The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


The Fabulist and the Publisher
A Journalistic and Academic Fraud Exposed

To Our Readers

Between 2016 and 2019 a writer named John Anthony Glynn, whose biography includes a Ph.D. in psychology and professorships of psychology at several universities, had four articles published in Skeptic and eSkeptic (the online edition of print Skeptic). While we edited and fact-checked his articles, we did not verify his biographical claims and we were duped. A number of red flags that emerged over the past few months led to an investigation that revealed Mr. Glynn faked his Ph.D. As the Publisher and Editor of Skeptic I should have been more alert to these red flags and I take full responsibility for the publication of these articles under the pretense of his unearned expertise. I apologize to our readers and promise that from now on we will be more vigilant in our fact-checking. A Ph.D. is not required to publish in Skeptic, but fabricating one is disqualifying. Further research revealed that Mr. Glynn represented himself as a Ph.D. psychologist to several academic institutions (academic fraud), and under those credentials he published over 40 articles in 15 different publication outlets in 2019 alone (journalistic fraud). The extent of this calculated, systematic, and repeated deception warrants publishing our findings, the details of which follow.

In 2016 Skeptic magazine published an article on “Guns and Games: The Relationship Between Violent Video Games and Gun Crimes in America” (Vol. 21, No. 1) by John Anthony Glynn, who identified himself as a Ph.D. psychologist and as a professor of psychology. After that initial publication he began emailing me regularly (120 times this past year), pitching stories on a variety of topics, including the evolutionary origins of humor, online gaming, cybercrime, masculinity, political correctness, social credits and privacy, dopamine, and suicide. In one email he clarified that he earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Hertfordshire in England. In another email he claimed “I am head of behavioral science at a medical school, XUSOM” (Xavier University School of Medicine in Aruba, an island off the coast of Venezuela), on the pretense of inviting me to speak there. More recently, he told me that he was applying for a professorship of psychology at the American University of Bahrain, Manama, for which he asked me to be a reference. On April 13, 2019 he told me that he got the job. On April 25, however, I received an email that should have set off my skeptical alarms more than it did, in which he asked to borrow money after, he said, Xavier Medical School “is a fraud, pure and simple; it lacks knowledgeable faculty, basic facilities” and he was never paid, but that he would pay me back upon his new professorship at the American University of Bahrain. (Note: this article (archived version) from August 2018 says Xavier Medical School received its full accreditation, and this article (archive) from June 2019 says its new campus is under construction).

I declined to lend him money, but felt a twinge of empathy for him, so I kept the communication channels open. Perhaps I should have taken a cue from an August 20, 2019 email where he inquired if I had… “Any interest in another piece discussing the proliferation of experts who actually lack expertise?” In all, we published four articles by Mr. Glynn, two in print, two online:

  • “Guns and Games: The Relationship Between Violent Video Games and Gun Crimes in America” (print Skeptic, Vol. 21, No. 1)
  • “1984 in 2019: The New Privacy Threat from China’s Social Credit Surveillance System” (print Skeptic, Vol. 24, No. 2)
  • “Concept Creep and the Policing of Words” (online only, removed)
  • “Why People Die by Suicide” (online only, removed)

When he pitched the last article we published by him on suicide, Glynn assured me “As a psychologist, I would of course handle such a piece with care.”

Two of my former graduate students, and now professors, who also conduct research for Skeptic, became curious about Mr. Glynn’s credentials. They began by simply checking to see if Glynn was a professor of psychology at the American University of Bahrain (archive). Since the university wasn’t even open (it is supposed to open this Fall), that didn’t look promising, and his prior claimed professorship as the head of behavioral science at the Xavier University School of Medicine in Aruba was, by his own admission, a bust.

After we could not locate any kind of faculty profile or curriculum vitae online with more information about his background, we next turned to Glynn’s claimed Ph.D. degree. In various biographies since at least 2013, John Anthony Glynn has claimed to hold a doctoral degree from the University of London, and a master’s and a doctoral degree from the University of Hertfordshire. We attempted to locate a thesis by him using publicly available online databases, but came up empty-handed. A staff member from EThOS, the United Kingdom’s theses service, confirmed that there is no record of a thesis by someone with his name from the United Kingdom. A representative from the University of London (Goldsmith) confirmed that no one by that name received a degree from them. A representative from the University of Hertfordshire confirmed that they also could not find any records of someone with his name. I asked Mr. Glynn about these claims. He replied (August 24, 2019):

I never ever said that I attended the University of London. I did say that Hertfordshire is located near the city of London. Maybe this got lost in translation. Regarding proof that I attended the University of Hertfordshire, please find the scan of my PhD and transcript attached.

Here are the documents Glynn sent me:

I shared these documents with my associates and within an hour they sent a URL to a site (archive) that can produce that exact same diploma within minutes (for a price, of course, and apparently for any university of one’s choosing).

As a result, we then contacted multiple representatives at the University of Hertfordshire again, this time sharing the documents Mr. Glynn had provided. A representative from the Exams & Awards Office confirmed that these were fabricated documents:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your email.

This document is not a genuine degree certificate from the University of Hertfordshire and has not been issued by the University. The University of Hertfordshire has robust systems in place to register students and document their progress and study outcomes. Fraudulent certificates can easily be identified by the University and confirmed as such from our secure systems and processes.

Kind regards

Exams & Awards Office
University of Hertfordshire
College Lane
Hatfield
Herts, AL10 9AB
Tel: 0044 (0)1707 281111

For more information go to the Exams & Awards Studynet page

I sent this letter to Glynn and asked “What is going on here?” He replied: “I am sorry, Michael. I never meant any harm. However, I’m no fraud.” I asked for further clarification: “Did you or did you not attend the University of Hertfordshire? Did you fake that diploma? Please give me the full story now of what is really happening.” Glynn then confessed:

Michael, I deceived you. But please know that I never plagiarized any essay. Also, although I have taught at university, I have never, ever practiced as a psychologist. Never! And I never will. I worked in Korea, but at a language school, not university.

This was followed by a plea to keep the matter private.

Someone who would lie to this extent could be lying about not plagiarizing his work, so we ran the four Skeptic articles through the Turnitin plagiarism program. The results were negative; that is, he does not appear to have plagiarized the articles we published. We did not check the articles published elsewhere. For many (although not all) of these 26 publications Mr. Glynn either directly or indirectly claimed to hold a doctorate degree:

  • American Greatness
  • The American Spectator
  • Areo
  • Arts and Social Sciences Journal
  • The Federalist
  • FrontPage Mag
  • Huffington Post
  • Humor Times
  • I am Hip-hop Magazine
  • Journal of Nutritional Health & Food Engineering
  • Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences
  • Last Word on Sports
  • Media Watch
  • MOOT (moot.ie)
  • OZY
  • Psych Central
  • Psychology Tomorrow
  • Quillette
  • South China Morning Post
  • Spiked-Online
  • Standpoint Magazine
  • WhatCulture.com
  • The Young Folks
  • American Thinker
  • Spectator UK
  • Spectator Australia

The most egregious of the trove was an article Mr. Glynn wrote for Standpoint (June 26, 2019) titled “Overrated: PhDs” (archive), in which, with (in hindsight) ironic mockery, he proclaims:

Is it worth pursuing a PhD? Sometimes, yes. If you wish to carve out a meaningful career in academia, a PhD is a must. However, if academia is not for you, think very carefully before signing up. After years of toil working towards a PhD in clinical psychology, I have been lucky enough to find a secure lecturing job.

Here is a sampling of articles from some of the publications, which will likely be taken down soon after this exposé is published. The number of feature-length articles he produced in such a short period of time is, frankly, unbelievable.

In conclusion, Mr. Glynn has repeatedly lied about having graduate degrees and it would be inaccurate to refer to him as a psychologist. Additionally, it appears to be the case that Mr. Glynn has used these fabricated documents to acquire academic positions outside of the United States. It would have been easy to quietly redact Mr. Glynn’s articles from Skeptic and leave it at that, given that he is not as prominent a writer as Stephen Glass or Jason Blair, who duped The New Republic and The New York Times (respectively) with fabricated stories. And although Glynn’s fraud is of a different nature than that of Glass and Blair, the extent of the journalistic deception and the seriousness of the credentialing swindle (especially the forged diploma and fraudulently-acquired faculty positions, which are truly horrendous), I ultimately decided it would be judicious to publish the results of our investigation at this point so other publications and academic institutions can be on the alert. Although Skeptic publishes many non-academic authors without graduate degrees, writing under the credentialing status of a Ph.D. is grossly unfair to all the people who labored to obtain their credentials legitimately, so this fraud is far from victimless. In addition to its threat to pollute the credence of Skeptic — and intellectual discourse more broadly — such acts undercut the integrity of journalism and academia in general because falsus in uno, falsus in omnibusfalse in one thing, false in everything. END

About the Author

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the host of the Science Salon Podcast, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University where he teaches Skepticism 101. For 18 years he was a monthly columnist for Scientific American. He is the author of New York Times bestsellers Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain, Why Darwin Matters, The Science of Good and Evil, and The Moral Arc. His new book is Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality & Utopia. Follow @michaelshermer.

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