Category: Lecture

Human Factors in ME/CFS research

I will be speaking in Belfast tonight, at the Hope 4 ME & Fibro NI annual conference, on the topic of human factors in ME/CFS research. Here’s one of my slides…


The full title of my presentation is Off the PACE and not NICE: Challenges with Evidence in ME/CFS.

(I tweaked that subtitle a couple of times. For reasons.)

I plan to look at the nature of research error as it affects medical and healthcare research more broadly, and — of course — research into ME/chronic fatigue syndrome more specifically. Let’s just say that there is plenty of material to discuss.

Other speakers at the event include Caroline Kingdon of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and David Systrom of Brigham & Womens Hospital, Boston, and Harvard Medical School, who is the keynote.

As always, the organisational efforts of Hope 4 ME & Fibro NI, led by the unstoppable Joan McParland, have been hugely impressive.

Proceedings will be recorded so stay tuned for a video in due course…

World tour continues


An announcement from the Irish Skeptics Society, just circulated:

Dear all,

On Wednesday next, May 11th, we are very happy to welcome back Professor Brian Hughes, School of Psychology, NUIG, who will speak on the topic of his recently published radical and challenging book ‘Rethinking Psychology-Good Science, Bad Science, Pseudoscience’

Date and Time: Wednesday May 11th at 8.00pm
Location: Wynn’s Hotel, Abbey St., Dublin 1
Speaker: Professor Brian Hughes, School of Psychology, NUIG
Title: ‘Rethinking Psychology-Good science, Bad science, Pseudoscience’
Admission: €3 (Members and concessions); €6 (Non-members)

Brian has outlined his presentation as follows:

Psychology is a science that impinges on mental health, education, industry, public health, applied social policy, and social attitudes. Unsurprisingly, it is one of the most popular science subjects in universities around the world. Nonetheless, psychology regularly attracts practitioners — and academics — who hold negative views about science or who lack scientific rigour. This lecture examines the various technical risks, biases, and scientific shortcomings that undermine the capacity of psychology to assert its claim to be a rigorous scientific discipline. It will be argued that psychology is marred from within by widespread tolerance for pseudoscientific attitudes amongst psychologists. Such problems afflict all areas of psychology, including those typically identified as the ‘most scientific’. It will also be argued that bad science in psychology impedes the general public’s understanding of all science, and undermines the dignity with which we humans – as a self-conscious species – view our own behaviour.

* * *

In due course, details of the talk will be posted here.

Wynn’s Hotel is a classy joint in Dublin city centre. For those interested, it was badly damaged during the 1916 Easter Rising — so allow me to gratuitously now claim a connection with the centenarian zeitgeist, just like everyone else seems to be doing these days. It is said that the guests at Wynn’s sat at their dining tables watching the mayhem unfold on the streets as if they were an audience watching a theatrical performance. That was until the hotel itself was bombed, at which point the guests fled, using a table-cloth as a makeshift white flag. What began as apparent entertainment ended as a life-threatening crisis that undermined the very fabric of society. But don’t worry, I am pretty sure that we won’t have anything like that next Wednesday.

Pretty sure.


“The Point of Psychology (and How it Gets Missed)”: Director’s cut

Okay, the official movie — featuring full slides and audio — has been made…

Thanks to Chris Noone for the soundtrack (from the official PSI EGG talking-head version); background to the keynote as per here and here.

As a reminder, the audience was a national conference of early career psychology graduates, the conference theme concerned the place of psychology in society, and the abstract I set for myself was as follows:

The Point of Psychology (and How it Gets Missed)

The point of psychology is, and always has been, to use scientific methods to resolve uncertainties in our understanding of the human condition. Nonetheless, many audiences seek to imbue psychology with some kind of mission to “improve people’s well-being” (whatever that means), to “encourage positive behaviours” (whatever they are), or to cure mental ill-health by means of laying-on-of-hands.

In addition, psychology often projects itself as a politically liberal (as opposed to conservative) discipline, despite being an overwhelmingly white, middle class, middle-aged, male academic field shaped by a century of Euro-American hegemony.

This talk will examine these themes, and include at least one joke.

To be fair, people did laugh at the joke.


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