By Scott Rose
On July 18, 2013, Dr. Paul Amato confessed to the editor of this website that despite his fiduciary conflicts of interest, he had peer reviewed the notorious paper by Dr. Mark Regnerus based on the data of the so-called New Family Structures Study.
This reporter then sent an e-mail to Dr. Darren Sherkat, editorial board member of the journal that published the two anti-gay Regnerus hoax packages in June/July 2012 and November 2012 — Elsevier’s Social Science Research, the editor in chief of which is Dr. James Wright of the University of Central Florida.
The first anti-gay Regnerus propaganda package was so egregious that in reaction to over 200 Ph.D.s’ complaints about its lack of intellectual integrity and suspicious circumstances of publication, Wright assigned Sherkat to an audit of its publication. The fix was in on the audit; Sherkat’s set goal was to shield Wright from accountability for his gross editorial misconduct.
That editorial misconduct included Wright’s allowing Regnerus’s funding agency representative Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox – who is also a Social Science Research editorial board member – to peer review the Regnerus paper. Documentation had through Public Information Act requests to Regnerus’s University of Texas at Austin showed that Wright had permitted Amato and Wilcox to peer review Regnerus. In my July 18 e-mail to Sherkat, I stated the obvious, that Wright had permitted Wilcox to peer review Regnerus. Here is Sherkat’s July 18 response:
“Did Wilcox review Regnerus? Even if he did, who fucking cares? Bradley Wilcox is on the editorial board of Social Science Research. God damn right he reviews manuscripts.”
As a Witherspoon Institute Program Director, Wilcox in 2010 recruited Regnerus to carry out the anti-gay hoax for The Witherspoon Institute, from which Wilcox receives funds for his University of Virginia programs. He collaborated with Regnerus on study design, data collection and data analysis. He steered the Regnerus package to Social Science Research, but then in violation of the Committee on Publication Ethic’s (COPE) Code of Conduct for Journal Editors, Wright and Wilcox did not disclose Wilcox’s role in the study and its publication. In August, 2011, with their travel paid for with Witherspoon money, and before NFSS data collection had occurred, Regnerus and Wilcox spent a full day in Colorado discussing New Family Structures Study media and public relations promotions with Focus on the Family’s Glenn Stanton, who has repeatedly called homosexuality “A particularly evil lie of Satan.”
Dr. Sherkat, nonetheless, has characterized Wilcox’s conflicts of interest with Regnerus as “minimal.” If this is minimal conflict of interest, one wonders, what would constitute moderate conflicts of interest?
Also on July 18, Sherkat accused this writer of having “harassed” Amato into revealing that he had peer reviewed Regnerus. Amato, however, alleged to the site editor that he openly tells people who ask that he did the peer review. He noted that few people had asked him. Amato certainly was free not to make the confession. Moreover, writing on July 20 on the FamilyInequality site edited by sociologist Dr. Philip Cohen, Amato said: “In retrospect, I understand that providing a review was not a good idea, because one should avoid even the hint of impropriety in matters like this.”
Wright’s first anti-gay Regnerus propaganda package includes Regnerus’s quantitative paper and a qualitative gay parenting literature review by Dr. Loren Marks, who had withdrawn as an expert witness from the Proposition 8 trial in California after cross-examination revealed that he had made serious misrepresentations to the court. Social Science Research is a quantitative, not a qualitative journal. Sherkat’s audit alleged that no LGBT-sciences experts peer reviewed the Regnerus paper, because most LGBT-sciences scholars do qualitative research and so would be unlikely to peer review the Regnerus paper. In writing that, Sherkat left unexplained why Marks’s qualitative paper also did not get peer reviewed by any LGBT-sciences experts. Indeed, when Dr. Eric Anderson submitted a qualitative paper to Wright, Wright told him that Social Science Research does not publish qualitative research papers at all.
Anderson is hardly the only sociologist disturbed by Wright’s editorial misconduct. In posting Amato’s statement, Dr. Cohen announced that he will not submit articles to, or do peer review for Social Science Research as long as Wright remains its editor. “I hope others will join me in that decision.” Dr. Cohen also wrote: “I believe the paper should be retracted because the conclusions are demonstrably wrong, because the author lied in the paper about the involvement of the institute that funded it, and because the peer review process was compromised by conflicts of interest. As long as this remains uncorrected, and James Wright remains editor, the integrity of the journal is indelibly tarnished.”
Meanwhile, Sherkat in an e-mail went ballistic against Dr. Anderson – who concurs that Wright is guilty of gross editorial misconduct. Addressing Dr. Anderson as “Mr. Anderson,” Sherkat accused him of not knowing anything about the peer review process and of being “a low tier scholar who has no understanding of the publication process.” Dr. Anderson earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Irvine, he is a full Professor at the University of Winchester and a member of the British Academy of Social Sciences. Though Sherkat earned his Ph.D. in 1991 and Anderson his doctorate in 2004, Anderson has published many more books and articles than Sherkat.
In a July 18, 2013 e-mail, in reaction to Anderson’s criticisms of Wright’s editorial misconduct, Sherkat wrote “Fuck you.” Anderson responded “Why are you attacking people who question James Wright’s motives, rather than seeking to address the negative impact of this awful article?” In response, and while prevaricating about the circumstances of publication of Wright’s first Regnerus anti-gay package, Sherkat said “You can see that in my audit, and if you don’t believe that, well then fuck you.”
Hunter College Professor Emeritus Kenneth Sherrill told me this: “I remember the time when many of us were happy with Sherkat’s audit. Your work, of course, has shown that the audit was limited in its scope and should have gone further.”