Express Delivery: The Regnerus “Gay Parenting” Paper Took The Fast Lane To Publication
June 15th, 2012
One of the things that a few researchers have commented privately to me about concerning Mark Regnerus’s much-dissected study on so-called gay and lesbian parenting (you can read my dissection here), is the amazing speed with which the paper was submitted, peer reviewed and accepted for publication by the journal Social Science Research. The typical process is measured in months, if not years in some cases. But for Regnerus’s paper, only 41 days passed from the time the manuscript was submitted to the day the editors accepted it for publication. This accomplishment is notably rare for journal publication, and it has left quite a few researchers I’ve talked to scratching their heads.
To be sure, not everything about the paper could be measured in days. Regnerus reported in his paper that the survey firm he hired, Knowledge Networks, had a hard time finding adult children with parents who fit his peculiar definition of being lesbian or gay. One solution was spend more time to keep looking:
Thus in order to boost the number of respondents who reported being adopted or whose parent had a same-sex romantic relationship, the screener survey (which distinguished such respondents) was left in the field for several months between July 2011 and February 2012, enabling existing panelists more time to be screened and new panelists to be added.
Altogether, those extended efforts combined with the originally drawn sample yielded 236 adult children whose mother or father “ever [had] a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex.” Regnerus has, when asked directly, admitted that those numbers are much too small to make adequate comparisons to determine their fitness as parents — even though he nevertheless made those comparisons in his paper. When BTB reader StraightGrandmother pressed him in an email exchange on this point, he responded:
I maxed what Knowledge Networks could do with their panel, and no research firm out there is in a position to generate a larger N. Perhaps I could’ve left it in the field for another year, but that is quite awhile, and wouldn’t have doubled the sample size of LMs or GFs.
I’m not following why he doesn’t believe he couldn’t have significantly increased his sample size if the question had been held open for another year. If it is true that, as he acknowledged, that he was hampered by the difficulty of finding enough people to fit his definitions, then the only statistically relevant solution is to keep looking, and not to construct an arbitrarily heterogeneous category to contrast against a homogeneous one and falsely claim that the comparison is legitimate.
And so why not wait? Why not do the only statistically proper thing to do and hold the question open for a year? We’re talking about a paper that was intended to either validate or destroy 30 years of social science research on gay and lesbian parenting. What’s another year more?
What’s the rush?
And rush is clearly the right word. Just look a this the timeline:
July 2011-February 2012: As Regnerus recounted in his paper and I quoted above, Knowledge Networks, the company which conducted the survey and gathered the raw data, held the data collection process open during this period in order to find enough adult children of “Lesbian Mothers” or “Gay Fathers” (terminology that I always find difficult writing out when one considers how loosely he defined those categories)
February 1, 2012: The article is submitted to Social Science Research for consideration. This date is given on the paper’s front page. If the previous time period he gave for collecting his samples is correct, then he had only days to get the last of his data in, the numbers crunched, and the nineteen-page article completed. That alone is pretty remarkable.
February 29, 2012: The article is revised for publication. This typically occurs due to feedback from peer reviews. Taking only one month for others to review the study, get the feedback back to him and for him to incorporate revisions, again, is a remarkable turnaround.
March 12, 2012: The article is accepted for publication.
But then, from the time the article was accepted for publication until mention of it suddenly appeared in the Deseret News and The Washington Times, the article was never posted on Social Science Research’s Articles In Press section. After the incredible speed with which the data was gathered, article written, reviewed, revised, and accepted for publication, the article just sat there, hidden, available only to the select few that Regnerus chose to make it available to. In fact, one potential critic of that Deseret News contacted to comment on the study couldn’t because he had not seen it and Deseret News refused to provide him with a copy.
As of today, Social Science Research lists 33 articles as being in press. Three of those articles have been in the queue since before March 12 when Regnerus’s paper was accepted. And as you can see, none of the other articles were prepared with the lightning speed which Regnerus’s paper enjoyed.
|York||Feb 1, 2012||May 4, 2012||May 31, 2012||Jun 13, 2012|
|Krumpal||Jul 13, 2011||May 24, 2012||May 31, 2012||Jun 13, 2012|
|Price & Collett||Sep 5, 2011||May 15, 2012||May 31, 2012||Jun 13, 2012|
|Alvarado & Turley||Nov 11, 2011||May 10, 2012||May 31, 2012||Jun 13, 2012|
|Schmidt & Danziger||Jul 18, 2011||May 31, 2012||Jun 4, 2012||Jun 12, 2012|
|Warner & Adams||Jun 10, 2011||May 23, 2012||May 31, 2012||Jun 11, 2012|
|Kreisman||Oct 22, 2011||Feb 23, 2012||May 10, 2012||May 31, 2012|
|Högnäs & Carlson||Jul 25, 2011||Mar 7, 2011||May 10, 2012||May 30, 2012|
|Arnio, et al.||Jul 10, 2011||Jan 18, 2012||May 10, 2012||May 22, 2012|
|Kye & Mare||Apr 5, 2011||Feb 20, 2012||May 10, 2012||May 18, 2012|
|Cor, et al.||Aug 10, 2011||Apr 26, 2012||May 2, 2012||May 16, 2012|
|Daw & Hardie||Feb 5, 2011||Apr 20, 2012||May 2, 2012||May 14, 2012|
|Yan, et al.||Jul 7, 2011||Dec 15, 2011||May 2, 2012||May 11, 2012|
|Shu & Zhu||Feb 23, 2011||Jan 4, 2012||May 1, 2012||May 11, 2012|
|Seltzer, et al.||Aug 23, 2011||Apr 24, 2012||May 2, 2012||May 11, 2012|
|Klugman, et al.||Jul 1, 2011||Apr 25, 2012||May 2, 2012||May 10, 2012|
|Felson & Painter-Davis||Sep 19, 2011||Apr 15, 2012||Apr 23, 2012||May 2, 3012|
|Lancee & Van de Werfhorst||Jun 22, 2011||Mar 25, 2012||Apr 16, 2012||Apr 26, 2012|
|Marquart-Pyatt||Jan 24, 2011||Mar 27, 2012||Apr 2, 2012||Apr 17, 2012|
|Brauner-Otto, et al.||Jun 10, 2011||Mar 30, 2012||Apr 2, 2012||Apr 16, 2012|
|Mollborn, et al.||Sep 1, 2011||Mar 23, 2012||Apr 2, 2012||Apr 16, 2012|
|Xie, et al.||Sep 4, 2009||Feb 12, 2012||Apr 1, 2012||Apr 10, 2012|
|Cheadle & Sittner Hartshorn||Jul 8, 2011||Mar 18, 2012||Mar 27, 2012||Apr 3, 2012|
|Logan & Zhang||Oct 11, 2011||Feb 13, 2912||Mar 14, 2012||Apr 3, 2012|
|Cheadle & Schwadel||Sep 23, 2011||Mar 18, 2012||Mar 27, 2012||Apr 1, 2012|
|Sonnenberg, et al.||Jul 7, 2011||Nov 2, 2011||Mar 19, 2012||Mar 27, 2012|
|Zhou||Apr 15, 2011||Jan 15, 2012||Jan 2, 1900||Mar 27, 2012|
|Teney & Hanquinet||Jul 31, 2011||Mar 7, 2012||Mar 15, 2012||Mar 23, 2012|
|Thornton, et al.||Aug 24, 2011||Jan 18, 2012||Mar 12, 2012||Mar 21, 2012|
|Guzzo & Hayford||Mar 9, 2011||Dec 22, 2011||Mar 12, 2012||Mar 21, 2012|
|Villareal & Hamilton||Jan 6, 2011||Feb 15, 2012||Feb 21, 2012||Mar 7, 2012|
|Smith, et al.||May 17, 2011||Feb 13, 2012||Feb 14, 2012||Feb 27, 2012|
|Logan & Shin||Apr 8, 2011||Jan 29, 2012||Jan 31, 2012||Feb 7, 2012|
And how does the timeline for Regnerus’s paper stack up with the others appearing in the July 2012 issue? Have a look:
|Marks||Oct 3, 2011||Mar 8, 2012||Mar 12, 2012||—|
|Regnerus||Feb 1, 2012||Feb 29, 2012||Mar 12, 2012||—|
|Zuberi||Jan 28, 2010||Jan 13, 2012||Jan 17, 2012||Jan 29, 2012|
|Casciano & Massey||Apr 5, 2011||Feb 11, 2012||Feb 14, 2012||Mar 3, 2012|
|Schmeer||Oct 28, 2010||Jan 20, 2012||Jan 23, 2012||Feb 2, 2012|
|Treas & Tai||May 31, 2011||Jan 26, 2012||Jan 30, 2012||Feb 13, 2012|
|Ehlert||Nov 10, 2010||Jan 10, 2012||Feb 7, 2012||Feb 17, 2012|
|Manlove||Jan 21, 2010||Feb 2, 2012||Feb 7, 2012||Feb 21, 2012|
|Henretta, et al.||Feb 10, 2011||Dec 15, 2011||Feb 21, 2012||Mar 2, 2012|
|Flashman||Feb 5, 2011||Jan 15, 2012||Mar 1, 2012||Mar 13, 2012|
|Béteille, et al.||Jul 18, 2011||Mar 1, 2012||Mar 12, 2012||Mar 27, 2012|
|Pharris-Ciurej, et al.||May 21, 2009||Mar 1, 2012||Mar 12, 2012||Mar 21, 3012|
|Skaggs, et al.||Aug 4, 2010||Jan 17, 2012||Jan 17, 2012||Jan 26, 2012|
|Foschi & Valenzuela||Jul 25, 2011||Feb 1, 2012||Feb 2, 2012||Feb 11, 2012|
|Ergas & York||Nov 17, 2011||Feb 2, 2012||Mar 12, 2012||Mar 17, 2012|
|Maimon & Browning||Apr 16, 2011||Jan 25, 2012||Jan 30, 2012||Feb 8, 2012|
|Leopold, et al.||Jul 16, 2011||Feb 20, 2012||Mar 12, 2012||Mar 21, 2012|
You will notice that the only other article which didn’t appear in press before showing up in the July issue is a paper by Loren Marks which criticizes virtually every other study about gay and lesbian parenting from the past 30 years. (I hope to review that article over the weekend.) It too, along with Regnerus’s study, has been hailed by anti-gay activists and discussions of it appeared alongside Regnerus’s study in the Deseret News and The Washington Times.
By the standards of Social Science Research, it looks like the skids were well greased to get Regnerus’s article through the process as quickly as possible, and then to carefully control its release afterward. With these kinds of dates, it’s very difficult to believe that Regnerus’s article did not receive special treatment throughout the processes.
And so this brings up the obvious question: Why?
There are two major sets of events this year which might provide an answer. By the time this year is over, it looks like there will have been a total of five ballot initiatives on same-sex marriage. We had one constitutional amendment passed in North Carolina, and there will be another on the ballot in Minnesota. Maine and Washington will vote on whether to allow same-sex marriages in those states, and it looks all but certain that a similar question will be put to voters in Maryland. And if history is any guide, one important topic in these debates will be whether gay and lesbian couples are fit to raise children.
And that’s in addition to the four federal court cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act — all of them successful so far. At least two of them, along with the pending Prop 8 case, are likely to go to the U.S. Supreme Court very soon. Arguments over whether gays and lesbians can be good parents have figured in many of those cases as well. You can count on this paper showing up in briefs and filings as these cases move forward.
The conservative Whiterspoon Institute and Bradly Foundations together threw $785,000 at this study. They purchased a potent weapon, notwithstanding Regnerus’s protestations that the study says nothing about the fitness of gay or lesbian couples to raise children. And Social Science Review has been co-opted into that fight. Which goes to show that money doesn’t but good research, but it does buy politically useful research just when you need it.