UCL Division of Biosciences


What is the current position?

There has been a limited retraction of some of the false statements in the radio interview.  In particular, the claim that the BritainsDNA service is "massively subsidised" was eventually admitted to be false, after many months and repeated requests for clarification, but only on the Genomes Unzipped website and not on the BritainsDNA website, which is where listeners who heard the false claims were directed. While making some welcome corrections on Genomes Unzipped, Jim Wilson introduced new falsehoods that have not been retracted.  The legal threat and its untrue claims made by BritainsDNA against DJB and MGT have not been retracted.  The misleading claims in BritainsDNA press releases have not been rectified.  While complaints have been upheld against Mr Moffat by St Andrews University and, eventually, the BBC, he seems to have done little to redress the problems that caused the complaints.

The flow of exaggerated claims and media manipulation from BritainsDNA continues. There was more nonsense in the Daily Mail in February 2014, on BBC local radio in March, in The Herald in April and June. In July a number of papers including The Independent and the Scottish Daily Record carried a make-believe story that the red-hair gene was on the way out because of climate change.

Daily Mail nonsense Feb 2014

Debbie Kennett reviews Mr Moffat's BBC local radio interview in March 2014

- East-West divide story in The Herald

- Genetic genocide and porridge story in The Herald

- Red hair and climate change story in The Independent and the Scottish Daily Record

On the positive side, the new tests offered by BritainsDNA are better, and the interpretation of the results may have also improved.

- A review of the Chromo 2 test from BritainsDNA

While BritainsDNA must bear responsibility for their actions, the role of their lawyers in exacerbating the problem should not be overlooked. DJB and MGT have been informally advised by those familiar with libel threats used against scientists that the letter they received (see 3/9/12 on the timeline page) was among the worst, and represented low professional standards.  It was foreseeable that making legal threats against academic colleagues to try to silence their criticisms would create considerable damage to the reputation of BritainsDNA.  No reasonable person could have expected the threatening letter to achieve its stated objectives, and the risks to the company from its provocative language and unreasonable demands must have been obvious.

DJB and MGT are very grateful to then UCL Provost Professor Malcolm Grant who, without any briefing from them, immediately understood the nature of the threat from BritainsDNA, responded appropriately and continued to be supportive.  The team at Sense about Science were also very supportive and gave much helpful advice. Debbie Kennett has continued to provide valuable information and advice.  Her blogs, and those by Vincent Plagnol (Genomes Unzipped) and David Colquhoun (DC's Improbable Science) have been invaluable in getting the facts to a wider public. Adrian Timpson has been a star in creating this website and helping to improve its content.  Most of all, MGT and DJB are very grateful to many academic colleagues, and complete strangers, who without any orchestration supported them through comments on blog sites, cutting through the distractions and inaccuracies posted by BritainsDNA.

Sense about Science

Debbie Kennett's blog

Genomes Unzipped

DC's improbable science