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Journal's Audit Blasts Flawed Mark Regnerus Study on Gay Parents

The Mark Regnerus study on gay parenting which was published last month and called "flawed, misleading, and scientifically unsound" by GLAAD, HRC, The Family Equality Council and Freedom to Marry has been blown apart again, this time by an internal audit scheduled to appear in the November issue of the journal Social Science Research, which first published the study.

The Chronicle received an advance copy and reports:

RegnerusSherkat was given access to all the reviews and correspondence connected with the paper, and was told the identities of the reviewers. According to Sherkat, Regnerus’s paper should never have been published. His assessment of it, in an interview, was concise: “It’s bullsh*t,” he said.

Among the problems Sherkat identified is the paper’s definition of “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers”—an aspect that has been the focus of much of the public criticism. A woman could be identified as a “lesbian mother” in the study if she had had a relationship with another woman at any point after having a child, regardless of the brevity of that relationship and whether or not the two women raised the child as a couple.

Sherkat said that fact alone in the paper should have “disqualified it immediately” from being considered for publication.

In his audit, he writes that the peer-review system failed because of “both ideology and inattention” on the part of the reviewers (three of the six reviewers, according to Sherkat, are on record as opposing same-sex marriage). What’s more, he writes that the reviewers were “not without some connection to Regnerus,” and suggests that those ties influenced their reviews.

He declined to be more specific in an interview, saying that he was obligated to protect their identities. “Obviously,” he concluded, “the reviewers did not do a good job.”

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  1. Now let's see what the Univ of Texas does with this embarrassment.

    Posted by: jpeckjr | Jul 27, 2012 10:23:41 AM

  2. "Be still my beating heart". The truth about this piece-of-trash study should be a huge embarrassment to the reputation of the university department employing anti-gay marriage hack Regnerus. What about it, UT?

    Posted by: HadenoughBS | Jul 27, 2012 10:36:04 AM

  3. This mess really should cause all thinking people to be concerned about the quality of published research. Peer review only works when the reviewers are objective. The reviewers here should be publicly shamed so that they are not allowed to review future publications in this or any other journal.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Jul 27, 2012 10:38:31 AM

  4. There has to be some accountability. Regnerus and James Wright (the editor of the journal where this garbage was published) should both be fired. This pack of lies has already been used in amicus briefs to courts where judges do not have the academic training to necessarily see how invalid this garbage is. The harm that this lying xtain pos has caused will take decades to undo. Both Regnerus and Wright need to suffer the consequences of their unethical actions.

    Posted by: kit | Jul 27, 2012 10:39:04 AM

  5. I am shocked, you hear me, SHOCKED! by this!

    OK, not really.

    I mean, c'mon. Regnerus couldn't find ANY children raised by actual gay couples? So instead he used male/female couples where ONE of them was at least bisexual since they engaged of same-sex relationships outside of that relationship, then drew conclusions about "gay parents" based on them?

    Yeah, that doesn't sound at all like he set out with an agenda!

    Posted by: Caliban | Jul 27, 2012 10:47:00 AM

  6. Grab your popcorn and get ready for Round Two. The knives are out for the author of the audit. One tidbit I thought was interesting was that the editor of Social Science Research may have been influence to publish this paper not because of any overarching conservative conspiracy, but rather because it was understood that this paper would be controversial and therefore would generate lots of hits for SSR. Citations are academic gold, and the currency by which the worth of journals are judged.

    In other words, there may have been a bit of publicity-seeking and academic gamesmanship going on by the journal editor. That, and conflicts of interest (and inattentiveness) on the part of the reviewers.

    Oh, and that University of Texas academic misconduct charge? It's a sideshow. Regnerus was charged with misconduct because he used telephone sampling that systematically undersamples people with cell phones. That may (or may not) call into question the quality of his data collection, but by no stretch of the imagination does it amount to academic misconduct. The publication of this paper reeks of enough dirty laundry as it is without adding baseless charges like academic misconduct. I'm no fan of this paper but this is one thing the author is not guilty of.

    Posted by: BZ | Jul 27, 2012 10:48:00 AM

  7. @Kit
    He actually defended Wright and said he may have done the same as him. He said that Wright had little choice but to follow the peer reviewers' positive assessment.

    Posted by: Steve | Jul 27, 2012 10:54:04 AM

  8. BZ, given where the financing of this "study" came from and the conservative nature of Regnerus' past work, there's at least grounds to *suspect* that the conclusion was decided before the study took place. In order to reach that conclusion he misrepresented who the study subjects were, what it actually showed, then took it to "friendly" reviewers who shared his biases to get it approved. If that isn't "misconduct" then that word has no meaning.

    Posted by: Caliban | Jul 27, 2012 10:56:50 AM

  9. @Caliban
    One reason he couldn't find many is that the study was structured so those children would have been raised in the 70s to early 90s. He asked older people, so his results reflect a different demographic than the children raised by gay couples today. While the gayby boom started in the late 80s, at that time most such children were indeed from previous opposite-sex relationships - and thus divorce.

    Posted by: Steve | Jul 27, 2012 10:57:09 AM

  10. Keep in mind that different journals have different ratings. Some are highly rated, others are lowly rated. This particular journal seems to be lowly rated. The research should not have been published in the first place.

    The internal review by the editors seems to be a damage control measure. I wonder how many other poor studies have been published.

    Posted by: jason | Jul 27, 2012 11:01:55 AM

  11. While it's nice that the Regnarus study has been audited and trashed, the fact remains that it's been "peer-reviewed and published" in Social Science Research and is now part of "the accepted literature of the science". It's out there, published, and it can't be made to go away.

    Posted by: Ted B. (Charging Rhino) | Jul 27, 2012 11:07:42 AM

  12. Steve, I realize that demographics have changed. But that's no excuse to take one thing, children who were raised in families where the sexual orientations of the child-rearers was MIXED, and represent it as something else entirely, "gay parents."

    That would be like exclusively interviewing the children of mixed-race couples about their social integration then writing a study called "Children of black parents have trouble fitting in."

    If you CAN'T find subjects that fit the criteria of your study, guess what? You can't DO the study! It doesn't mean you find subjects who are kinda-sorta like the subjects you wish you had found, then gin-up a conclusion based on them. And given that OTHER researchers seem to have been able to find subjects for similar studies that came up with OPPOSITE conclusions, why wasn't Mark Regnerus able to find any? At the very least it's suspicious.

    Posted by: Caliban | Jul 27, 2012 11:09:57 AM

  13. @ Steve -- But the editor chooses the reviewers who are assigned to the submission. There are plenty of competent researchers who would have given this submission a fair assessment based on its merits and easily seen that it has no merits. By apparently choosing far right xtian ideologues instead of competent reviewers who are experts in the field, Wright biased the assessment that the article would receive.
    @ Jason -- SSR is actually a fairly well regarded journal in the field -- or, at least, it used to be until this happened.
    The journal has a board. The board is there for a reason. They can't remove Regnerus from his post -- only UT can do that -- but they can remove Wright.

    Posted by: kit | Jul 27, 2012 11:10:45 AM

  14. So, will the journal now retract the flawed paper?

    Posted by: Kim | Jul 27, 2012 11:20:05 AM

  15. @Caliban: the difference here was that the sample was supposed to be actually random. They started with a huge sample of everyone, then narrowed it to those who said one parent had had some kind of relationship with someone of the same sex.

    All earlier studies had begun from the gay parents, which means the sample population wasn't really random, but self selected. They'd need a much bigger sample and younger subjects to actually get at real children of gay families.

    But presenting these people as "children of gay fathers or lesbian mothers" is totally obviously wrong and biased.

    Posted by: KevinVt | Jul 27, 2012 11:35:11 AM

  16. Flawed peer reviews are common in many fields. Reviewers almost necessarily know (or at least know of) the person they're reviewing. Some aren't anonymous, which usually means the assessment won't be honest. Many hardly read what they review and provide almost no comments, or go in the opposite direction.

    This article was generated in, what, six weeks? The journal should know much better. I don't think there's much need to worry that it will be widely cited except by lunatics.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jul 27, 2012 11:36:34 AM

  17. Since the auditor was hired by Wright the editor, it is not surprising that the auditor gives the editor a pass. But who selected the reviewers who were so inappropriate and incompetent? Why, the editor did. Clearly, the editor should resign or be fired.

    Posted by: Jay | Jul 27, 2012 11:42:22 AM

  18. @ Paul R -- Your comment is quite interesting -- it makes me wonder if this was perhaps precisely the reason for this article. Perhaps it exists soley for the purpose of calling into question the whole academic enterprise. Now they can say, "Well, science -- pfft! -- you can't trust that! It's all flawed!" whenever competent science shows something that the far right doesn't like. They argue that "there is a debate" about the validity of things that aren't actually debateable (except to lunatics). This is why Americans don't believe in evolution or climate change -- there has been a coordinated attack on science (and intellect in general) by the far right who know they will lose on facts and so have to discredit the whole idea of facts.
    I do worry about the lunatics, though. They file amicus briefs. They even get judgeships. God knows they run for office and (as Michele Bachmann shows) they sometimes win.

    Posted by: kit | Jul 27, 2012 11:48:18 AM

  19. Plus why was it fast tracked?

    Posted by: KevinVt | Jul 27, 2012 11:49:25 AM

  20. @ KIT
    Thats why WE need to run for office. I've always stated more gays need to go into politics! It would ensure self preservation and not just depending on heterosexuals

    Posted by: Scott Johansen | Jul 27, 2012 11:57:49 AM

  21. One more note about Wright. He is the general editor of the forthcoming International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition (also published by Elsevier). This is a BIG deal. What will be in it if he is in charge of the content? What other "research" will become enshrined in the canon under his leadership? The encyclopedia is being put together right now -- the articles are being written this summer and fall. I shudder to think what will happen...

    Posted by: kit | Jul 27, 2012 11:58:11 AM

  22. I'm hoping this blows up in the face of Robbie George of Princeton, who actually masterminded this study, arranged for its funding, and orchestrated the timing of its release to coincide with important elections and court cases. Princeton's President Tilghman has shamelessly been defending his malicious, bigoted work for years on the grounds of academic freedom. Hopefully, he will finally be implicated in some sort of academic misconduct involved with this intellectual hoax. George is the "evil genius" behind both NOM (and its affiliates) and the Manhattan Declaration. He is a very, very smart and very, very dangerous enemy. He is so right-wing-Catholic-off-the-wall that he believes the state has an interest in regulating masturbation!

    Posted by: candide001 | Jul 27, 2012 12:01:33 PM

  23. Tick tick tick tick f#cking boom.

    F#ck you to those who set out to destroy us through vicious lies and distortions. You deserve everything that's heading straight for you.

    Btw, is there any popcorn left? I am gonna get fat with this whole Mitt the Twit double feature segment.

    Posted by: Michael | Jul 27, 2012 12:58:21 PM

  24. My full allegations of scientific and scholarly misconduct against Regnerus have been handed in to UT's Research Integrity Officer Dr. Robert Peterson, and published online at this link. In addition to making a case, relying on expert witnesses, that the study itself is scientifically invalid, I rely on facts to show that Regnerus appears to be in collusion with his scientifically disreputable, NOM-linked funders, and that therefore, the Inquiry should advance to a full Investigation:

    Posted by: Scott Rose | Jul 27, 2012 1:56:51 PM

  25. People should not be misled by Regnerus's and NOM's false propaganda about the study. They have been playing up the supposed "large, random national sampling" on which the study is based, counting on public ignorance of "large, random national samplings" to allow them to get away with their lies about the study. Dr. Steven Nock "wrote the book" on gold standard guidelines for carrying out "large random national samplings." While Regnerus and NOM are congratulating Regnerus for having "screened" 15,000 and some odd people, Nock says that screening 40,000 "is not a particularly large screening task. Nock also says that the minimum number of gay parents necessary to a statistically valid study of gay parenting child outcomes, is 800 gay parents. Stanford University's Michael Rosenfeld did a gay-parenting study with over 3,000 children being raised by gay parents. Rosenfeld cited Nock, to say that he had surveyed well over Nock's prescribed minimum number of gay parents. Regnerus and NOM are counting on the public not to know any of that. While they are bullshitting the public about Regnerus's supposed "large random national sampling," leading experts in the field say that Regnerus did not actually do a "large random national sampling" sufficient to a meaningful study of gay parenting child outcomes.

    Posted by: Scott Rose | Jul 27, 2012 2:01:59 PM

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