The Dysology Hypothesis

Letting scholars get away with publishing fallacies and myths signals to others the existence of topics where guardians of good scholarship might be less capable than elsewhere. Such dysology then serves as an allurement to poor scholars to disseminate existing myths and fallacies and to create and publish their own in these topic areas, which leads to a downward spiral of diminishing veracity on particular topics.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Another Braced Myth?

What is the most effective way to challenge orthodoxy, knowledge consensus, pseudoscience, junk science and apparently simple claptrap?

Michael Shermer is the founder and Editor in Chief of the Skeptic magazine. Shermer’s position has long been that the most effective way to challenge fallacies and myths is to publish from a position of seeking to understand rather than ridicule (Shermer 1997). The same conclusions have been put forward by Hyman (2001) and Loxton (2011). But how do they know they are right? This is a strangely unexplored area and it is surely perverse that these leading and acknowledged healthy sceptics should accept their own intuitive and appealing beliefs in this area albeit supported in part by anecdotal evidence possibly gathered from an unintentional position of confirmation bias. For all we know, sceptics in their aim to be effective myth busters have created anotherbraced myth. Because ridicule, done the right way, might possibly turn out to be the most effective way to spread the word that certain myths are busted and to stop others from publishing claptrap.

More research is needed. And from that cause I have created as a sibling site to

Mike Sutton (2011)


Hyman, R. (2001) Proper Criticism. The Skeptical Inquirer. Volume 24. 4th July. Available free online from The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

Loxton, D. (2011) What Is the Most Effective Way To Be A Skeptic: The Great Debate Between Confrontational Activism v. Educational Outreach. Skeptic. Vol. 16. N0. 4. pp 13-17.

Shermer, M. (1997) Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition and other confusions of our time. London. Souvenir Press.

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Market Reduction Approach to Theft

Evidence of Mike Sutton's Policy Impact

I am the originator of the Market Reduction Approach to theft (MRA), and my research in this area has, for more than a decade, influenced government policy advice and policy making in Britain and elsewhere. Several British police forces have sought to reduce theft with the MRA. This is rather remarkable since the MRA has never been shown to be effective.

Clearly the MRA is a compelling crime reduction method, but I think that we should demand more than that of the approaches that are officially recommended as promising, good practice and effective.

Impact on policy of the MRA and other policy oriented criminology

In 1999, the MRA was implemented for the first time when Kent Constabulary sought to use it in its Operation Radium to reduce high levels of burglary and other theft in the Medway Towns of Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham, Rainham and Strood, which were given the collective pseudonym South Town (Home Office 2004). This initiative led to the passing of several local Acts of Parliament throughout England to regulate trade in second hand goods, with an aim to reduce Supply by Theft (Sutton 1995) including the Kent Acts (2001) and the Nottingham City Council Act (2003).

The MRA was mentioned at National Government level, along with my work in Parliamentary debate (Hansard 2000) and the Kent Acts later in Parliamentary Business (Hansard 2004). In 1999, the British Home Office funded the implementation of the MRA in three police forces: Kent, West Mercia and Stockport in Greater Manchester (Home Office 2006), followed by a Government funded evaluation by the University of Kent of the implementation and impact of the MRA in Kent and Greater Manchester (Harris, Hale and Uglow 2003; Hale et al (2004).

Other MRA schemes have been implemented in Britain in Nottinghamshire and Derby City constabularies. In 2011, the MRA was defined as a core policing practice and as a performance indicator by both Nottinghamshire Constabulary and the City’s Crime Reduction Partnership. I continue to publish in the area of tackling stolen goods markets (e.g. Sutton 2010) and advise police at local, national and international levels. I occasionally act as an unpaid ad-hoc informal ‘sceptical friend’ (academic advisor) for various police forces through meetings, email and telephone conversations. In 2011, I addressed a British audience of chief police officers through the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO National Burglary Reduction Working Group) on the subject of the MRA and the importance of veracity to inform policy in policing and crime reduction (7/9/2011).

Although the MRA has been promoted as ‘good practice’ by the British Government and has been used by several police forces, it has not proved possible to evaluate its impact in reducing crime due to a number of factors, not least the extent of confounding variables that impact upon crime rates at both the local and national level. Despite lack of evidence of its effectiveness in reducing crime, the UK Government, US Government, Australian Government and New Zealand Government (somewhat surprisingly) promote it as good ‘effective’ policing and general crime reduction practice:

UK Government Website promoting my MRA See page 9 USA Government’s Department of Justice COPS programme international problem-oriented Practitioners policing guide for tackling stolen goods markets to reduce theft
US Department of justice also added my Home Office MRA guide to its website and an influential briefing note.
My report on tackling stolen goods markets is also recommended reading in US Department of Justice “Mayors’ Guide to effective policing and crime prevention and the MRA is recommended as one of the 60 steps for crime problem solvers.
Australian Government’s Institute of Criminology
New Zealand Ministry of Justice and also here .

Wider Influence of my MRA on Criminology

The MRA has been quite widely cited in the peer reviewed literature on crime reduction by criminologists. The MRA is also covered in many textbooks, e.g.:
Felson and Boba (2010)
Hagan ( 2010)
Chamley (2003)
Bullock and Tilley (2003)
Hopkins Burke (2004)
Sheptycki and Wardak (2005)
See Wikipedia 2011; 2011a; 2011b for a reasonably comprehensive list).

Here are just a few examples of how the MRA has influenced and/or been cited as important research in other areas beyond the theft of high volume consumer goods:

Wildlife crime and endangered species

Schneider JL. (2008) ‘Reducing the Illicit Trade in Wildlife: The Market Reduction Approach’. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 24:274–95: And here.

Trafficking in Ivory: Lemieux, A.M. and Clarke, R.V. (2009) The International Ban on Ivory Sales and its Effects on Elephant Poaching in Africa. British Journal of Criminology. Vol. 49.

Trafficking in people

Reduce human trafficking: Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe Report (e.g. see page 1) Combatting Trafficking in Humans: Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe Report (e.g. see page 1)

Art and Cultural artefact crime

Theft and Trafficking of Art and Cultural Artefacts: Manacorda, S. and Chappell, D. (eds.) (2011) Crime in the Art and Antiques World: Illegal Trafficking in Cultural Property. New York. Springer.

Some Examples of the Impact of My Other Work on Crime Reduction and Bias and Prejudice Reduction Policy Guidance and Policy Making

Within England

Publication of Sutton, M. Perry, B. Parke J. and John-Baptiste, C. (2007) Getting the Message Across: Using media to reduce ‘racial’ prejudice. Department of Communities and Local Government. London. (Peer reviewed national government research report). Led to keynote speaking engagement with National and local government representatives and members of anti-racism organisations: where I was Keynote speaker at a forum held in Scotland and funded by the Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance (GARA). Subsequently, the Getting the Message Across report also used in a Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights submission to the Council of Europe Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Newcastle City Council relied upon the Getting the Message Across report to shape its policy making .

Within Scotland

On 26 August 2011, The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (formerly known as the Glasgow Anti Racist Alliance) sent a written submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee regarding the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland). Bill. The submission informed Parliament of the dangers of implementing uninformed racism reductions measures that are likely to backfire and make the problem worse. The submission cited the myth busting research contained within the ‘Getting the Message Across’ report (Sutton et al 2007). Policy making advice within the ‘Getting the Message Across’ report inspired the Glasgow Anti Racist Alliance (Now Coalition for Racial Equality and Human Rights - CREHR) to successfully apply for funding to test its recommendations. They wrote:

"The project was funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and used recommendations from the Communities and Local Government report “Getting the message across: using media to reduce racial prejudice and discrimination” (Sutton et al., 2007) as impetus to undertake a local research project.”

US Government Office of Justice

Click on ‘evidence base’ and ‘additional references’ at the end of the section in the report link given below to see how work I conducted in 1996 is used to construct a current US Office of Justice effective solutions guide . These sources were used in the development of the program profile, which lists: (1) Ekblom, P., Law, H. and Sutton, M. with assistance from Paul Crisp and Richard Wiggins. (1996). Safer Cities and Domestic Burglary. Home Office Research Study 164. London, England: Home Office; and (2) Sutton, M. (1996). Implementing Crime Prevention Schemes in a Multiagency Setting: Aspects of Process in the Safer Cities Programme. London, England: Home Office.
The US Government Office of Justice currently publishes a series of abstracts on my work. E.g.:

1. Crime Surveys in the 21st Century
2. Internet Crime

Other Academic Roles

Founding General Editor of the Internet Journal of Criminology.
Member of the editorial board of the Security Journal.
Founding Director of the Nottingham Centre for the Study and Reduction of Hate Crimes, Bias and Prejudice.
External Examiner for BA (Hons.) Criminology – BirminghamCity University

Within place of current employment (Nottingham Trent University):
Course Leader MA Criminology
Module leader for High Tech Crime
Module Leader for Crime Reduction and Community Safety
Member of Post Graduate Research Degrees Committee
Director of Studies for several PhD students


Notable Alumnus

Outside of the natural sciences, I was the first to be awarded a PhD at the University of Central Lancashire(UCL), where I am recognised as a notable alumnus due to my MRA concept. UCL use my notable work on the MRA as a prestige indicator in their promotions overseas. E.G: andhere .

My Research Reports in the UK National Archive

Several of my policy oriented research reports have been placed in the UK Government’s National Archive Collection. These include:

1.The Unit Fines Experiments
2. Safer Cities Evaluation
3. Handling Stolen Goods and the MRA


Hansard (2000). 1803-2005. 17th May. Kent County Council Bill (Lords) Commons Sitting – orders of the day. Vol. 350 cc.388-418. See also an extended debate in the House of Commons.

Hansard (2004) Written Answers. Bound Volume. Parliamentary Business. May 13, 2004. Column 573W—continued: Stolen Goods.

Harris, C. Hale, C and Uglow, S. (2003) Implementing a Market Reduction Approach to Property Crime. In: Tilley, N. and Bullock, K., (eds). Crime Reduction and Problem Oriented Policing. Devon, Willan.

Hale, C. Harris, C. Uglow, S. Gilling. L and Netten, A. (2004). Targeting the markets for stolen goods: two targeted policing initiative projects. Home Office Development and Practice Report 17.

Home Office (2004) Secure Design. Targeting the Markets for Stolen Goods: Two targeted policing initiative projects.

The National Archive: Home Office (2006) Tackling Burglary: Market Reduction Approach. Crime Reduction. The National Archive.

National Deviancy Conference (2011) Sutton, M, Hamilton, P., Long, M. and Hodgson, P. The Problem of Zombie Cops in Voodoo Criminology. National Deviancy Conference York. July/Aug.

Nottingham City Council Act (2003) Sutton, M. (1995) Supply by Theft: does the market for second-hand goods play a role in keeping crime figures high? British Journal of Criminology, Vol. 38, No 3, Summer.

Sutton, M. (2010) Stolen Goods Markets. Problem Oriented Policing Guide No. 57. U.S.A. Department of Justice COPS Programme. (Peer reviewed international policing guide.

Sutton, M. Perry, B. Parke J. and John-Baptiste, C. (2007) Getting the Message Across: Using media to reduce ‘racial’ prejudice. Department of Communities and Local Government. London.(Peer reviewed national government research report).

The Kent Acts (2001). A Case for National Legislation: Report to the Secretary of State in compliance with section 20 (1) of the Kent County Council Act 2001 and section 20 (1) of the Medway Council Act 2001

Wikipedia (2011) The Market Reduction Approach.

Wikipedia (2011a) Criminology.

Wikipedia (2011b) Mike Sutton (criminologist)

Friday, 23 September 2011

Veracity versus Claptrap: the Dysology Prize

Can non-experts recognise and challenge expert claptrap?

Is the Hot Clocking explanation for the ‘free energy’ excess heat that was said to have been produced in experiments in cold fusion a bad explanation because it explains the reason for something happening that probably never even happened in the first place?

To find out more click the Link to Professor Simon Berkovich’s article. In the comments section you’ll see me as a non-expert in the area of physics challenge Professor Berkovich (George Washington University) and the Nobel Laureate and Cambridge University Professor of Physics Brian D. Josephson. How can I do this?

Follow the debate as it unfolds further. So far, at the time of writing, Josephson has weirdly declined to take up the Dysology wager -will Berkovich also decline to put his reputation where his brain is?

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Crime Science Founded on a big Mistake

The Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science (University College London) was launched on a faulty understanding of scientific principles. Then, after 7 years (and several academic citations of it) UCL deleted the paper containing the big mistake.

Read the dysology here.

Sunday, 27 March 2011


I coined the term Dysology (bad scholarship) last week and have set up a website named to explore the usefulness of adopting a multidisciplinary approach to revealing and understanding the reasons for academic blind spots, bias, irrationality, lies, bullshit and myth mongering.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Braced Myths Wanted

In 2010 I discovered a problem that seems to have stemmed from orthodox experts engaging in unscholarly attempts to identify and bust myths. I discovered this problem while fact checking a most famous story of the impact of bad data on policy making.
I named the phenomenon the Braced Myth and defined it as precisely as I could.

Note: Braced Myths are started by orthodox experts and are then braced by orthodox expert sceptics who - by way of their own scholarship - think they are true and so use them, with painful irony, as examples of the need to be healthily sceptical.

Are you aware of a case where orthodox experts have created myths, fallacies, pseudo scholarship or other junk science that has then been believed by experts who, with unintentional irony, in turn, used it as an example to support the need to be sceptical of 'bad science', pseudo scholarship and other counterknowledge? As you can see, what I am looking for has three very specific components (1) the creation of a fallacy, myth or error by an orthodox expert and (2) it being used by another expert who in turn promotes it as being ‘true’ and (3) promotes it as a good example of the need to be healthily sceptical of that which is not so.

I suspect that braced myths are likely to be quite rare. But once found, each one will most certainly be a case of the most exquisite irony.

To date, I have found two examples where this has happened, which it led me to name them Braced Myths:

In 2011 I found my second braced myths. Both are in criminology.
What is the Social Significance of Braced Myths?

To seek to gauge the social significance of Braced Myths I am looking for further examples from any field of knowledge.

I would be most grateful if anyone could kindly let me know of any others. Email:

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Problem of Zombie Cops in Voodoo Criminology: A Criminological Braced Myth about Beat Patrol Policing is Busted

My recently updated and more detailed article entitled: The Problem of Zombie Cops in Voodoo Criminology can be found on the peer-to-peer Best Thinking site.

I recommend such web sites to anyone wishing to assert the provenance of their ideas prior to presenting them at conferences and in peer-reviewed publications.

Always remember when creating zombies in voodoo criminology: What you don't know can eat you!
Note: The Zombie Cop picture shown here was commissioned by me from the artist Marcus Jones. (Copyright Dr Mike Sutton: Not to be used without my express written permission). Marcus can be contacted via his online gallery website