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Auditor of “Gay Parenting” Study Warns of Christian Right’s Corruption of Social Science

Jim Burroway

May 29th, 2013

Last June, the journal Social Science Research published a controversial study by Mark Regnerus which claimed that children of gay and lesbian parents fared worse than children from other family configurations. BTB was the first to publish a review which demonstrated that the study was seriously flawed and the data was intentionally manipulated in order to draw conclusions that the data itself simply could not support. While Regnerus acknowledged a few of the studies flaws, he defended it on the whole and quickly became something of a spokesperson for anti-gay activists who were battling marriage equality in Federal court.

The massive controversy over the study’s flaws and its questionable rush to publication led Social Science Research editor Kames D. Wright to assign a member of the journal’s editorial board, Dr. Darren E. Sherkat of Southern Illinois University, to review how the paper and how its publication was handled. In that audit, Sherkat found problems with the study’s conclusions, its funding sources (nearly $700,000 from the Witherspoon Institute), conflicts of interests with the study’s reviewers, and the auspicious timing of the study’s publication, just ahead of the 2012 elections when marriage equality ballot initiatives were to be voted on in three states and a marriage ban in a fourth. Additional documents release last March revealed that Witherspoon Institute was more heavily involved with the contorted data analysis which led to the study’s false conclusions. Those documents also revealed that Witherspoon Institute president Luis Tellez exerted pressure get the study published before the marriage cases reached the Supreme Court.

Dr. Darren Sherkat

This morning, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report published an interview with Dr. Sherkat, who explained further what he found when he examined how the journal handled the Regnerus paper. Sherkat described the pressures that editors face in filling their journals’ pages with content, and the slipshod way that many reviewers approach their work. Those factors are just a few which contribute to a general lack of rigor in social science journals, says Sherkat, and he warns that “conservative Christian scholars” are taking advantage of that opening:

Peer review is not perfect. The majority of people don’t do a bad job out of any kind of malicious intent. Having said that, Mark Regnerus is not alone. There are a large number of conservative Christian scholars in sociology, in political science, in family studies, and it’s surprising how many now are rising up into the top ranks. I’ve watched Mark throughout his career rise up through those structures that help to elevate conservative idea creators who are committed to the ideology of the Christian right and who are bright enough and hard-working enough to establish themselves in secular education. Regnerus has contemporaries who came up with him who today are also at prominent universities throughout the country.

Sherkat describes Regnerus’s method for identifying “gay and lesbian parents” as “simply a farce.” He also says that Regnerus “has been disgraced. All of the prominent people in the field know what he did and why he did it. And most of them know that he knew better.” But Sherkat worries that the funding of studies like Regnerus’s by conservative think tanks is creating an unlevel playing field:

One thing that’s disturbing to me about the Regnerus study is that Regnerus received a large amount of money from these foundations and this creates a very different scholarly and intellectual atmosphere. It creates a playing field that’s not level. Someone like Regnerus is now able to go out and buy his own data, if we’re to accept data of this quality.

Even if we were to say it’s high quality data, he is able to get a million dollars’ worth of influence — he was able to generate that kind of funding from these conservative foundations in a way that other intellectuals are not able to do. All of the traditional sources of social scientific funding have dried up over the last 20 years and there’s nowhere to go to get money, but these guys have it. There are talks in Congress about cutting the entire social science budget at the National Science Foundation. That is chilling, because then we’ll be completely reliant on people like Mark Regnerus and Brad Wilcox [of the University of Virginia] and Christian Smith [of Notre Dame University] and people like that for our information about potentially crucial or controversial issues.

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StraightGrandmother
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

As a follow up I will merely say that I was sent documents yesterday, documents that were released via the freedom Of Information Act requests, that show how corrupt really *CORRUPT* the peer review process was.

Paul Amato at Penn State was a Peer Reviewer. Regnerus submitted his research paper into JSSR on Feburary 1. On Feburary 2nd he sent a copy via e-mail to Paul Amato. He also told Paul Amato that he (Regnerus) had put his name down and sent to Wright as a possible peer reviewer.

Keep in mind Amato was a PAID consultant on the study. We know already he earned at least $2,000 Consulting (and more records will be forth coming) and we see where Regnerus offered him another 5,000 just to help out from time to time if Amato did not want to step into a more prominent consulting role on the project.

We see e-mails from Amato advising Regnerus on various aspects of the study making recommendations. One example. Regnerus was bummed because he didn’t get hardly any respondents who were raised by mommy+mommy or daddy+daddy. Dr. Kelly Raley at UT, ALSO a consultant to the project, suggested the data firm contact the people who answered “yes” my mother or father had a same sex romance, to contact them and ask to survey any brothers or sisters they have. This would pump up the numbers by bringing in brothers and sisters.

Amato said that would be a fine thing to do but Regnerus “discuss it” in the Analysis.

Don’t even get me started on the collusion the documents show between Wilcox and regnerus. Wilcox advising him how Regnerus should constitute his family groups. Wilcox telling him how to desgn the tables for the reports. And if you can believe it (and do believe me) Regnerus had not even decided on the family groupings he was going to use as late as EIGHT DAYS before he sent in the research to JSSR. Stated another way, Regnerus and Wilcox a mere 8 days prior to submissionn to JSSR were e-mailing back and forth which family groupings to use.

Wilcox was a peer reviewer also. That makes Wilcox and Amato 2 out of the 3 Peer Reviewers of Regnerus.

I got half a mind to Scribd the docs but in deference to the people who are actively pursuing the truth, I will wait. They are the ones doing the work not me, so I’ll sit back and wait for the docs to be made public. There is even more stuff in them that will curl your hair even more than I am reporting above.

StraightGrandmother
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

Second, if someone who knows how to save YouTube Videos (for when they get pulled by the person who posted them) will volunteer and is on BTB right now, if I know somebody is saving some YouTube Videos outside of YouTube I’ll post some videos on this that will *blow your mind.* I do not want to give it away and risk the videos being taken down until and unless I know they have been saved off line. Can somebody step forward who knows how to do that kindly post here? If I know you are on it then I’ll post the links.

Ben in Oakland
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

Thanks for all your work on this, grandma. We can only hope that this puts a lustrous end to the career of a propagandist like regnerus. He can then pull a Gallagher and become a paid consultant to conservative Christian groups, making his money from dominionism.

StraightGrandmother
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

Third go to Twitter and search #Regnerus you will see my contributions which are siply tracking where Regnerus is being used around the world. You don’t even need Twitter, in Google just Google “Twitter #Regnerus”

Exampel the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico citing pages after pages after pages of Regnerus in their Supreme Court Decision striking down second parent adoption in Puerto Rico. You will find that documented in #Regnerus in Twitter.

Regenrus was HUGE in FRANCE, I cna’t overstate it enough. On the FRONT Page of the haters website LeManifPourTous they linked to Regnerus which they had translated into French.

A Pediatric Psychiatrist in France on Video and then also addressing HUGE Crowds citing #Regnerus. I have been quitely working away doing this one thing I could do which is to document world wide how Regnerus is bring used to Suppress the Civil Rights of Sexual Minorities.

I have e-mails from Gay rights leaders in Belize, Jamaica, France telling me Regnerus is being cited and used against them. The guy in Bleize was just before the Belize Supreme Court about 2 weeks ago in his case to strike down the Sodomy Laws.

Every time I read about gay oppression in smaller countries on GayStar news I contact the gay rights activists in those countries who are fighting for their lives, I write to them and aske them how Regnerus is being used in their country. Oh Coratia also, I almost forgot Croatia they are in a Constitutional Referendum Battle in Croatia.

The only Country where I contacted a Gay Rights Activist and asked about Regnerus who replied back “No,” was in the Country of Georgia. That Gay Rights activist e-mailed me back and said that the hatred is so deep and profound in Georgia they need no justification and he is not aware of the haters citing Regnerus.

StraightGrandmother
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

In my mind John Becker is a real hero he went even one step further, he started an actual lawsuit against the University of Central Florida (the Editor James of the Journal Social Science Research, Wright, is out of that University). Every day I search for news on that Court case but so far nothing. It is in the works though.

But already just out of the docs out of the University of Texas Austin, we see without any doubt at all, the absolute collusion in the project, from design, through publication, complete collusion.

Neil
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

The Regnerus study is excellent.

It proves that the status quo of inequality for same sex couples is bad for the children of gay parents. It demonstrates wonderfully how pressuring gays to conform to straight ideals will only lead to broken marriages to the detriment of all parties.

It’s clear from Regnerus’ study that same sex marriage would lead to much better outcomes.

StraightGrandmother
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

I have the list of Peer Reviewers of the Marks & Regnerus papers. Although not segregated. In other words I have the names but the document does not say who peer reviewed Marks and who Peer Reviewed Regnerus. But we can tell by other Freedom of Information Act docs that Amato and Wilcox were peer reviewers to Regnerus. That leaves the question of the 3rd peer reviewer which Sherkat refers to when he says this in his SPLC article,

“Why do you say certain reviewers shouldn’t have been used for Regnerus’ paper?

Potential conflicts of interest based upon prior relationships with the author. Let’s just leave it at that. But there was one prominent reviewer who was a complete outsider, too.”

Sherkat has consistently defended the Editor Wright. And he shouldn’t! No Sherkat, I am NOT going to just “leave it at that” I’ll bet the Hole against the Doughnut that the THIRD Peer Reviewer of Regnerus was a Sociologist who worked with Regnerus at UT for 7 years and has *as his research area of Expertice* RELIGION.

Again I have the complete list of Peer Reviewrs and NOT ONE OF THEM is an EXPERT in the research area of sexual minority studies, much less gay parenting. NONE OF THEM.

So Sherkat should STOP, right now, defending Editor Wright. I think, can’t prove, it is a guess on my part, I think I know WHY Sherkat defends Wright to the Nine’s and says that there is no ethics violations by *anybody* involved in this scandal. I think I know *why* Sherkat does this.

Because previously Wright published a paper Sherkat wrote, a pro gay paper, when two Peer Reviewers said No to Publish. Wright overrode two out of three peer reviewers who said NOT to Publish the Sherkat paper and he published it anyway. I think, can’t prove but it is the most plausible in my mind, I think Sherkat is out there deflecting criticism against his buddy Wright because he feel indebted to him.

Sherkat is not to be trusted, in my opinion, not at ALL. No Sherkat I’m not gonna just let it stay published, I am still going to fight for retraction, and ethics violations. When Wright found out that two out of three peer reviewers were also paid consultants he SHOULD HAVE RETRACTED!

StraightGrandmother
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

Tell that to Scalia Neil. And tell that to the two Lesbian Mothers in Puerto Rico who did NOT get second parent adoption for their child conceived through a sperm donor. I don’t think they would say what an EXCELLENT study this is.

Timothy (TRiG)
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

I have some idea how to save YouTube videos. Alternatively, you could e-mail them to me directly and I could host them myself on my own website (assuming that this is legal: what is the copyright status of the videos?).

TRiG.

StraightGrandmother
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

Trig are you on line right now? Can you assure me that you can save these videos in a format other than YouTube?

Herald
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

StraightGrandmother I can tell you how to save YouTube videos or do it for you.

Daki
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

Go to http://keepvid.com/ Enter the link of the Youtube video and download.

StraightGrandmother
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

Daki, AND Herald, will you do it then? Say yes and I’ll post the links.
And you are assuring me that that the way you are saving the videos an be re-posted outside of YouTube?

Christopher
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

As someone who’s familiar with academic libraries, I’d like to add something:

The journal Social Science Research is published by Elsevier. Most college and university libraries that subscribe to this journal (WorldCat puts it at 520 but it’s likely higher) don’t purchase it as a single subscription. They purchase it as part of an Elsevier package. It’s not a journal many libraries specifically choose to subscribe to, especially because of its low impact factor.

That doesn’t mean that libraries have to keep subscribing, though. They can drop the title from their package in favor of another Elsevier journal.

If you’re a student, faculty member, or staff of a college or university that subscribes to Social Science Research talk to the librarians. Many would be very interested in knowing that library resources are being spent on a journal whose editor knowingly publishes biased and unfounded studies in the interests of influencing public policy. And there are alternatives.

StraightGrandmother
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

“And you are assuring me that that the way you are saving the videos an be re-posted outside of YouTube?”

Spelling correction
“And you are assuring me that that the way you are saving the videos *Can* be re-posted outside of YouTube?

Timothy (TRiG)
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

If you upload to YouTube I (and, no doubt, others here) will download.

Uploading to YouTube then downloading through KeepVid or some other means will quite likely (not necessarily) lead to a drop in quality, so if you also want to send the originals to me by some other means (Dropbox, perhaps, or even e-mail), that’d be good.

Timothy (TRiG)
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

Oh, and converting videos between different formats, and then sharing on other sites (including my own), is certainly possible. It might be tomorrow before I get it done, though.

TRiG.

Daki
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

Yes. There are zillion ways to save Youtube videos, I just mentioned one of them.

StraightGrandmother
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

I can’t put up the links now and *hope* tomorrow you will have time to save them. If somebody can do this *now* kindly let me know and I’ll post the links to the videos.

Timothy (TRiG)
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

Oh I can save them now. (So can others; they said so.) I was just saying it might be tomorrow before I get them up on my own website. For now, they’d be on my computer (and backed up on Dropbox, in case my computer blows up overnight).

But I’m leaving here in about half an hour, so some time before then would be good.

TRiG.

StraightGrandmother
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

Great save these then

He says 2 out of three Peer Reviewers were paid consultants
http://youtu.be/Op8wNKrwsqQ

Part 3 Pause the recording and read the slides.
He clearly shows this on a slide, two peer reviewers had a conflict, it is near the end.
http://youtu.be/yXHbK-UX324

Part 2
http://youtu.be/DPIibzE3ToU

Part 1
http://youtu.be/VdVR2DVU5sY

Timothy (TRiG)
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

All four are now downloading. You got me before I had to leave!

I’ll post back when I have them up on my own site.

TRiG.

Shannon Spencer Fox
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

It’s already been covered by a few others, StaightGrandmother, but I’ll add this for anyone else curious: by far the best program for downloading YouTube videos is YTD Video Downloader, at http://download.cnet.com/YTD-Video-Downloader/3000-2071_4-10647340.html. It’s also good for a number of other sites as well.

TomTallis
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

I have them on my hard drive. I’m going to convert them to .wmv files.

StraightGrandmother
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

Thanks TOM!

Regan DuCasse
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

First, let me applaud SG for her diligence and insight into this issue.
Second, I am so proud of the informed and intelligent information offered on sites from the comment threads like BTB and Good As You and from HuffPo contributor, Alvin McEwen…to name just a few.
Just this morning, Todd Starnes is complaining and aping Matt Barber’s screed on the brochure offered from DOJ pride.

There are virtually NO anti gay sites, articles, but most especially, comment threads that are at all authentically smart or can engage an informed conversation. Sophist, is the best they can muster, but typically quoting religious reasons for their opinions.
Even when someone is being sarcastic or profane, there is STILL more HUMOR and intelligent commentary to be had from our own.

When Jennifer Roback Morse came to the IND legislature to speak against equality, those who sat with her on the panel, were of no professional expertise either.

And in a typical example of anti gay irony, right after JRM testified on how bad gay and lesbian parents were, an ex-lesbian sitting next to her mentioned raising two sons to adulthood with her former female partner of 15 years and she was proud of her sons.
So this ex lesbian was by her presence, allowing JRM to say what a bad parent she’d been!

Not recognizing their own incredibly large store of irony, tends to demonstrate how unintelligent and patently without consistency BUT their hypocrisy, our detractors are.

Herald
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

StraightGrandmother those links will be on my drive shortly. They sound very interesting! ;)

ebohlman
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

And if you can believe it (and do believe me) Regnerus had not even decided on the family groupings he was going to use as late as EIGHT DAYS before he sent in the research to JSSR. Stated another way, Regnerus and Wilcox a mere 8 days prior to submissionn to JSSR were e-mailing back and forth which family groupings to use.

This is truly a bombshell. One of the most basic principles of quantitative research is that you cannot use the same set of data to both define your hypotheses and test them. Doing so is engaging in a circular argument and makes it impossible to generalize your findings beyond the particular sample that you used.

Either you define your family groupings (based on prior subject-matter knowledge) before you start analyzing the data (by far the most preferable option), or you randomly split your data into two groups, one of which you examine to determine the family groupings you’ll use and the other of which you use to look for associations between those groupings and outcomes.

Doing what Regnerus did opens up the possibility that, consciously or unconsciously, you’ll define the groupings in such a way as to maximize the associations you want to see. It’s the same error as looking at the observed difference between two groups and then setting a significance level for your t-test or what have you based on it.

StraightGrandmother
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

ebohlman, really? I didn’t know that. Yeah there are a bunch of e-mails going back and forth between Wilcox and Regnerus. In one of the e-mails Wilcox tell him to make five groupings of family structures so that the Regnerus research will aling with Murray. This was in January the 22nd of January and he submitted the paper February 1.

In January that guy named Murry he wrote that Bell Curve book (paper?) had a big article out. I don’t know if it is the same Murrary or not, but I did look on the internet and the Murry in Wilcox’s e-mail matched the Murray who wrote that Bell Curve article/book AND who had an article out in January.

It’s really sketchy, I mean REALLY. The collaboration between Amato & Regnerus and Wilcox & Regnerus shown on the e-mails, and then those 2 get picked as peer reviewers.

I swear on the Bible the e-mails show they were still kicking around how to group the respondents into family structures 8 days before he submitted the paper.

Oh and don’t forget he didn’t even have all the data in. He got his final data file February 24th. (Keep in mind he submitted it on February 21st.

StraightGrandmother
May 29th, 2013 | LINK

Sorry for all the typos, geesh. Hope you can figure out what I wrote.

Here is another thing. Regnerus is pressed to get this published FAST. He writes to Amato (I’m telling you they were chummy) that there is going to be some kind of a earth shattering report that is going to be published and he wants his study published before that report. Regnerus says (paraphrasing ehre) that he wants his study to be peer reviewed and published FIRST, that way when this big earth dhatterng report comes out it will have more validity because of Regnerus being published first. In other words the Regnerus research will be validating this earth shattering report, and he is trying to beat getting this done before that report.

I think, can’t know for sure, but I think it was more to use in the Supreme Court and it was not a “Report” it was a Supreme Court Brief he was trying to influence and he was not being completely honest with Amato by calling it a report.

We will know more when the Wilcox/Regnerus e-mails are released. This batch is mainly on Amato. I hope these docs get published soon, they are not “my docs” just shared with me, which is why I am not directly quoting from them.

Bernie Keefe
May 30th, 2013 | LINK

SGM, XOXO!

cd
May 30th, 2013 | LINK

Kudos to you, SG. Hang in there.

The seedy side of the humanities and social sciences is morally and intellectually horrifying.

Paul Mc
May 30th, 2013 | LINK

SG,

It’s vital that Regnerus study is debunked and held as ‘tainted’.

It needs to be retracted to have any hope of stopping mis-use across the whole frigging globe.

I find it absolutely laughably horrifying that the author claims this study says nothing about lesbian and gay parenting ‘per se’, but the paper is shot through with the LM and GF references and that the ONLY use made of the paper is to damn lesbian and gay parenting in the courts and in the pulpits.

If you ever had a tiny doubt creeping in that you’re spending too much time, too single-minded… don’t.

Cameron lies still circulating. 1992 Vancouver HIV data still trotted out to prove gay men die young.

You know, the least we could expect from a professional researcher and a Christian is the truth. So ironic that Regnerus, the Christian, has played a role in what is a scam. The cooking of data into a form that damns an entire minority. UNBELIEVABLE that the groupings were being sliced and diced so close to the submission date.

CPT_Doom
May 30th, 2013 | LINK

ebohlman – It is also shocking to see the sample described as a “convenience” sample and not the randomized population-based sample that was initially described. The only alleged scientific strength the Regnerus work had was that it did NOT rely on the convenience sampling of much of the existing research on same-sex parenting (in which parents, both straight and gay, are recruited into the study, must be willing participants, etc.). It’s not bad to use convenience sampling, especially when population analyses are not possible, because the phenomenon you’re studying is rare (like same-sex parenting, especially when you’re aiming for already-adult children of such families), but Regnerus’ whole argument was based on the scientific validity of his sampling technique.

From the description by Sherkat, it sounds like the Regnerus study was equivalent to those magazine surveys that the right loves to pull out to “prove” gays and lesbians are freaks. The very idea of reaching out to the siblings of those participants who had already indicated some same-sex relationship in a parent in order to increase the number of people with such a parent is deeply troubling. Siblings are likely to experience the same family environments and therefore you would amplify the alleged negative outcomes of their families if you deliberately recruit from families for which you already have data.

Darina
May 30th, 2013 | LINK

Add the Russian sensational “journalists” to your list, Grandma. Just at a time when there were several local laws against the “propaganda of homosexuality” in Russia already (something like your state laws), and there was already a bill of the same kind in their federal Parliament (it is still in the process of being voted on, in between readings).

I think Google translate manages this Russian article more or less decently (I’ve seen at least one that was even worse, but I forgot to bookmark it). They even got a little interview from Regnerus himself!
http://vsenovosti.in.ua/vzglad/0225992
There is a translation of this piece of “journalism” into my native Bulgarian now by some blogger who’s a “nationalist” or something, but thankfully at least it’s not in the newspapers.

Timothy (TRiG)
May 30th, 2013 | LINK

I have those videos downloaded, but I’m having trouble converting them to WebM format (my usual method, Zamzar, is failing; I may have to learn how to use FFmpeg instead). I’ll get them up on my site sometime.

In the meantime, it appears that they haven’t disappeared from YouTube, anyway.

TRiG.

Nick
May 31st, 2013 | LINK

Many do believe that the aim of Mark Regnerus’ “research” here was particularly as a political hit job, yes? A prefabricated conclusion in search of evidence, funded by a right wing Christian organization with deep pockets, to help bias the U.S. Supreme Court as it considers DOMA and Prop 8, yes? That’s pretty dirty, if true.

Priya Lynn
May 31st, 2013 | LINK

Nick – yes.

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