Academic Horror Story (UC Berkeley – 2)

Peter Duesberg, a professor at UC Berkeley, has been accused of misconduct for writing a paper espousing an unpopular idea (that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS) — and the university administration is taking this seriously! Here is the letter Duesberg received.

Peter Duesberg accused of misconduct

This is major-league harassment, similar to the human-subjects complaint against Michael Bailey. And it’s Berkeley’s second Academic Horror Story. Previously, Berkeley administrators carefully delayed an experimental subject from learning she had a big lump in her brain.

MoreYou can be as nasty as you like” (John Cleese on extremism, via Marginal Revolution).

35 Replies to “Academic Horror Story (UC Berkeley – 2)”

  1. Seth: Setting aside the details of the complaint, the criticism of Duesberg was not that his ideas are npopular, it’s that his ideas are false and unsupported by scientific evidence and are dangerous. Neither you nor i is an expert on Aids research (although you did publish an article on the topic once in Spy). But I think you’re trivializing the opposition to Duesberg by characterizing it is an opposition to an “unpopular” idea. I don’t know what’s the best way for universities to deal with people like this, but it’s a bit embarrassing to the university when it’s always “UC Berkeley scientist Duesberg” this and “UC Berkeley scientist Duesberg” that. He’s trading off the university’s reputation. Maybe nothing can or should be done about it, but I can understand the administration’s frustration.

  2. “The specific allegations are that an article you submitted to Medical Hypotheses was investigated and then withdrawn by the publisher based on issues of credibility and false claims. The allegations also state that you failed to declare a relevant conflict of interest with regard to the commercial interests of your co-authors.”

    Not clear how you get from this that he “has been accused of misconduct for writing a paper espousing an unpopular idea”.

  3. Gotta agree with Seth here – what’s “science” is determined by social consensus, and the very reason tenure exists as an institution.

  4. There are two allegations: that he wrote an article that was withdrawn by the publisher [over credibility and false claims] and the failure to declare a vested interest.
    I’m unclear about the first allegation. If i submit an article claiming the moon is made of cheese should I be disciplined? I am not trivializing the issue. Won’t the peer review process sort this out? This is complicated by the fact that Medical Hypotheses was not a conventional peer review journal although the publishers were changing this.
    Credibility is capricious and many scientific claims, now believed to be true, were considered crazy in their time. Even if I suspect that Duesberg’s main claim is crazy [though not an AIDS expert either], its not a hanging offence. By “false claim” are they are saying he’s wrong or that he lied? It can’t be an offence to be just wrong.
    The conflict of interest allegation seems a valid concern. In any event, however embarrassing this guy is to Berkeley this is no reason to take a pop at him if that is what they are doing.

  5. Andrew & Hal, it’s like Driving While Black (except the punishment is much worse than a traffic ticket). Duesberg is being investigated for stuff that is ordinarily never a matter of investigation. In recent times, I suspect no other professor has been investigated because a co-author was accused of having a conflict of interest or because of something as vague as “false claims” or insufficient “credibility”.

    Kevin, undeclared conflicts of interest have been a massive problem for American medical schools. Senator Grassley has spent a lot of time on this. As far as I know no professor has ever been investigated by his university for the problem — much less the fact that a co-author had the problem.

  6. @Peter Duesberg [in case, you are reading this]

    As Rush noted in 1982, “Conform or be cast out!”

    @Andrew Gelman

    Speeding is illegal. Being Black isn’t. So, what was it that Duesberg did that was illegal?

  7. To Andrew Gelman–
    Several points:
    1) Yes, the allegations are that “the ideas are false, … un-supported by evidence, and dangerous”. Yes. But, to this day I have not received evidence from UCB or elsewhere to support these allegations. The evidence for unpopularity is, however, overwhelming – rejection by the Journal of AIDS, censorship after publication in Medical Hypotheses by Elsevier, and now a “misconduct” investigation by UC Berkeley – the cradle of free speech! Would you read the paper that has been censored, if I send you a copy? Please send your email request to Don’t say you are not an expert please, until you had a look at it.
    2) Yes, I am “trading on my university’s reputation”. For a long time this was, however, quite mutual – when I was elected California Scientist of the Year, elected in the National Academy, and received $ million grants on retroviruses, the same ones that are said to cause AIDS. Only an impartial review of my current evidence against HIV-AIDS or history can tell, whether some day it won’t be the other way around — when UCB might derive reputation from now mis-conduct suspect professors like me — and perhaps even the torture-advocate professor Yoo.

  8. Cal hired and tenured John Yoo in full knowledge of his war crimes, and he is actually teaching undergraduate constitional law just as if he were qualified. Does that leave Cal with any reputation left to protect? Maybe each college is now on its own, with the Law school’s reputation thoroughly flushed.

    Duesberg has revealed himself as a full-scale crank. Is that a crime? No. Is Cal Med obliged to let him use their name to endorse his fantasy life? Surely not.

    Seth runs on about the statistical offenses he perceives in climate researchers, but he doesn’t drag Cal into it.

  9. Alex, you have misquoted me. Here’s what I wrote:

    I suspect no other professor has been investigated because a co-author was accused of having a conflict of interest.

    Here’s what you wrote:

    Seth, you wrote, “As far as I know no professor has ever been investigated by his university for [undeclared conflicts of interest]”.

    See the difference? I’ve blogged about Nemeroff several times, e.g.,

  10. @Peter Duesberg and @Seth

    Perhaps you could send the paper to Seth, who may be inclined to update this blog post with a link to it?

    @Andrew Gelman

    Seriously, you gotta back up your “his ideas [are false and unsupported by scientific evidence] and are dangerous“. Sounds a lot like what they said about Semmelweis……

  11. As far as I can tell, the charge is not about having a paper withdrawn: it’s about the false claims made in the paper that were the reason for the withdrawl. The wording in the letter is unfortunate, but there’s no need for us to be confused by it — unless, of course, we choose to be confused, or to pretend to be confused.

    Does it matter whether anyone had been investigated before, about keeping his co-authors’ commercial interests secret? If it’s part of his responsibility to reveal all conflicts of interest in his submission, then why does it matter whether it’s him or his co-authors who have the conflict? It would only matter if they had concealed the conflicts from him, and I don’t think anybody suggests that. By analogy to criminal law, conspiracy to commit a crime is itself a crime.

  12. Seth, I didn’t misquote you. I quoted a different part of your post than the one you THINK I quoted. All I did was replace your words “the problem” with “[undeclared conflicts of interest]”. Here is the full paragraph, part of which I quoted and responded to in my comment:

    “Kevin, undeclared conflicts of interest have been a massive problem for American medical schools. Senator Grassley has spent a lot of time on this. As far as I know no professor has ever been investigated by his university for the problem — much less the fact that a co-author had the problem.”

  13. Alex, sorry, I’m in a third-world city with terrible internet access (Chicago). As I was writing my comment I lost access. I had coded the Nemeroff case as one where the accused (Nemeroff) had misstated to his university how much drug companies had given him. But, yeah, you could call that a conflict-of-interest problem. That Nemeroff understated those payments by hundreds of thousands of dollars and was investigated only after a US Senator complained and the case received national attention just goes to show how bizarre the charge against Duesberg is. It really is Driving While Black. A black person might get pulled over for going 1 mph over the speed limit. No one else is.

  14. What?!

    I don’t think there is any conflict of interest, just because one of the author’s former employers is a vitamin reseller… I don’t get it.

    If you want to call this a conflict of interest, then what do you call Essex, Gallo and all the other AIDS scientists, many of whom literally make millions out of patents and pharma connections…
    That’s what I call a conflict of interest!

  15. That Nathan Myers talks about war crimes, yet has the mentality of a Gestapo Agent, advocating selective envorcement of vague conflict of interest declaration policies (as if declaring them makes them go away) in order to suppress the views of those he disagrees with. Typical hand-wringing, moralizing liberal.

  16. yes, Tommy, the idea that there is a conflict of interest because a co-author used to be employed by a company that would benefit from the paper makes no sense.

  17. I am one of the authors of the paper in Medical Hypotheses you are discussing here. In the paper we collected official data from South Africa and Uganda and compared them with previous predictions. Surprisingly, a close examination of the current data (as opposed to public health and media driven beliefs) showed a dramatically increasing population growth due to constant fertility combined with stable or declining mortality. In summary current public data do not provide the slightest evidence for a deadly (HIV/Aids) epidemic in Africa.
    In violation of all scientific principles, and lacking a shred of evidence to support the charge, our paper was withdrawn under the pretext that our 5-page article (citing public data) ‘could potentially be damaging to global public health.’
    We were never invited to engage in any factual, scientific exchange about these accusations–instead, after it was accepted and published, the paper was suddenly withdrawn. The Times Higher Education [Jan.14,
    2010] reported that “prominent AIDS researchers” had contacted Elsevier and demanded the paper’s withdrawal. To this day we don’t know who they are, nor what their monetary and professional conflicts of interest are.

    In short stand accused of very grave charges, and censored, by an anonymous tribunal with its own conflicts of interest.
    This case is currently pending in the courts in The Netherlands, the headquarter of the publisher of Medical Hypotheses. We are looking forward to our day in court, when the true roots of this shameful witch-hunt and attack on academic liberty will be brought to light.


    Christian Fiala MD, PhD
    Vienna, Austria

  18. If people actually read the withdrawn papers, they might realize that they have been intentionally duped and the HIV/AIDS gang can’t have that.

    I believe that the serious crimes like sexual terrorism, scientific fraud and medical murder that were committed in the name of HIV/AIDS will become common knowledge and as soon as it does, there will be no place to hide for the “public health” officials, “science” editors and journalists who were/are responsible for the fraud or the medical professionals who have mindlessly murdered their patients in the name of science and medical care. It’s no wonder the AIDS mafia strives to silence their critics.

    Waiting for the day…

  19. Duesberg was attacked by pharma lobbyists such as M. Essex and his friends. They publicly blamed him for millins of deaths in Africa, which is not only absurd, but unbelievable, because they forget and forget to mention their own, REAL responsibilities for the many AZT victims. (btw, Duesberg warned early and clearly about the AZT problems, but was already ignored)

    Now they’ve denied Duesberg to defend himself against their outrageous allegations, by putting pressure on Elsevier.

    They’ve also claimed a co-author would have a conflict of interest, which isn’t true, because his employment was years before…. and they again forget to mention their own REAL conflicts of interest, like patents for the medicals that were supposed to be sold in Africa…

    Did I miss the point?

  20. Having a paper withdrawn by Elsevier should be worn like a badge of pride and vindication of truth in this matter.

    It was Elsevier who commissioned no fewer than 6 bogus journals in Australia alone that were nothing but advertisements for pharmaceutical companies. Elesevier makes millions on advertisements in its mainstream journals from pharmaceutical companies. To think that the sticky hand of BIG PHARMA is not at work here is simply naive.

    One of the main protagonists in the withdrawal of the offending paper was one Seth Kalichman of denyingaids infamy. Seth has stated that a part of his duties at UConn involve the running of his vitriolic blog that regularly slanders Duesberg and Bauer. UConn receive millions in grants from the NIH and BIG PHARMA to pay the salaries of the ilk of Kalichman.

    The main complainant to Duesbergs university is Nathan Geffen, who is a member of AIDSTRTUH and the South African Treatment Action Campaign. TAC is funded indirectly by Anglo Gold and various Pharmaceutical Companies. Kalichman regularly quotes and praises Geffen on his blog.

    They can scream hysterically all they want, but talk about conflicts of interest? Give me a break these guys are up to their armpits in conflicts of interest, they have all the moral fortitude of crack whores.

    Shortly we should see the entry of J Todd Deshong and Poodle Stomper et al posting here with their own version of AIDS Dogma, vomitting back argumentoid comments and generally muddying the waters. The Emails will have already been sent out from AIDSTRUTH HQ rallying the forces to attack.

    I too am no expert on the topic of HIV/AIDS but I definately know the smell of RAT. Whether Duesberg is right or wrong, he does not deserve a concerted attack driven by financial greed dressed up as public health concern.

    They talk about Denialists, this lot still state AZT did not kill anyone, now that is DENIALISM, and has all the hallmarks of the tobacco companies saying smoking did not cause cancer when they were facing billion dollar damages payouts. And that surely gives the best indicator of their true masters, as none of the lawyers representing the pharmaceutical companies will permit any admission of wrongdoing from anyone on the payroll.

    I think Clark Baker has coined the best term for these people, “Pharmasluts”. Apt.

  21. Dr. Duesberg has proven that HIV does not cause AIDS, and is instead caused by lifestyle, drug consumption, and malnutrition.

    I’ve accepted Duesberg’s view.

    But that leaves me uncertain as to how to explain why HIV-positive, non-malnourished, non-drug-affected infants develop AIDS.

    I’m also saddened that, given that recreational drug use causes AIDS, Duesberg hasn’t done any research into which specific drugs cause AIDS, what dosages are required to produce it, and why the vast majority of recreational drug users never develop AIDS. In a bizarre coincidence, only those who are HIV-positive do.

  22. Infants develop AIDS mostly because they are given cell-killing drugs. If a child is unlucky enough to have an HIV test, they may test positive for HIV particularly if they’ve been unlucky enough to have any number of vaccinations, typically initiated at 2-3 months of age. This has been proven with the polio vaccine.

  23. Im no where as smart as all of you guys posting here.

    But, I DO have a good sense of who SOUNDS like a conman and who doesn’t.

    Why are the “wacko denial guys” posting simple statements and what they consider facts, and the “truthers” go with name calling and character assasinations?

    Every single time I read ANY thing from PD or Dr. Fiala, I find them calm and to the point. Now, this Seth Kalishman or whatever, its an insult a line.

    Guess who sounds more believable?

    Dr. Duesberg, if you really believe what you are saying, and all this hideous backlash is the OUTCOME of your beliefs, God bless you. A man who stands by his convictions, regardless the outcome.

    Oh, and that Africa thing……………COMMON SENSE tells you its one big con.

  24. The idea that AIDS is a result of vaccines is ludricrous. This is far too easy to prove wrong and is readily apparant when one looks at the HIV testing results. Poor, drug user families are 100X more likely to have an HIV positive child than a middle class family. Yet the vaccination numbers are the exact opposite.

    The evidence is so overwhleming for this, that it’s embarassing to argue or debate. If AIDS was a pharma drug issue, the western world – especially the white middle class and their pill popping obsession – would dominate the AIDS statistics. Yet, there is no AIDS epidemic in suburbia.

    Sadly, the only epidemic is seen in those who somehow come into contact with another person’s blood. Whether through birth, transfusion, sex, needles, or transplants.

    Isn’t it weird how that works. If anyone comes out with some new data, I’m all ears. Until then – all I have is the present research and it sure does look like a blood pathogen (virus) is the cause.

  25. Couple of notes…. Johnathon Swift… When Duesberg first started disputing hiv=aids, he was effectively stripped of any credibility, thus rendering his ability to receive research grants gone.

    Hiv testing… it’s NOT reliable. Tests to not look for HIV. They look for antibodies that are not specific to anything. Which is why when children get vaccinated their blood is full of antibodies, they sometimes test positive. Also, if you get tested and test positive and go back, you can go back even a week later or a day later and test negative.

    Antiretrovirals (which still include AZT) have very, very serious side effects. to prescribe these to a people that have immune systems already comprised doesn’t make any sense. Secondly, in Africa, all you have to do is be sick and depending where you are, they won’ t even test you. They’ll claim you had HIV that has progressed to AIDS. btw… AZT was a chemotherapy drug intended for cancer patients in the 70s, but was shelved because of its toxicity.
    I could go on, but if you look for it, the information is out there.

  26. LOL!!!

    I think it’s an absolute jOkE that people can’t figure out why professor Duesburg looks so damn ignorant in the eyes of so many, even though he’s far from it.
    Gallo said himself that “NOBODY KNOWS MORE ABOUT RETROVIRUSES THAN PETER (DUESBERG).” That quickly changed when Duesberg started ripping on Gallo, of course.
    Who didn’t see the studies that Duesberg along with so very many others have personally done (BECAUSE I WILL SHOW THEM TO ANYONE WHO MISSED THE BOAT ON THE SUBJECT.) that explain why the professor says what he says, Duesberg’s far from stupid.
    I’m a virologist, H.I.V. viruses didn’t come from monkeys either, regardless of the color, green, blue or TuTi-FruitY.
    Whats “Idiopathic CD-4 T-Lymphocytepenia” (ICL) What do you think the reason is that Anthony Fauci (NIH) or the NCI hasn’t mentioned anything regarding Dr. Yamamoto & GcMAF ? Because Yamamoto is correct maybe ?
    Who knows what I’m talking about in regards to any of this & that ?

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