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HRI London 2019: Marking 10 Years of the Homeopathy Research Institute
05 February 2020 (online)
Our latest Homeopathy Research Institute (HRI) conference held in London offered a rare opportunity for those involved in homeopathy research around the world—whether as established academics, students or clinicians—to meet, exchange ideas and discover what is new in this rapidly developing field. Once again, we were excited to be showcasing homeopathy research of the highest calibre; but our fourth international research conference was particularly special, being held ‘at home’ in London in honour of HRI's 10th Anniversary.
The HRI is an international charity dedicated to promoting high-quality research in homeopathy. As we have demonstrated over the last 10 years, HRI is an organisation that is proud to stand for accuracy, quality and integrity. We have been tirelessly involved in correcting misinformation, providing accurate resources for the homeopathy sector and public alike, conducting new research (resulting in over 20 peer-reviewed publications) and training researchers of the future. In addition, our international conferences—Barcelona 2013, Rome 2015, Malta 2017 and now London 2019—have provided an ongoing stimulus for the homeopathy research community around the world.
But beyond the outward-facing work of HRI's conferences and communications, much of our day-to-day work is done behind the scenes, conducting in-depth analyses of scientific reports and engaging directly with external parties to restore objectivity and accuracy in the debate surrounding homeopathy. Through it all, our small team has been bolstered by the enthusiastic support of the global homeopathy research community, and HRI London 2019 was no exception.
Two years ago, after Malta 2017, the take-home message was about moving forward—learning from the past to improve the quality, validity and impact of published research.
As we excitedly reviewed the submitted abstracts for London 2019, it was a pleasure to see that the field had indeed taken another clear step forward since Malta, with presentations being the highest quality to date.
The HRI team is grateful that the research community continues to choose our conferences to showcase their work, making these events a renowned platform for researchers to present and discuss their latest work with other objective, open-minded and enquiring individuals.
However, outside our research community the debate is clearly lacking objectivity. If anything, the polarising rhetoric is intensifying. Throughout the London conference researchers spoke of their challenges in getting work published, opposition they have faced and obstacles that have needed to be surmounted. Examining the issue of misrepresentation of evidence in the first session provided a fitting context for the conference programme, and the protracted ‘homeopathy debate’ was an unspoken backdrop to every presentation.
Our six keynote speakers, all experts in their respective fields, presented a fascinating array of topics, from examining how to put the needs of the patient first in clinical research, to looking at the role homeopathy could play in tackling environmental issues.
In these proceedings, the breadth and quality of the research being done are clear: from overviews of clinical, plant and fundamental research, through to primary studies exploring clinical effectiveness, guidelines, bioactivity and the physicochemical properties of remedies to pursue the as yet unanswered question, ‘What is a homeopathic potency?’. As our Russian keynote speaker Professor Vladimir Voeikov explained, the prevailing evidence in water science shows that we do not need to rewrite the laws of physics or chemistry, as homeopathy does indeed have a ‘very solid scientific foundation’.
In recent years, the quality of the homeopathy evidence base has demonstrably increased, yet rather than reducing the degree of controversy around the topic as one might expect, the homeopathy debate has only intensified. In the last 2 years, we have witnessed the greatest-ever divergence between the actual status of the evidence and how it is portrayed in the media. More worryingly, fundamentally flawed assessments of the evidence, such as the Australian report, have been taken at face value by policy makers as robust documents, resulting in a crushing loss of public funding and increased public health challenges.
In recent years, the well-organised, relentless campaign to de-legitimise homeopathy and cause harm to its reputation has moved from the shadows into the open. The impact of these so-called ‘sceptics’ groups has been seen in Australia, the United Kingdom, Spain, France—and even in Germany, the birthplace of homeopathy.
Such poorly informed but effective lobbying demonstrates the vital role homeopathy research must play in providing the accurate scientific data needed to counter such damaging commentary. In the face of these shifts in recent times, the absolute dedication of the global community of homeopathic researchers was clear. One could not help but notice the overriding feeling that the challenges we face have not deterred us—if anything they are providing a significant stimulus to our efforts to investigate this topic and not succumb to academic suppression.
Looking ahead to the next 10 years, we are optimistic that the tide will gradually turn as the evidence base for homeopathy continues to build, and build, to the point where it can, and will, no longer be ignored. In the meantime, HRI will do all it can to work with colleagues around the world to help us reach this critical turning point for homeopathy.