A Call to the Journal of Biosocial Science

Jim Burroway

May 24th, 2006

Abigail Garner writes in her website today:

Many of the emails I receive regarding the publishing scandal by Cambridge University Press ask me why I won’t simply alert the editors of the Journal of Biosocial Science. Surely, your emails tell me, after hearing the truth from me, the Journal will be left with no choice but to correct their error.

I already contacted them. I wrote an email in February before the article ran. No response.

I wrote again two weeks ago. I have heard nothing; not even the standard “we’re looking in it” reply that some bloggers have reported they received from JBS.

Since Paul Cameron’s article Children of Homosexuals and Transsexuals More Apt To Be Homosexual appeared in the Journal of Biosocial Science, I’ve been asked the same question, and I guess my experience is only marginally better than Abigail’s. Since January 15th I’ve written five letters to the journal’s editors and management, and just today I sent a sixth letter to the editors, management and members of the editorial board. Of the previous five messages I’ve only received two responses, both of which were along the lines of “we’re looking into it; we’ll keep you informed; thanks for writing.” But of course, they haven’t kept me informed of anything.

I guess I can understand JBS’s ignoring me. I don’t like it, but I can understand it. I’m not a principal in this fight and they don’t know me from Adam. I’m neither a social scientist, a JBS author or reviewer, nor has any of my work been misused. Abigail on the other hand has seen her wonderful and very important book (Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is) twisted into something barely recognizable at the hands of Paul Cameron — with JBS providing the platform. It’s unfathomable to me why the editors would ignore her warnings about Cameron’s misusing her work. It leaves me scratching my head and wondering what were they thinking?

Abigail has decided to respond to the journal’s silence by treating her letters as open letters on her website. I think it’s a good move on her part. Now the editors cannot claim they didn’t know what they were dealing with in deciding to go ahead and publishing Dr. Cameron’s manuscript.

As for me, I’ll wait a reasonable time before posting mine. I hope my latest missive to members of the editorial board sparks a dialog toward a solution which restores the reputation and integrity of the Journal of Biosocial Science. But if that doesn’t happen, then the record needs to reflect that I and many others did all we could to warn them of the fallout from their decision to publish Dr. Cameron’s pale imitation of “research.”

I should add that I’m really not threatening to make my emails public. Far from it. If it were a threat, it would be a pretty impotent one. But the journal has a great opportunity to set the record straight. They also have a tremendous responsibility to do so. But if they are unwilling, I believe that it is important to document the events that lead up to this fiasco. For the sake of integrity and honesty (something that seems to be in short supply lately), transparency is very important in getting the whole story out there.

The journal’s website brags that “its reputation for high quality and outstanding scholarship has made it into one of the leading journals in the area of biosocial science.” Without question, that reputation has now been seriously damaged. I urge the editors and the editorial board of the Journal of Biosocial Science to join Abigail, me, and many others in restoring the pursuit of scholarship to its best and loftiest goal: The pursuit of knowledge for the benefit of everyone.

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