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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Did Publishing AIDS Pseudoscience Kill the Journal Medical Hypthoses?

Publisher attempts to rein in radical medical journal

23 January 2010
Editor rejects proposal to have submissions peer reviewed. Zoë Corbyn reports
The publisher of Medical Hypotheses has proposed that the irreverent journal should be revamped as an orthodox peer-review publication.
In a letter to the editor, Elsevier proposes a “revised and more focused aim and scope” for the journal and a “peer-review process for all submitted articles”.
To achieve this, it suggests a “review of editorial board membership” and development of a “wide pool of reviewers”.
“We would plan a relaunch once these changes have been implemented,” Elsevier says in the letter seen by Times Higher Education.

Medical Hypotheses, which was established more than 30 years ago, is the only Elsevier journal that does not currently subject its submissions to peer review.
Instead, its editor Bruce Charlton, professor of theoretical medicine at the University of Buckingham, decides what to publish on the basis of whether the submissions are radical, interesting and well argued.
The proposals for change follow recommendations from a panel of scientists set up by Elsevier to review the journal's future after it published a paper that denied the link between HIV and Aids.
The paper, written by well-known HIV/Aids denier Peter Duesberg, argued that there is “as yet no proof that HIV causes Aids” and says the claim that the virus has killed millions is “unconfirmed”.
It provoked outcry from researchers in the field, some of whom contacted Elsevier to object. The publisher retracted the paper and set up the review panel, whose members have not been named.
The panel took a dim view of Medical Hypotheses’ approach, recommending that it adopts a system of peer review and that its scope changes to curtail “radical” ideas.
“[Elsevier should] devise and publicise a safety net that guards against publication of baseless, speculative, non-testable and potentially harmful ideas,” it recommends, adding that the publisher should also “make it clear” when topics are off limits.
It suggests “novel ‘scientific’ hypotheses supporting racism, the subjugation of women, [and] eugenics” as examples of topics that may be deemed inappropriate.
“The likelihood that ‘radical ideas’ on such topics represent useful new concepts is vanishingly small, the likelihood that their foundation is unethical is great,” it says.
“Even if offered strong proof of concept, would you want to publish articles supporting them under any circumstances? ...their publication in a ‘scientific’ journal is an important political tool for groups needing the respectability of publication to support a noxious agenda.”
Professor Charlton said he has received more than 120 letters of support for retaining Medical Hypotheses in its current form, after he launched a campaign to save the title. He said neither he nor his editorial advisory board would tolerate the changes proposed.
“Medical Hypotheses has for 34 years been editorially reviewed and radical,” he said. “Therefore [the proposals] cannot possibly be acceptable.”
When initially contacted by THE, Elsevier suggested it had made no recommendation that the journal should move to a peer-review system.
Presented with the text of the letter to Professor Charlton, it said that “no decision on any change will be taken until we have gone through a consultation process”.


  1. “The likelihood that ‘radical ideas’ on such topics [as HIV/AIDS denialism] represent useful new concepts is vanishingly small, the likelihood that their foundation is unethical is great... their publication in a ‘scientific’ journal is an important political tool for groups needing the respectability of publication to support a noxious agenda

    If anyone is in any doubt, the utter garbage submitted by Duesberg, Bauer, et al in their dishonest and scientifically woeful Out of Touch With South African AIDS paper should make the issue crystal clear.

    As co-author of Out of Touch With South African AIDS Henry Bauer himself says:

    At any rate, AIDStruthers [ie mainstream scientists] are not the audience to be courted. Their arguments must be countered with answers directed to the media and the general public in terms that are understandable by and clearly convincing for unengaged observers. That means the points cannot be too technical.

    Congratulations to Elsevier for taking action to address, however belatedly, the abuse of one of their journals by a crank cult seeking to gain credibilty for their lethal disinformation.

  2. Personally, I think the idea of a journal like Medical Hypotheses is a good idea. Too bad the Editor screwed it up. And yet another accomplishment in long an disastrous career of Peter Duesberg... How many of us can say that we put a journal out of business?

  3. You are the one that put the journal out of business. YOU ARE THE CENSOR. Do you not recall signing the list and starting a campaign to delist Med Hyp?

  4. Yes, I did sign on. I think I was among the first to suggest getting Medical Hypotheses out of PubMed/MedLine. I do not want to take that much credit, but I certainly feel I deserve my share.

    It was predictable that AIDS Denialists would scream censor. Of course. But in a place called reality this was not about freedom of ideas and censorship. It is about science, responsibility and accountability. I do not believe Medical Hypotheses should be shut down and it does not seem that it will be. It does need a new Editor who will respect and work toward improving the peer review process rather than simply take it upon him/herself to be the 'decider'. I hope they can revamp it and something good can come out of the AIDS Denialist fiasco.

    As for Duesberg's paper. The idea is not to censor that either. It too has its Rethinking AIDS or Anthony Brink's website... but not where it can appear to have the credibility Duesberg hungers but has not earned.

  5. Why not offer the paper to JPandS? They're not fussy about what they publish.

    Or maybe try It'd be right at home there.

  6. Seth, I love how "anonymous" screams at you that your are THE CENSOR...but still signs as anonymous. I wonder what these denialists are so afraid of?
    Anonymous, I would like to teach a new word today: Integrity. That is what Seth and others have to stand up for the responsibility and accountability one must have in order to have the PRIVILEGE to be printed in anything approximating the peer review process. AIDS Denialism is not science and should not be given the appearance as such.
    Just as you, anonymous, do not have the integrity to make such an outrageous accusation of Seth and reveal your identity. If you are going to say such a thing, you should reveal your identity. Alas, you just underscore the lack of integrity and humanity most all AIDS Denialists display on a daily basis.

  7. Why doesn't DeShong level the same "anonymous" criticisms against his friends "Snout" and "Poodle Stomper". And golly gee, John Moore always signs on under anonymous too. Oh that's right, double standards again. Surprising for a man of such high intellect.

    No doubt he'll fire back with a case that pseudonyms are acceptable in some way or other. He's really not adding any value to your cause. You should consider dumping him as I think he may actually be one of Clark Bakers multiple personalities.

    Anonymous is as Anonymous does Seth.

  8. I'm not Anonymous

    Sure you are.

    But that is ok.

    Personally, I like for people to know what I have to say.

    I can understand why Snout and Poodle Stomper use handles rather than names. I get all kinds of hate mail, threats, and letters to my employer and publisher from you nut cases. I can understand flying low when dealing with half cocked psychos like Rasnick and Baker. Why set yourself up to be harassed by the likes of Farber and Jansen.

    Lord knows Todd can speak to the virtues of remaining anonymous.

    As a point of clarification, John Moore does not post anonymously on this blog. Think about would you know it was him if he was anonymous? Ya thunk?

    The Blogger Name function does not work on John's computer...for some odd reason. But when I am unable to convert his comments before posting them, he always signs the bottom...that must be how you knew it was him, right?

  9. Now I get it, if I write a name on the bottom of the post I'm not anonymous. If I use a pseudonym I'm not anonymous. If I use any old name I'm not anonymous.

    As usual you completely distort the question. I'm sure you couldn't give the correct time if asked.

    Trying to simplify it, Todd rants at people who post under Anonymous, but is placated by any dodgy name put up, lets say "Bill" is not really a Bill shall we. Is it better simply so he can focus his anger at an imaginary name? Is he angry because he was silly enough to start out with his real name? Or is he just angry because he has a deadly disease and has got past denial in the grief cycle.

    (insert name if it makes you happy)
    Not John Moore

  10. Sorry to become a bone of contention here, Seth!
    But anonymous has it all wrong, and I have clarified this over and over. I do not care if you write under a pseudonym, but STICK WITH THE SAME ONE! That's how we know who Poodlestomper and Snout are! I do not personally know them or even know their real names. But I do know who I am dealing with every time I see their unique moniker.
    I think you do see the value in being able to know who one is dealing with on a consistent basis. However, like every issue, AIDS Denialists always want to obfuscate the issue. No matter what issue it is. Thanks for staying consistent.
    And the comment about John Moore posting as anonymous BUT SIGNING HIS NAME, really, really REALLY makes you look stupid!

  11. Todd, please.

    You are not being fair.

    "the comment about John Moore posting as anonymous BUT SIGNING HIS NAME, really, really REALLY makes you look stupid!

    The comment does not make him look any more stupid than he is.

    Stupid is as Stupid does.

  12. Indeed it is perfectly obvious that scurvy is an infection. When one person comes down with the symptoms pretty soon it's three and then ten, especially when they are all on a sailing vessel for months at a time in close quarters.

    What else could it be? Everybody knows it's some new germ, some microbe that we can't even see. If you don't want to get sick, then don't associate with seamen since they're the ones most likely to come down with it. You watch out. Everyone is at risk.

  13. Richard, if you want to try to parody a scientific field (like epidemiology) it's best to take a few moments to familiarise yourself with the basics first - otherwise you just make yourself look like an idiot.

    Even satirical works by reasonably smart people can fall flat - ask Marco Ruggiero about his recent Med Hype paper.