Tyrone Hayes: The infamous “gay frog” creating “IDGAF!” Berkley professor, movie star and litigation consultant

“IDGAF! Come on?????… do you think I care about propriety and professionalism?” –  Tyrone Hayes email 2010.

Tyrone Hayes has been characterized as the Kanye West of the academic world for his controversial ethics, bizarre behavior and apparent insatiable desire for theatrically promoting his un-replicated research claims.  Like television producers forced to cut off hip hop artist West’s microphones during unscripted rants, it’s time for the academic community to do the same with the “gay frog” creating “environmental biologist rap artist” Tyrone Hayes.

Hayes is a tenured professor at the University of California Berkeley turned litigation consultant for hire and documentary movie star whose claims and self-described “IDGAF!” (I don’t give a f*@k!) behavior[1] clearly stretch the boundaries of sound science and typical academic ethics.  He’s made his fame via allegations that a common agricultural herbicide is turning male frogs into females and vice-a-versa, which he giddily promotes on any stage provided with his slide show of photos he suggests are copulating gay frogs.  These gay frog claims landed Hayes cameo appearances in multiple documentary films including Academy Award winning Jessica Yu’s 2012 Last Call at the Oasis.  His exploitative gender and sexual orientation stereotyping aside, were such claims valid it would certainly be something meritorious of broader scientific review and exploration.

Therein lays the problem with Professors Hayes’ work and claims.  Valid claims are those which are verifiable through replication by other scientists.  Honest and acceptable peer review of academic research claims requires that data and processes by which that data and corresponding conclusions are drawn be transparent and made available to other independent scientists for corroboration.  And where such data and conclusions are being used to make demands of regulators to ban products associated with these claims, the research and data should be openly shared with those regulators to inspect and validate on behalf of the public whose health and interests they are entrusted.   Yet, Tyrone Hayes refuses to share his data with peers, regulators or any other independent academic or scientific review.  Further, thousands of studies over more than 50 years, including dozens seeking to replicate his specific claims, failed to replicate or confirm his results and conclusions.

Engaging in flawed or un-replicated research from which you make personal fame and derive your income in and of itself may or may not be academic misconduct.  There are plenty of bad scientists in academia and elsewhere who have promoted flawed ideas for various personal and profit motivations.  Yet here again, Professor Hayes offers us fodder for questioning how and why any academic institution sees him as a fit and upstanding professional whose research is supported.[2]  Berkeley dean Mark Schlissel notes Hayes’ decade-long email campaign has “moved increasingly into the personal arena” but the school has not chosen to investigate the matter. Hayes’ behavior also raises  questions as to how he is so oft quoted for his “expertise” by such noteworthy and mainstream media outlets as the New York Times, NPR and National Geographic.

Tyrone Hayes has created a cottage industry for himself via his tongue-in-cheek “Atrazine Lovers” website, paid speaking tours and as a well compensated “expert” consultant to plaintiff’s attorneys seeking to profit from public fears generated by Hayes’ gender-bending pesticide claims.  He’s always good for a salacious and alarm-raising sound bite for any inquiring reporter which makes him a darling of the environmental activist fringe which frequently invokes his name and claims in their attacks on farming and related crop protection practices .   He openly attacks scientists, government regulators and critics with sexually graphic and threatening verbal assaults found in trails of thousands of email screeds he has let lose when his claims are challenged or dismissed.  While Tyrone Hayes may not “GAF” about academic professionalism or scientific integrity when justifying his claims with open, credibly peer reviewed research, we do. 

The mission of Academics Review is to independently, dispassionately and objectively scrutinize claims based on scientific research regardless of the style or form of the source.   Stay tuned here as Academics Review dissects Tyrone “IDGAF” Hayes research claims made in his Last Call at the Oasis cameo and his other publications and sources.

For now, here are some additional sources on this subject:


[1] The Frog War, by Dashka Slater, Mother Jones Magazine, January/February 2012.

[2] E-mails spark ethics row, by Rex Dalton, Nature, August 18, 2010.