Friday, June 29, 2012

Over 200 professors, therapists condemn anti-gay parenting study

Editor's Note - Today's edition of Know Your LGBT History has been put on hold because of some explosive news:

From Think Progress:
Mark Regnerus’ flawed paper on gay parenting has won the acclaim of hate groups and ex-gay therapists and its publication seems to have been politically calculated with marriage equality opponents like the National Organization for Marriage. A group of 18 anti-gay religiously-biased professors defended the paper, but now, a group of over 200 professors and therapists have written a “bombshell letter” critiquing its methods and publication.

Among the concerns are how quickly it was published, the validity of its peer review, and the merits of its methodology and conclusions:
We are very concerned about the academic integrity of the peer review process for this paper as well as its intellectual merit. We question the decision of Social Science Research to publish the paper, and particularly, to publish it without an extensive, rigorous peer review process and commentary from scholars with explicit expertise on LGBT family research. The methodologies used in this paper and the interpretation of the findings are inappropriate.
The publication of this paper and the accompanying commentary calls the editorial process at Social Science Research, a well-regarded, highly cited social science journal (ranking in the top 15% of Sociology journals by ISI), into serious question. We urge you to publicly disclose the reasons for both the expedited peer review process of this clearly controversial paper and the choice of commentators invited to submit critiques. We further request that you invite scholars with specific expertise in LGBT parenting issues to submit a detailed critique of the paper and accompanying commentaries for publication in the next issue of the journal.
Read the full letter for more detail about the professors’ concerns.

The data in this study clearly lacks the integrity to actually impact mainstream psychological thinking on the question of same-sex parenting, as exemplified by this letter and the American Psychological Association’s rebuke of the study. Whether its publication was politically intentional is irrelevant to the fact that the only purpose it serves is to add to the stack of invalid studies the anti-gay movement cites to defend its anti-equality actions.
The letter also raises another question regarding Regnerus' study - the length of the review process before it was published  and who was chosen to review it:
We question the process by which this paper was submitted, reviewed, and accepted for publication. The paper was received by the journal on February 1, 2012. A revision was received on February 29, and the paper was accepted on March 12. This suggests that the peer review process and substantive revisions occurred within a period of just five weeks. According to the peer review policy of the Social Science Research website hosted by Elsevier, the first step of the review process is an initial manuscript evaluation by the editor. Once deemed to meet minimum criteria, at least 2 experts are secured for a peer review. The website states that, “Typically manuscripts are reviewed within 2-3 months of submission but substantially longer review times are not uncommon” and that “Revised manuscripts are usually returned to the initial referees upon receipt.” Clearly, Dr. Regnerus’ paper was returned to him very quickly, because he had time to revise the manuscript and get it back to the journal by February 29th. Further, it appears that a second substantive peer review may not have occurred as the paper was accepted just two weeks after the revision was submitted.

The five-week submission to acceptance length was much shorter than all of the other articles published in the July 2012 issue. The average period of review for papers published in this issue was more than a year and the median review time was more than ten months. As we note below, there are substantial concerns about the merits of this paper, and these concerns should have been identified through a thorough and rigorous peer review process.

We further question the selection of commenters for the Regnerus paper. While Cynthia Osborne and Paul Amato are certainly well-respected scholars, they are also both active participants in the Regnerus study. According to her curriculum vitae, Dr. Osborne is a Co-Principal Investigator of the New Family Structure Survey. Dr. Amato served as a paid consultant on the advisory group convened to provide insights into study design and methods. Perhaps more importantly, neither Osborne nor Amato have ever published work that considers LGBT family or parenting issues. A cursory examination of this body of literature would reveal a wide range of scholars who are much more qualified to evaluate the merits of this study and were neither directly involved in the study design nor compensated for that involvement.

Slowly but surely, this study is becoming a headache for all involved in its creation, funding, publishing, and promoting.

It's extremely unprecedented that over 200 professors and therapists condemn one study. Instead of jaded comments of "well we know it was biased," the gay community needs to spread news of this to the four corners and beyond. A lot of people DO NOT know this study is trash and it's up to US to tell them.

Hat tip to author Scott Rose who has been on the ball from day one exposing the truth about this study.

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Bob Niemic said...

Thanks for posting this info on the study & its peer review. Thanks also for telling readers of your blog to spread this news about the study: "A group of 18 anti-gay religiously-biased professors defended the paper, but now, a group of over 200 professors and therapists have written a “bombshell letter” critiquing its methods and publication."

Daniel said...

This is important information to pass on. The Journal itself is called into question, due to the highly flawed peer reviewed process, and the obvious conflict of interest of the reviewers. Shame on the editors.

Woodstock said...

Have you read Phillip Cohen's blog about this "study"? It gives this timeline:
according to the study design document online at the University of Texas (here), and the article history dates listed by the journal Social Science Research (here), this is the timeline for the study:

Data collection start date: August 19, 2011
Email and postcard reminders sent to non-responders: December 15, 2011
Telephone reminder campaign: December 20, 2011-January 17, 2012
Paper received by Social Science Research: February 1, 2012
Data collection end date: February 21, 2012
Data file delivered to University of Texas “containing the collected data”: February 24, 2012
Revised paper received by Social Science Research: February 29, 2012
Paper accepted by Social Science Research: March 12, 2012
Paper published online: June 10, 2012

According to these documents, the paper was submitted for publication 20 days before the end of the data collection, and 23 days before the data were delivered to the University of Texas! That’s fast.
There's also some interesting comments on the blog, including one from Mark Regnerus. The blog can be found here:

Anonymous said...

Woodstock, very good comment. To bad you did not provide a link to Phillip Cohen's blog
I will have to go search for that on the internet.

Here is a link to a downloadable file of those +200 PhDs who signed against Regnerus there are big names including Dr. Mark Hayward who heads up the Population Center at the Univ of Texas Austin, which is the department Regnerus works in.