would very soon have been shown the door! That’s not even taking into account that ideological bias recklessly endangers children’s lives and callously distresses the parents of a deceased child! But then, I went to a very reputable university! Have you READ Toni McCaffery’s response to the misinformation put about by the likes of Dorey and Wilyman over Dana’s death? http://www.scribd.com/doc/75952629/Toni-McCaffery-s-Response-to-AVN-Article-A-Grieving-Family-and-Baseless-Accusations

      1. Helen Leung

        Yes, I am aware that the McCaffery family has been subjected to a campaign of continuous harassment by this lot.

        But without knowing the contents of her thesis, we do not know whether or not she is including her misinformed ideas in said thesis. And it is on the basis of her thesis (+/- scholarly publications) that she would be awarded a PhD. Even if she has ugly beliefs and a ugly personality, these are not the qualities that are relevant to getting a PhD.

        It is rather unfair to attack a university solely based on one of their many many students. I am now a student of the university of sydney. There are people who have been killers, rapists, etc who have graduated from USyd, but a reasonable person surely, would not confuse the reputation of these individuals with that of their alma mater.

      2. Guy

        Many universities now say to students who have taken too long that they have to submit their thesis or quit. The biggest reason for this is economic, PhDs are only funded for a certain time and if students continue un-funded then academic staff have to spend their time on supervision for free. There is also the potential problem that Gladys identified that universities will admit people to a PhD who simply want to use the status of PhD candidate, seemingly indefinitely, for credibility. However, I suspect that this is a small enough sub-set of people that the economic argument for limiting PhD enrollment alone should be enough to weed them out after a few years of unproductive enrollment.

    2. g2-5bba245eb6db01d36e28de6648a6336a


      So how would you suggest the university handle a student who uses the good name of that university to harass parents who have lost a child and to call into disrepute other profesionals who have gained both academic achievements and practical experience ?

      Are you in favor of saying ” Oh dear, well there is nothing I can do ? ” and looking the other way ?

      When should concerned citizens make a stand and say things are not acceptable ?

    3. g moore

      That thesis does not have any merit and it taints every degree-tell the uni not us. What’s this ‘directed to post’ bit-in this country you make your own decisions

  13. Gary Y

    Thank you for detailing this sordid story Chrys. I find Wilyman’s behaviour infuriating and absolutely intolerable. Over to you, UOW.

  14. g2-5bba245eb6db01d36e28de6648a6336a

    I am attempting to the the name and contact details for the PVC Academic Research from Gong Uni

    I will be sending a letter to the mercury as well

    their email is letters@illawarramercury.com.au

    get annoyed and get vocal ! ( be polite till their ears bleed 🙂

  15. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

    @Helen On the contrary, it is the University’s responsibility to ensure that work being done under its auspices meets a minimum standard of academic and ethical responsibility.

    What I am calling for here is for the University to review Ms Wilyman’s candidature. It seems, despite years in the making, a thesis is yet to eventuate from her. What is the quality of her research? From where is she drawing her sources? Is there any evidence of ideological bias in her written papers? Does her supervisor appear to share this ideological bias? Should Ms Wileyman’s candidature be terminated? Or should she, perhaps, be placed under the supervision of someone who hasn’t drunk the same kool-aid?

    I’m not asking for her to be summarily dismissed. I’m asking for a proper investigation.

    As a student of U of W whose achievements will be devalued if this person ever gets a PhD I would think you’d be pushing for that, too.

    1. Helen Leung

      I don’t think that awarding Ms Wilyman a PhD will devalue my own achievements. I studied biotechnology, she’s a student in the social sciences. These are very different fields, and UOW has a very strong science faculty.

      What I think you’re calling for is something that already happens routinely for PhD students. There are higher degrees committees [separate from the student’s supervisor] that regularly meet with PhD candidates to review what work they have already done, discuss their progress and their plans for what work they’re doing next, etc. When they don’t meet the requirements of the committee, people are kicked out.

      1. g2-5bba245eb6db01d36e28de6648a6336a

        that leaves the serious question of why Ms Wilyman is still a student ?

        If a university is involved in a scandal of this nature it effects the public standing of every student and staff member in the eyes of the public.

      2. andiyar

        It is probably worth pointing out that Ms. Wilyman is not undertaking research in the science faculty, rather her supervisor is a professor of social studies in the Arts faculty. Her thesis actually is titled “A critical analysis of the Australian government’s rationale for its vaccination policy.”

        As for devaluing the degree, being as I’m the friend mentioned earlier and am in my final year of medicine at UOW, I don’t know that I’d agree. There are a lot of crackpot PhD’s around the world, and I don’t see that many people pointing the finger at the institution. Additionally, I’m pretty sure than any employer worth their salt knows the difference between a PhD (Arts) and a PhD (Biology), for instance.

        Considering she is doing her PhD in a field that is relatively ‘woo’ there may be an argument to the contrary here, but you’re assuming that she will a) complete it and b) defend it successfully. If it’s presented as a political document without any of the junk science that the AVN-movement believes in, then the case is different. If it touches on scientific argument and argues from an unscientific background, I sincerely doubt it would be accepted.

        As Helen states above, it’s doubtful that she’d get through the committee process, which already fills the role you’re calling for, being investigation of research degrees. If you want to make this more overt, I suppose contacting the ethics committee or research vice-chancellor might be the way to go.

        Ultimately for me though, yes, she’s expressing a harmful opinion in a public forum, which I vehemently disagree with, but I don’t think it is necessarily integral to her being a PhD student, being as her PhD is not a scientific one.

      3. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

        Meanwhile, she exploits her position as a PhD Candidate as U of W to give weight to her woo. If you’re happy with that, fine, but I stand by my comment that it brings the university into disrepute and devalues the degrees of every student in the institution as it speaks to the university’s tolerance for poor research and questionable ethics.

      4. andiyar

        I wouldn’t agree that her actions and declaring herself a PhD candidate are bringing the university into dispute, rather the university’s response to those actions would be the judging factor. Has the university come out and announced their acceptance (or dissatisfaction) of Ms Wilyman’s statements online? I doubt, to be honest, that anyone in a position of authority at the university is as yet even aware of them; and again, depending on the substance of her actual thesis, they can quite rightly question their relevance.

        A question: she’s doing a PhD in social sciences. If she was doing a PhD in history, which she fulfilled with aplomb and presented a satisfactory thesis, would you have any concerns about the university granting her the doctorate? If she’s fulfilled the criteria and presented a satisfactory thesis, I don’t think it is fair to withhold her the qualification she has earned, regardless of her personal beliefs and craziness regarding vaccines and other quakery/pseudoscience.

        Even her current thesis could be construed as a defensible one, depending on what is in it – I don’t know. I haven’t read it. I admit I would look at it with a massively critical eye, because I am *aware* of her background and views, but those views should not be allowed to colour her actual research and work.

        As to the university’s role, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was engaged in paid employment from the uni at the moment, as a tutor or somesuch in an Arts subject, being as since her PhD was started in 2007 I doubt she’d have any grant resources still forthcoming. Does that bother me? Not unless she uses the classroom as a platform for her views; as long as she fulfils her role of an educator to the appropriate degree then she is welcome to hold whatever views she wants.

        Her ‘abusing’ her status as PhD candidate isn’t really an issue for me, because she is a *candidate*. Doesn’t mean she’ll be granted a doctorate, it just means she has a sympathetic advisor and managed to get through the grants process. Unless her grant application and her prospectus specifically states that she is undertaking junk research, and unless there has been a suggestion of the same raised at independent thesis review committees, I don’t think it is relevant.

        As for bringing other degrees into disrepute, I do disagree. She hasn’t achieved her PhD. According to her profile, she has a Bachelor of Education (I believe from U of W) and I don’t think granting her that degree affects my viewpoint of the university whatsoever. Why should it, universities graduate thousands of undergrads and hundreds of postgraduates, every year. Unless she is claiming to represent the university in a formal fashion – using a university email, letterhead, funding for that kind of thing – all of her views are personal ones, and I judge them on their individual merit. Yes, I find them incredibly wanting – but they reflect upon her, not upon whichever institution she claims to be from, not until and unless it vindicates them.

  16. g2-5bba245eb6db01d36e28de6648a6336a

    Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)
    Prof Judy Raper
    Email: jraper@uow.edu.au

    Executive Assistant to Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)
    Tracy Panton
    Ph: (02) 4221 3915 tpanton@uow.edu.au

    Dean of Research
    Prof. Tim Marchant
    E-mail: tim@uow.edu.http://www.uow.edu.au/index.html

    Administrative Assistant to Dean of Research
    Ms Joell Murray
    Ph: (02) 4221 5990 joell_murray@uow.edu.a

    Ethics Manager
    Libby McMahon
    Ph: (02) 4221 4457
    Email: elizabeth_mcmahon@uow.edu.au
    Ethics Officers
    Ms Maret Oser-Tamm
    Ph: (02) 4221 5014
    Email: maret@uow.edu.au
    Ms Penny Potter
    Ph: (02) 4221 3350
    Email: pennyp@uow.edu.au
    Ethics Assistants
    Ms Sabine Holz (Mon, Tues, Wed)
    Ph: (02) 4221 3773
    Email: sholz@uow.edu.au
    Ms Cheryl Jecht (Wed, Thurs, Fri)
    Ph: (02) 4221 8074
    Email: cjecht@uow.edu.au

  17. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

    You may not think it devalues your degree, Helen, but there are many who will. Wollongong has already targeted by Friends of Science in Medicine for promoting ‘woo’ – and Wilyman, I suspect, is symptomatic of this ‘soft on science’ approach. If I were an employer, I’d be very wary of the credentials of someone holding a degree from such an institution.

    “Group co-founder Emeritus Professor John Dwyer from the University of NSW said that FSM wants “vice-chancellors to ask their deans of science what’s the heck’s going on … It’s just extraordinary that such undisciplined nonsense is being taught in universities around Australia.””


  18. g2-5bba245eb6db01d36e28de6648a6336a

    above are the contact details for research at the uni of Wollongong

    let them know you are displeased

  19. Helen Leung

    It is a shame, I think, when people judge a potential employee’s worth by the name of their university. Having built a solid record of academic achievement + publications in high impact factor journals + work experience at well-regarded research institutions, if someone dismisses me simply because I chose to do my first degree at UOW, the university of my home town, it is rather unfortunate for them, and really their loss.

    What is this ‘woo’ you spoke of?

    Wilyman’s work is done under the Faculty of Arts, it being in the social studies. It isn’t science.

  20. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

    I understand her candidature comes under (at least in part) the Department of Environmental Health and Earth Science. She is certainly challenging the scientific consensus on vaccination and the scientific opinions of qualified doctors, scientists and immunologists. Regardless, just because someone is doing an Arts degree doesn’t mean they can abandon scientific method. We Arts graduates (generally) just don’t ‘make it all up’ you know, we are (and should be) held to the same high standards of academic accountability as students in any of the sciences. I certainly was.

  21. Helen Leung

    It appears, at least in a recent UOW newsletter, that she is a student of the School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication,


    ( I am definitely not accusing arts students of just making things up in their work!! )

    I am not denying that she has publicly, on numerous occasions, pronounced ludicrous ideas on science.

    However, what she writes in her thesis is not on the public record, as far as I can tell. We do not know that in her academic work, she has abandoned the rigours of academic accountability. And my position is that as long as her academic work stands up to tests of its quality, it is unjust to deny her her degree even if she is an awful person, who has done awful things.

    1. Guy

      Helen, most PhD thesis completed in the past decade in Australia are fully available on-line, usually from the library of the university where the PhD was completed. If Ms Wilyman completes her PhD it will be a publicly available document.

  22. moldor

    It’s time someone sued the living daylights out of the AVN and these idiots who espouse crap.

    In fact, I believe they are guilty of a criminal act – to wit, dispensing medical advice without a licence.

    They have the right to their opinion, however they have NO RIGHT to publicly express that opinion unless they can back it up with scientific FACT

  23. Abbie Noiraude

    Thank you for another important blog, Chrys.
    We are soon to be grandparents and our daughter ( sensibly and responsibly) asked us if our whooping cough vaccinations were up to date as we are going down to Melbourne to be there to support her and her husband during the birth.
    We had two years ago been tested for whooping cough and found our childhood immunisation was no longer viable so were promptly updated ( booster).

    If these people ( ‘these people’ being those who choose to put their and other peoples babies at risk) choose to go unvaccinated, then they should be ‘card carrying’ members of the ‘unvaccinated group’ so they can be refused entry to anywhere where large groups of people gather.
    It has also been noticed that more elderly are contracting whooping cough resulting in making them very sick and more vulnerable to pneumonia etc.

    Those who do not want to be vaccinated must be known if they are going to mix with the very young and the very old and those with other health disorders They are putting these vulnerable Australians at risk.

    I am just trying not to show my anger, but I am losing ….

    So .
    Thanks Chrys.

  24. Guy

    I just looked up Judy Wilyman on the googles. She claims among her “publications” a piece for “Medical Veritas: The Journal of Truth in Health Science”, which appears to the be biggest wack-job nut-bar fruit-cake conspiracy rag I have ever seen. Seriously, this is what passes for a “publication” that she’d be happy to put her name on?

    1. fourgirlsmum

      Guy, Medical Veritas has an editor named Michael Primero (p42 http://www.medicalveritas.com/MVIEditors.pdf ) who commenced a PhD at UoW under the supervision of Brian Martin who is supervising Ms Wilyman. He never completed his PhD at UoW (his area of research was also an anti-vax one, from memory), however his personal website is even more bizarre than Medical Veritas (if that’s possible!):

  25. Jared

    I wonder what Ms Wilyman will call herself if UoW gives her a PhD?
    that would be Dr Wilyman…
    Do you think she will point out that she is not a medical doctor?

  26. Dave P

    UoW – boooooooooooooo! Massive boo. Am writing in now. Excellent article Chrys – this is a great blog site. How can a uni stand by someone proliferating such damaging rubbish? I would NEVER go to such a university if I knew they permitted this type of thing. Yes, murderers and rapists etc. go to universities, but presumably they wouldn’t be allowed to stay if they murder/rape/do harm? From the sounds of it, this whack job is harming.

  27. Laurie Mann

    We live in a world where science, which has helped give us longer, more healthy lives and is under attack from various sides. Sad, and I’m sorry children are now dying due to willful refusal to understand that vaccinations are part of the reason we’re all living longer.

  28. Justin

    I must say, if I had watched my baby die like that, and then had to read what has been placed in front of the McCaffery family, no vaccine in the world would protect Wilyman and Dorey from my reaction. The family have shown patience and dignity far beyond anything I could muster under the circumstances. May the rest of their lives be peaceful, fortunate and filled with all kindness. They sure have earned it. I’m a PhD candidate to. So f**king what.

  29. Rose

    My sister’s two teenage daughters have been at home for a month with whooping cough, and are staying away from their grandparents until they’re well. I understand, please correct me if I’m wrong, that the pertussis vaccine is not necessarily effective against all strains? I’m planning to get vaccinated anyway, before visiting my sister and parents (they live in NZ, also experiencing a pertussis epidemic…).

  30. Ken McLeod

    The University of Wollongong has issued the following statement:

    Articles and associated comments published by Judy Wilyman on the internet, on vaccination issues, are her own personal views and not those of the University.

    Judy Wilyman is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Wollongong through the Faculty of Arts.

    She has followed all the necessary procedures required of her, including ethical guidelines set down by the University, in the course of her candidature.

    The University of Wollongong strongly supports the rights of academic freedom for people to openly express their points of view.

    Libby McMahon | Ethics Manager
    Research Services Office
    Building 20, level 1
    University of Wollongong | NSW | 2522

    T + 61 2 4221 4457
    E emcmahon@uow.edu.au

  31. Rohan Gaiswinkler

    Hopefully, the University of WOOlongong will one day be the University of WOOlongGONE!

  32. Pingback: On academic freedom and ethics | complexitydaemon

  33. Pingback: Why Wollongong’s abdication of responsibility for Wilyman won’t wash « Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear

  34. Pingback: Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear

  35. S

    I am very surprised by the statement from the university. What kind of half-assed ethical standards does the University of Wollongong have if her actions meet them. It will be hard not to consider these low standards when I meet graduates in the future.

  36. Veronique

    Reblogged this on V's Blog and commented:
    I have posted about this ages ago. Now it is being brought up again by an unscrupulous woman purporting to add credence to her drivel by posting her academic status. In my opinion that status should be cancelled and her studies banned from academic life. It demeans academia. Oh! I am very cross all over again.

  37. Anon

    I understand the concerns relating to the ethical standards at the UoW. However, as someone has already mentioned further upthread, this situation is a little different. Wilyman’s PhD is currently essentially a lit review with no active research component. Therefore, no application has been made to the Ethics committee. I believe there may have been an internal ethics process within the social science faulty but this was withdrawn.

    As no Ethics application needs to be made for a lit review no ethics approval was given. It is a tightly defined role the Ethics Committee has and does not cover code of conduct and professional ethics. I would not expect that any actions of the UoW to be made public. The University will have to make its own assessment of the reputation damage and how to respond.

    The titling of the PhD is also a little misleading. It appears that Judy Wilyman’s main involvement has been with policy analysis which she has extended to what is a review of ‘Environmental Policy’. However, immunisation does not fall under Environmental Policy and it is being done through the Arts faculty as mentioned before. It’s an Arts issue, not related to Science.

    Her supervisor has also had involvement with some ineresting topics if you link to his page through UoW.

  38. Pingback: I’d like to thank the Academy … « Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear

  39. Pingback: Judy Wilyman: immune to vaccination facts | Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear

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