Klaudia Brix of Jacobs University has resigned from the board of the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology,  the official publication of the Italian Society of Anatomy and Histology, because a paper by prominent 'HIV does not cause AIDS' researcher Peter Duesberg of U.C. Berkeley was published.

Duesberg has been at this a long time - I covered him in The Least Known War In Science: Does HIV Cause AIDS? - but you may not have heard of him at all.  I hadn't even known there was an active denial movement until someone wrote a paper critical of it and I interviewed them. Duesberg never replied so he wasn't in the article.

But that criticism of HIV-AIDS denial I wrote about years ago was not in a peer-reviewed journal and the recent paper by Duesberg was in a peer-reviewed journal. And so one person has resigned and another is threatening to resign.  Is that appropriate? 

Laurentiu Popescu, a professor of cellular and molecular medicine at the Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest, told Nature “Only one [external] reviewer in my mind is not enough for manuscripts of a sensitive nature.”

Well, that's a little maddening, isn't it?  If a paper is shoddy yet isn't 'sensitive', it should be allowed to just sail on through?  Berkeley still employs the guy as professor of Molecular and Cell Biology, despite his office being 10 miles from the gay capital of America, so there is at least some pretense of letting him live and die on his science.  What was wrong with his new paper?  Duesberg and co-authors contend HIV is not a new(ish) killer virus and AIDS deaths and their drug treatments are hyped.  The knock on that, say critics, is the use of estimates of AIDS deaths in South Africa based on cause-of-death data, which are notoriously unreliable. But that is the exact same unreliable data AIDS advocates use. There are other criticisms but I got no dog in that fight; I am inclined to side with a million epidemiologists - as we know from Bad Science Journalism And The Myth Of The Oppressed Underdog, big media love to write stories about lone scientists bucking the establishment but they are rarely true.

Luis Montaner, of the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, said the scientific community needs to develop common criteria for what counts as acceptable peer review. “All peer review is not equal. This case illustrates why we need a better definition of what peer review is.”

Well, people are working for free, which is supposedly academic purity but it also means that with 25,000 journals out there, they aren't all going to be rigorously reviewed at all much less peer reviewed, no matter what they claim. That's a topic for another time.  My question is, are you doing science and a journal a better service by resigning because a paper you don't like got printed, or is that for show?

Paper denying HIV–AIDS link sparks resignation by Zoë Corbyn, Nature