by Jef Akst
March 8 2010
Elsevier has asked the editor-in-chief of its only non-peer-reviewed journal, Medical Hypotheses, to either resign immediately or implement a series of changes, including a traditional peer-review system.
The journal's editor-in-chief Bruce Charlton told The Scientist that such changes are "vehemently opposed" by the editorial advisory board, as well as at least 150 scientists who have published in the journal. Elsevier has given him until next Monday (March 15) to respond, and he said he is still contemplating his decision.
In addition to instituting a peer-review system, an external advisory board assembled by Elsevier also recommends that articles on controversial subjects, such as any that support racism, not be considered for publication.
Elsevier has also given Charlton notice that his contract will be "terminated" at the end of this year, Charlton said. "My understanding is that Elsevier will indeed appoint a new editor and make the changes while keeping the same title," he explained, a move that he considers "dishonest" and "unethical."
"The editorial advisory board and I agree that we would much rather the title expired altogether, than that an 'anti-Medical Hypotheses' journal continued to trade on its past reputation," Charlton wrote in an email.
Medical Hypotheses has been in hot water since earlier this year, after AIDS researchers complained about an article it ran by AIDS denialist Peter Duesberg. The journal currently aims to publish provocative papers, which are selected by Charlton.
Editor's note: Elsevier responded to The Scientist after the publication of this story acknowledging that it had accepted the external panel's recommendations for the journal. The publisher also clarified that should Charlton stay with the journal for the immediate future, his contract would not be renewed at the end of the year, as opposed to "terminated" before its completion.
[Comment posted 2010-03-08 12:50:09]
Elsevier regrets that Professor Charlton declined each of our offers to discuss the Journal?s future with him. We have sought his input on more than a few occasions; he has not yet chosen to engage in discussion. We would still welcome his choice to work for the Journal through the remainder of the year if he desires. At some point, though, we need to make a decision, which is what prompted our most recent letter.