A dispute over popular scientific books about nutrition spilled over onto Wikipedia and the British national press this week. In his weekly Guardian column on "Bad Science", Ben Goldacre claimed that the article about Patrick Holford has been edited by a user who was actually Holford's public relations agent, and as a result, the account was blocked.
Patrick Holford is the author of more than twenty books on nutrition and health and the founder of the Institute of Optimum Nutrition, and often appears on British television and radio programmes to promote his ideas. Goldacre, who has criticised Holford's approach before, noted that all criticism which was in his Wikipedia article had been removed on 22 December by Wikipedia user Clarkeola, whom he identified as Stephen Clarke of Fuel PR.
Goldacre reported that Clarke had been intending to add a defence of Patrick Holford and that the deletion was a mistake. After the deletion had been reverted by another user, Clarkeola added a section defending Holford against Goldacre's claims on 4 January. However, administrator Robdurbar indefinitely blocked the account on 6 January as a 'meatpuppet'. The defence provided by Clarkeola has subsequently been incorporated in the text of the article by other editors.
Other than his edits on Patrick Holford, Clarkeola also wrote short entries on the Food for the Brain Foundation and the Brain Bio Centre, two entities for which Holford acts as the director. The former was deleted on 28 December after being proposed for deletion for its lack of sourcing and non-notability, while the latter is currently up for proposed deletion.
In his column, Goldacre observes that there is nothing wrong with the subjects of articles editing them, so long as they do so openly, and approvingly mentions blogger Cory Doctorow and journalist Peter Hitchens as examples of subjects who have done so. He also pays tribute to Wikipedia as "a valuable resource in the hands of those who know its limitations".