Imperial College London faces crypto puff backlash

The FT calls out Imperial College London for passing PR off as academic research and encouraging ludicrous cryptocurrency headlines in the process.

Imperial College London has bowed to pressure from the Financial Times over a report, issued earlier this month in conjunction with social trading venture, eToro, that claimed cryptocurrencies will gain global mainstream adoption within the next decade.

The FT labelled this “crypto puff” and argued that it did not live up to the standards expected from a university ranked eighth best in the world, for instance by simply attributing blind quotes to a “renowned Bitcoin expert”.

It then emerged that the report was not in fact the work of Imperial College London. Rather, it was produced by two academics, facilitated by Imperial Consultants – a separate commercial entity from the university, though wholly owned by the college.

“We regret an error was made”

Imperial Consultants said: “Professor William Knottenbelt from Imperial College London undertook his project with eToro as an independent expert, facilitated by Imperial Consultants. The use of name and logo on reports is agreed with the client and is subject to the conditions of the contract. In this case, it should have been Imperial Consultants instead of Imperial College London, so all parties have now agreed to correct the report.”

It added: “We regret an error was made in this instance and we have corrected it and tightened up our procedures to avoid this happening again. I can assure you that the independence of Imperial’s academic research is very important to us – as is the work with industry through Imperial Consultants.”

In an article on the FT’s website, Jemima Kelly commented: “We think the line between academic research and consultancy – which would be better called public relations, in this case – should be much clearer. Labelling it PR might avoid the confusion that generates ludicrous headlines like this: Bitcoin will replace traditional currency within the next decade.”


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