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Researcher says Regnerus editor James Wright is Guilty of “Gross Editorial Misconduct.”

Mark Regnerus- hired by the anti-gay groups to do a "scientific" hit piece.

Mark Regnerus- hired by the anti-gay groups to do a “scientific” hit piece.

By Scott Rose

This reporter has come into possession of a March 4, 2013 e-mail that Dr. Eric Anderson of the University of Winchester sent to Dr. James Wright of the University of Central Florida. Wright is editor of Elsevier’s journal Social Science Research. Online in June, 2012, Wright subverted peer review ethics, and other points of ethical science publishing, to publish a group of papers colloquially known as “the Regnerus hoax.”

Formally, the main “study” in the hoax is titled “The New Family Structures Study.” The upshot of the propaganda package communicates a known falsehood, namely, that scientifically it is “proven” that homosexual parents tend to be a threat to children’s well-being. One of Wright’s editorial board members, W. Bradford Wilcox, was an official of the anti-gay-rights Witherspoon Institute, which commissioned the study for approximately three-quarters of a million dollars from Dr. Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin. In his paper published online in June, 2012, Regnerus fraudulently alleged that his funders were not at all involved in his study design or other aspects of carrying out the study. Documentation had via Public Information Act requests to Regnerus’s UT revealed that in fact, Wilcox was involved, as a Witherspoon official, in study design. Additionally, in a non-peer-reviewed follow-up paper in the November, 2012 issue of SSR, Regnerus repeated his untrue claim that his funders were not involved in his study design, even though Wright had been shown the documentation that they had been involved. Wright labeled the second Regnerus paper “Original Research Article,” creating a false impression that it had been peer reviewed.

Wright has ignored calls for him and his board member Wilcox to make complete and accurate disclosure of Wilcox’s involvement in the study and its publication, as is required in the Committee on Publication Ethics’ (COPE) Code of Conduct for Journal Editors Section 2.1. Meanwhile, via additional Public Information Act requests it has been learned that in August, 2011, before NFSS data collection occurred, Wilcox and Regnerus traveled on Witherspoon’s anti-gay dime to Colorado where they met for a full day with Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family to discuss NFSS promotions. After the meeting, Regnerus e-mailed Witherspoon president Luis Tellez – a regional head of the Catholic Church’s secretive Opus Dei organization – telling him that they had a good plan for promoting the anti-gay hoax moving forward. The violations of COPE’s Code of Conduct are especially serious because Wilcox has been a Regnerus funding agency representative as well as a member of Wright’s editorial board. One Public Information Act document shows that Wilcox himself steered the Regnerus hoax package to Social Science Research for publication. Moreover, documentation appears to show that Wright permitted Wilcox to peer review the first Regnerus NFSS paper.

In his e-mail, Anderson tells Wright his impressions of the follow-up NFSS propaganda package that Wright published in the November, 2012 issue of SSR. “After reading carefully your response in the 41(6) issue, the audit, and all other available materials, I remain convinced that you either acted with mal-intent in publishing a paper (either to harm the LGBT community or for impact factor gain). Either that, or you acted in a matter akin to what I classify as gross editorial misconduct.”

On the topic of how Regnerus got published in a normally peer-reviewed science journal, Anderson continues: “You had a paper that itself admitted to going against decades of research – a real game changer – and yet it was so basically flawed that my undergraduates easily find its faults. I found your excuse for how this happened not believable, egregious.”

Together with the first Regnerus paper, Wright published a same-sex parenting literature review by Dr. Loren Marks. Anti-gay forces today are using the two papers in tandem as a cudgel. Three weeks prior to the recent passage of draconian anti-gay laws in Russia, Wright’s Regnerus propaganda packages were heavily promoted in that country.

Marks was forwarded by anti-gay bigots in the Proposition 8 case in California as an “expert witness” but under cross-examination confessed that he had cherry-picked from studies he had not read and that he did not have training or experience in LGBT-sciences. Documentation shows that before humiliating himself in that way, Marks had intended to submit a gay parenting literature review to the court. Freedom of Information Act documents show that among the peer reviewers of the Marks and Regnerus papers, there was not a single LGBT-sciences trained and experienced researcher. Thus Marks, an anti-gay charlatan exposed in court as having misrepresented the science of gay parenting, was able to get his anti-gay propaganda published through James Wright.

Dr. Anderson is troubled by one of the apparently false claims that Wright made in his November, 2012 editor’s letter: “I am also bothered by the fact that you say you accepted the Marks paper, because you are receiving an increasing number of qualitative submissions.” (Social Science Research is known as a journal for quantitative research; the Marks paper is qualitative). Anderson continues: “But when I submitted an empirically driven, novel, theoretically sophisticated paper about how the seeds of patriarchy are sown in gender segregated team sports, you rejected sending it out for review, instead telling me that you do not publish qualitative research.” (Bolding added).

Dr. Anderson also expressed concern that Wright has not apologized “to the gay community for the damage that you and Regnerus are responsible for.” In April, 2013, a group of sociologists wrote a letter to Wright, and separately, to his editorial board, asking for retraction of the Regnerus paper and expressing apprehensions over the known facts of the peer review for the article. After Wright initially blew them off, the sociologists asked that he specifically address their concerns about the known facts of the invalid peer review, but again, Wright blew them off. Moreover, although Wright had alleged that any credentialed person who wrote to him with concerns about Regnerus would see their concerns published in his November, 2012 issue, he rejected Dr. Gary Gates’s essay “An Illegitimate Review Process” and refuses to answer reporters’ questions about why that essay was rejected from publication.

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3 Responses to Researcher says Regnerus editor James Wright is Guilty of “Gross Editorial Misconduct.”

  1. Jay

    July 19, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Thank you for continuing to investigate this academic hoax. The creation of junk science is something everyone should be concerned about. The creation of junk science with the specific intention of harming gay and lesbian people is even more egregious. Wright needs to be fired and all the other enablers exposed. Scott Rose has done wonderful investigative journalism on this topic.

  2. Scott Rose

    July 18, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    In the tumultuous e-mail exchanges that followed the publication of the above post, Sherkat appears to have confessed that Regnerus funding agency representative Brad Wilcox did in fact peer review the Regnerus paper, contravening all recognized ethics of peer review.

  3. Scott Rose

    July 18, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    I am noting as a comment that since publication of the above post, NFSS study consultant Dr. Paul Amato of Penn State has confessed that editor Dr. James Wright permitted him to peer review the Regnerus paper. Moreover, Amato alleges that it is normal for one and the same researcher to be a study consultant, a peer reviewer and author of a commentary published alongside a paper from the lead researcher of the study. No major science journal editor agrees with Amato about the ethics of this situation. Additionally, the American Sociological Association’s Code of Ethics states that when researchers are working in an area outside their area of training and expertise, they should rely on guidance from appropriately credentialed experts. Neither Regnerus nor Amato could have been helpful to each other in that regard, as neither has training or experience in LGBT-science generally and still less in the esoteric field of same-sex parents’ child outcomes.