Homophobia Inc. and America’s newest export: Hate (Part 2 of 3)

Welcome to Part 2 of a three part series on American far right anti-gay groups and how they’ve been exporting their homophobia (and misogyny, and other far-right causes) all over the globe.

In Part 1, we explored the origins, goals, and methods of the World Congress of Families, an umbrella organization for just about every American group opposing gay rights, women’s rights, and in fact any liberal or progressive cause that offends the far right social radicals.

Part 2, below, examines the infamous Regnerus anti-gay “New Family Structures Study,” and how the same names behind the World Congress of Families, National Organization for Marriage, and other far right American anti-gay hate groups made it happen. In addition, we’ll dig into just how such an awful, unscientific paper was published at all.

Finally, in Part 3, I’m hoping to tie it all together.

I’ve written about the Regnerus study before, but in this post I’m planning to go into greater detail and make connections I hadn’t made then.

Exporting Homophobia

Exporting Homophobia

The New Family Structures Study – aka The Regnerus Study

The formal name for what is commonly (in the media anyway) called “the Regnerus study” is actually the New Family Structures Study (NFSS), as published in the journal “Social Science Research.”

Mark Regnerus

Mark Regnerus

It acquired the nickname because that’s the surname of the researcher — Mark Regnerus — who conducted, analyzed, and wrote a paper on his results.

In short, the Regnerus study has become the number one tool of the far right — in America and around the globe — in their declarations that homosexuality must be made illegal because gays are bad for children. No longer content merely to suggest children do better with hetero parents, the radical anti-gay right has been claiming they have scientific proof that gay parents — indeed all gay people — aren’t just ‘less than ideal,’ but actually and literally a danger to kids.

I’ve already covered the Regnerus study in some detail in another post. (In fact, it was my debut AMERICAblog essay, “The Protocols of the Elders of the Castro.“) John also reported on it back in July, in “Internal audit finds anti-gay marriage study to be “bullsh-t.” As I wrote on 19 Aug:

The Regnerus study claims to compare and contrast outcomes for children raised in gay or lesbian-headed families as opposed to heterosexual families (both biological and adoptive). Its conclusion: Children raised by gay and lesbian families are (according to the study) significantly more prone to depression, suicide, drug abuse, getting STDs, doing lousy in school, having behavior problems in general, and being sexually abused. Oh, and growing up to be gay.

In glancing through Regenerus data and charts, it would seem to indicate lesbian mothers are especially awful at raising kids, in addition to being more likely to be on public assistance and welfare. Not to mention, experts at taking children and turning them gay.

The number one methodology problem? Out of a what’s listed as a sample size consisting of 3000 adults, there were only two actually-gay families in the entire study, both lesbian and their families were blended from earlier relationships.

None of the purportedly gay or lesbian families were stable two-parent households raising children from birth or very early age adoptions. People were classified as gay if they’d ever at any time in their lives had a same-sex romantic encounter. (Apparently bisexuals simply don’t exist according to this study. And sorry, if you slept with someone of the same gender just once, even if you later decided being gay wasn’t for you — you’re gay.) As John Corvino at the New Republic remarked:

Question: What do the following all have in common?

  • A heterosexually married female prostitute who on rare occasion services women
  • A long-term gay couple who adopt special-needs children
  • A never-married straight male prison inmate who sometimes seeks sexual release with other male inmates
  • A woman who comes out of the closet, divorces her husband, and has a same-sex relationship at age 55, after her children are grown
  • Ted Haggard, the disgraced evangelical pastor who was caught having drug fueled-trysts with a male prostitute over a period of several years
  • A lesbian who conceives via donor insemination and raises several children with her long-term female partner

Give up? The answer—assuming that they all have biological or adopted adult children between the ages of 18 and 39—is that they would all be counted as “Lesbian Mothers” or “Gay Fathers” in Mark Regnerus’s new study, “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study” (NFSS).

The bullet-point in the list that jumped out at me was gay couples adopting special needs kids. As the Regnerus methodology would have it, the gay couple is blamed for all problems and behavioral issues the kid had even before he or she came into their home.

The survey included around 3,000 grown adults. Out of those, 163 said their father had a gay relationship at some point during their childhood (0 to age 18), and 73 said their mother had had a lesbian relationship. Mark Regnerus himself admitted that only two of his 3,000 survey participants spent their entire childhood being raised by two moms, and claimed that “several” spent more than 10 years in a gay or lesbian headed family. That’s still a sample size so small as to be laughable — and it will provide no useful data at all as to what it’s actually like growing up with two committed gay or lesbian parents.

As Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin noted:

(I)n this study (of those identified as having ‘gay parents’), only 57% said they had lived with their mother and her partner for at least four months before the age of 18, and only 23% reported living with their father and his partner for the same length of time. Only 23% of LM children and 2% of GF children reported living with their parents and their parents’ same-sex partners for three years or more.

Doing the math: That would make it 2 respondents who lived with their father and his partner for three years or more. And 17 who lived with their mother and her partner for at least three years. 19 individuals out of 3,000. And that’s at the low-water mark of three years.

Even if you accept the resulting sample size as large enough to be statistically significant (and every reputable researcher has said no, it’s not), you’re still not comparing the same things. The only survey participants who would qualify as “the same thing” as a child raised in a two parent hetero household for all of his or her 18 years are the two who were raised by lesbian mothers.

Although as I note later in this post, Social Science Research’s Darren Sherkat tried to deflect the blame for the Regnerus paper being published in the first place, he nevertheless referred to the study and its results as “bullsh*t.”

From top to bottom, the Regnerus study was deeply flawed. If you want to take a dive into the tall grass, Jim Burroway has the full measure.

One metaphor I saw frequently used was that the Regnerus study compared oranges with apple slices.

How did this study come to be? NOM, actually. And their good friends.

Maggie Gallagher of NOM, speaking at the Cato Institute

Either a thumb wearing make-up and a wig, or Maggie Gallagher of NOM, speaking at the Cato Institute

The Regnerus study itself didn’t come out of nowhere. It was conceived of originally as a National Organization for Marriage (NOM) project, and in fact there are emails discussing the planned study that involved Maggie Gallagher, seeking her input, and Robert George, co-founder of NOM.

Funding for the study however came from the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation — facilitated by W. Bradford Wilcox, but arranged by Robert George.

Witherspoon even paid for Regnerus and Wilcox to go to Colorado in August 2011 to meet with Focus on the Family’s Glenn Stanton. (Funny how the same organization names keep appearing over and over…)

The whole point was to concoct a pseudo-scientific basis, to create a seemingly rational — and urgently compelling — argument against gay rights, so that it could be ‘shopped’ around the world. It would lend cover for politicians and leaders who could just say, “See? It’s in the science right here — gays are bad for children. A terrible danger to them, actually.”

Of course, the overwhelming — and legitimately researched — evidence to the contrary is conveniently ignored.

How to publish a BS research paper

Dodgy financing from groups and individuals with obvious agendas. A biased researcher. Intentionally flawed survey methods. Deliberately misleading analyses of the collected data. Compromised peer-reviews.

Social Science Research journal

The cover of Social Science Research

By now you might be wondering how such a paper ever came to be published in a purportedly legitimate scientific journal — in this case, Elsevier’s journal “Social Science Research.”

Some of it is due to the fact that there’s been a huge degree of consolidation in the scientific publication and journals industry worldwide over the last 20 years or so. Only a few very large companies — such as the multi-billion dollar international publishing company Elsevier, for example — own practically everything. According to its Wiki entry, Elsevier publishes close to a quarter million articles a year in 2,000 journals.

It’s possible due to the money involved…and lax standards

Scientific journals and archives are a highly lucrative business. Some journals come with a yearly subscription price as high as $14,000.

Exactly how lucrative? Enough to bring felony “Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)” charges against Aaron Swartz for downloading JSTOR academic database articles in bulk, with the intention not to sell them, but to make them publicly available for any to access and use. Amid allegations of vindictive prosecution on the part of the U.S. Assistant Attorney General Carmen Ortiz, who insisted that misdemeanor charges be escalated to multiple felonies, and then piled on until Swartz essentially faced life in prison for one act of civil disobedience, Swartz committed suicide.

That’s how much money is involved. Enough to buy federal involvement at the highest levels. However, with international conglomerates as big as Elsevier (not affiliated with JSTOR, by the way, just need to make that clear), they simply don’t have the means to exercise centralized control over the content within its thousands of journals and hundreds of thousands of articles.

So they’ve adopted part of the Walmart business model: High volume. Monopoly practices. Cheaply made products.

But unlike Walmart, the journal companies have a captive scientific and university audience, and so they also have unbelievable profit margins and the ability to set prices to be as high as they like. And the price they like is “extortionately, obscenely high.”  Our own Dr. Mark Thoma has an earlier post on the problems with faulty “research” making its way into legitimate scientific journals.

Compromised peer-reviews for the NFSS

High volume means streamlined or virtually absent peer-review processes. Indeed, while researching this post, I learned that while it absolutely was a breach of ethics to allow Wilcox to peer-review Mark Regnerus’ article, another of the peer reviewers, Paul Amato, did bring up his conflict of interest with Dr. James Wright, senior editor for “Social Science Research.”

The conflict was that Amato had been a paid consultant early on the project. He was asked to review the article anyway, with his stated excuse being:

“In this and every other case in which I have brought information like this to the editor’s attention, the editor has asked me to do the review anyway. Journal editors often have a difficult time getting reviews, and I assume they treat these reviews as one more data point. So the editor of SSR was doing what other editors do, as far as I know.”

Perhaps he has a point. On the other hand, difficulty in getting peer reviewers doesn’t sound like a very good excuse to me. Nor does it sound like good science. (And it’s not.)

One detail that came up in subsequent audits and reviews of Dr. Wright’s decision to go ahead and publish such a flawed and biased paper was his repeated mention that he’s apparently under a great deal of pressure to keep his “impact factor” as high as possible. (Impact factor = lots of paid downloads. Controversial articles are good for the bottom line.)

In an audit by a Social Science Research journal board member, Dr. Darren Sherkat — in an obvious attempt to deflect the blame — remarked:

“The fetishism of the journal impact factors comes from the top down, and all major publishers prod editors about the current state of their impact factor. Elsevier is particularly attentive to this and frequently inquires about what Wright is doing to improve the already admirable impact factor of Social Science Research.”

The scientific journal profit motive and its corrupting influence

The profit motive has pretty much compromised the entire journal publication industry, especially in what are considered “open-access journals.” The idealistic concept sounds great: Access to scientific papers “without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself.”

But if regular journals are like a hyper-priced Walmart, open-access is a factory seconds dollar store. With shelves lined with shiny, lead-painted toys.

The 4 October 2013 issue of “Science/AAAS” has an article titled, “Who’s Afraid of Peer Review?” The author, John Bohannon, crafted a phony research article about an anti-cancer lichen-derived miracle drug. Over the course of ten months, he submitted the paper to 304 journals — and it was accepted by more than half of them.

To be fair, the Social Science Research isn’t open-access (although Elsevier has an entire open-access area). To purchase a PDF download of any given article, you either need an institution subscription or be willing to fork over $36. (A laugh out loud moment: If you want to read the full version of Dr. Sherkat’s in-house audit review of the Regnerus debacle, that also costs $36. In fact, each and every subsequent Social Science Research article about the Regnerus study, whether pro or con, costs $36 each to download.)

The reality, as Bohannon discovered, is it’s all just a matter of where these scientific publishing behemoths think they can get the most money. Sometimes it’s putting papers behind a subscription or pay-per-article wall; other times, it’s depending on publication fees from the researchers themselves, or their backers. But before it’s said I’m not comparing the same things, Bohannon’s interviewee for his article, David Roos, had this to add:

“Some say that the open-access model itself is not to blame for the poor quality control revealed by Science‘s investigation. If I had targeted traditional, subscription-based journals, Roos told me, “I strongly suspect you would get the same result.””

Simply put: Just getting a paper into a scientific journal isn’t the proof of reasonable veracity it used to be.

Regnerus and Marks: A study in bias and conflicts of interest

Let’s go back to the Regnerus study. According to research by Scott Rose at Lez Get Real, who’s been after this like a horse with a bit between his teeth, he discovered:

Subsequently, we have documented that not a single one of the peer reviewers of the Regnerus or Marks papers is trained or experienced in LGBT sciences. Many of the peer reviewers have very serious conflicts of interest.

LSU associate professor Loren Marks

LSU associate professor and Derek Zoolander lookalike, Loren Marks

The Marks paper to which he refers, by the way, is another piece of anti-gay pseudo-scientific BS. Louisiana State University associate professor Loren Marks (a devout Mormon, by the way…and unapologetic bearer of rather extreme gay-face) challenged the entire American Psychological Association (APA) to try to claim the APA’s findings weren’t true.

He disagrees with their conclusions, “…that there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation.”

Why? Apparently just because. Who needs scientific fact and research when you can just depend on good old Truthiness?

Loren Marks was going to submit his findings in the Prop 8 case in California. However, he later admitted to cherry-picking his results from papers he’d not fully read, entirely because he wanted to make the case against same-sex marriage. But that didn’t stop him from seeking publication anyway.

The Marks paper is significant because whenever the Regnerus study is being promoted, Marks’ paper is often included. It’s as if to suggest, “See, it’s not just one controversial paper proving that gays are baby-eating monsters. We have two!

ThinkProgress also ran an article back in June, laying out some rather compelling circumstantial evidence that Regnerus and Marks were collaborating to some degree on their respective articles:

  • Regnerus and Marks published their pieces together, but Marks cited Regnerus’ paper, so he clearly had foreknowledge of its conclusions. This suggests it is likely they intentionally published simultaneously as a “one-two election year punch.”
  • Marks was originally called to testify in favor of Proposition 8, but admitted in deposition that he only had read parts of the studies from which he drew conclusions and had considered no research on gay and lesbian parents. His present research, published just two years later, attempts to make the same claims.
  • Marks also made his paper available for the House Republican legal team defending the Defense of Marriage Act long before it was published in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • There are multiple obvious ties between NOM co-founder Robert George, the Witherspoon Institute (which funded Regnerus’ research), Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (which is defending the research), National Review (where NOM’s Maggie Gallagher frequently writes and where she has promoted the paper), and Mark Regnerus himself, suggesting particularly convenient collusion for spinning the political implications of the paper’s publication.

(These bullet points come verbatim from the ThinkProgress post by Zach Ford.)

Coming up next: Motive, means, and opportunity

In criminal law, those three words summarize what needs to be proven before guilt of a crime can be established.

In Part 1 of this series, we established motive: The desire for far-right social conservative groups here in America to export their anti-gay agenda throughout the world. They can’t help but see the ‘arc of history’ on gay rights bending against them in America as state after state has legalized same sex marriage, DOMA has been partially overturned, and poll after poll shows increasing acceptance of LGBT people — and civil rights for us — among the general population.

We’ve just explored the means: Funding and support provided by these right wing extremist groups so that Regnerus (and Marks) could manufacture deeply flawed results and false conclusions — then whitewash these papers through a badly compromised scientific journal publication system.

In Part 3, we’ll look at opportunity. As a foretaste of that, an appetizer if you will, here’s a little known detail:

Want to know who else is on the editorial board for the Social Science Research, the journal that published the Regnerus study? Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox.

Yes, the same guy who, with his network of radical wingnut “Homophobia, Inc.” friends, arranged for the study to be done in the first place.

Published professional writer and poet, Becca had a three decade career in technical writing and consulting before selling off most of her possessions in 2006 to go live at an ashram in India for 3 years. She loves literature (especially science fiction), technology and science, progressive politics, cool electronic gadgets, and perfecting Hatch green chile recipes. Fortunately for this last, Becca and her wife currently live in New Mexico. @BeccaMorn

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28 Responses to “Homophobia Inc. and America’s newest export: Hate (Part 2 of 3)”

  1. John Christopher sunol says:

    this is bad, anyone who is anti gay and expresses it when they are bad ot not. they are defamed and people are old lies bout them

  2. Feel like puking says:

    And in related news, the Christian Broadcasting Network went after a transgendered CHILD this weekend. This is bad…very, very bad they are:


  3. karmanot says:

    Your view is rather naive: ” A journal’s prestige is based on its impact factor…” That’s just nonsense. Maybe that is true for on line flim-flam universities or Liberty University. If you have written for peer review journals you know that critical thinking, solid research and intellectual integrity are absolutely foundational to serious academic writing. All else is moot.

  4. karmanot says:

    The cost of journals is a racket. I recently found copies of my dissertation being peddled in Germany and Holland by a ‘rare’ books jobber. The only one making money off my work is the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

  5. BeccaM says:

    Damned right it was.

  6. scottrose says:

    Here’s Dr. Philip Cohen’s explanation of why he is boycotting “Social Science Research” for as long as Regnerus’s editor James Wright is the journal’s editor:

    “Taking for granted the unethical behavior of Regnerus, and Brad Wilcox, on whose behalf Regnerus acted, the real failure here is by Wright. Instead of seriously reviewing the paper, he essentially whispered into an echo chamber of backers and consultants, “We should publish this, right?”

    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.

    While Wright is editor, I will no longer review for or submit to Social Science Research. I hope others will join me in that decision.”

  7. scottrose says:

    You did indeed. I wanted to make sure that readers understand; that trip took place before data collection occurred.Res ipsa loquitur. The fix was in on this “study.”

  8. JEET says:

    “Hardly anyone pays the per-article fee. Universities subscribe en masse
    to bundles of publications, so academics generally have access to any
    article. (And very few non-academics read academic articles.)”

    Do you have statistics on how many people purchase access on a per-article basis? It would be interesting to see how many people do and for which articles and journals.

    I have to note that you neglect a fairly sizable group of people who might want to access articles and are deterred from doing so because of cost. Smaller hospitals and groups of community hospitals often don’t have the budget to subscribe to journals or to subscription services. This leaves physicians associated with those hospitals unable to access current journal articles without themselves purchasing journal subscriptions. You also overlook other, large groups of medical professionals who often don’t have academic affiliations and therefore, can’t access these journals: dentists, optometrists, nurse practitioners, nurses, nurse anesthetists, dietitians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, audiologists, physicians assistants and other such groups of health care professionals. Admittedly, while not all members of these groups may have an interest in current journal articles in the medical and science fields, to just ignore them when you sweepingly speak of academics and how easy it is for them to access journals is, at best, very inaccurate.

    How do you classify “non-academics”? And your statistics showing that that group isn’t interested in academic journals? Perhaps, if they do have a “lack of interest,” it might be because an individual journal subscription can cost >$100 per year PER JOURNAL. Or $30 or more per article.

    I think you’ve made several incorrect and unwarranted assumptions in making the above quoted statements.

    If Social Science Research is, indeed, “legit,” why hasn’t it retracted Regnerus’ paper? There seems to be quite a bit of evidence that his conclusions are inaccurate and based on a limited sample. His funding source could have unduly influenced his work and his conclusions. That should also raise a red flag with Social Science Research. Irrespective of whether or not a profit motive is involved, clearly SSR needs to retract the paper and publish the reasons for doing so.

    A critique of both Regnerus’ paper and the peer review process can be found here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19359705.2013.789459#.UlxHpiRifJE

  9. scottrose says:

    In addition to being editor-in-chief of Elsevier’s journal “Social Science Research,” Wright is editor-in-chief of Elsevier’s upcoming “International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences”. So he’s an Elsevier company man, and he isn’t editing that encyclopedia for his health; he gets money to do it. Also, Elsevier officials give Wright directives about what he should and should not do with the publication. For example, when Gary Gates submitted “An Illegitimate Review Process” about the publication of the Regnerus hoax, Wright passed the essay up to Elsevier officials and they then blackballed it against being published.

    Meanwhile, though, Elsevier and Wright continue to lie to the public, by untruthfully alleging that Wright has exclusive decision-making powers over what gets published in Social Science Research.

    The UCF Sociology Department website carries a boast that the Department houses a “Top” journal; “Social Science Research.” That is not disconnected from the broader financial arrangements that exist, and that are mutually profitable for, Elsevier and the University of Central Florida.

    Readers also should keep in mind that pecuniary motivations can be involved in this even where the money trail does not lead to Elsevier’s door. For example, researchers looking to kiss money-bags’ asses might do something in particular for Witherspoon, given that it got Regerus’s junk funded to the tune of $785K. On top of it, we know that Witherspoon let Regnerus use some of the money for research having nothing to do with the NFSS, that they let him spend extravagantly on travel for his female Jesus freak assistant Ellyn Arevalo, and that they were cool with him funding an all-expenses-paid luxury vacation to Austin for the wife of Regnerus’s peer reviewer Paul Amato.

    Something that should still happen, in uncovering the scandal, is for UT’s outlays on the NFSS to be audited.

  10. BeccaM says:

    Maybe I wasn’t explicit about the ‘before data collection occurred’ — but I did mention that the trip happened.

  11. DGT says:

    Scott, thanks for the clarification. If you say Wright’s position is paid, I will take your word for it.

    To be clear, I was speaking generally. I don’t know anything about Social Science Research, other than its impact factors, and obviously there are numerous ethical problems with Wright. I wasn’t defending him, but rather clarifying the practices of academic journals in general. In my field and those that I am familiar with, editorships are not paid and they consist of a fixed term. And they are not selected by the publishing company, but rather the editorial boards (made up of peer scientists).

    My point is that this particular editor undoubtedly had an ideological motivation, as did some of the reviewers he selected. But I’m still not convinced that the motive in this case had anything to do with profit, as opposed to ideology, which is where my quibble was with the article.

  12. scottrose says:

    Something you left unspecified above:

    Wilcox, in his capacity as a Regnerus funding agency representative, traveled with Regnerus on a Witherspoon expense account to Colorado in August, 2011; BEFORE STUDY DATA COLLECTION OCCURRED.

    While there, they spent a whole day discussing New Family Structures Study media and P.R. promotions with Focus on the Family’s Glenn Stanton. After the day of study promotions discussions, Regnerus reported back to Witherspoon president Luis Tellez that they had good NFSS promotions plan moving forward.

    That meeting of religious anti-gay bigots, discussing how to promote the study, took place BEFORE STUDY DATA COLLECTION OCCURRED

    How would any honest researcher know how to promote a study before its data collection occurred?

    There is a document had through Freedom of Information Act requests in which Wilcox steers Regnerus to “Social Science Research.” In that e-mail, Wilcox assures Regnerus that “we” will be able to have a special issue themed to his paper. (Though peer review had not occurred, obviously).

  13. BeccaM says:

    Plus, let’s not forget about Brad Wilcox being on the editorial board for SSR. It’s no accident whatsoever that was the journal chosen to push Regnerus and Marks.

  14. Monoceros Forth says:

    Thanks for pointing out the Harvard example. There have been others, such as the California state universities’ quarrel with the publishers of Nature when the publishing entity announced they were quadrupling their subscription prices.

  15. tardigrade says:

    Wait wait wait…. Universities pay HUGE amounts for their access to journals! Thousands and thousands of dollars per journal! (Harvard University says it can’t afford journal publishers’ prices, by Ian Sample, science correspondent, the Guardian, Tuesday 24 April 2012) “Many scientists and librarians have long protested the cost of journals, especially as they see these payments going to large for-profit publishing houses…” (Wikipedia, Scientific journal); the publishers make the scientists sign over their copyright “. “..Under such a system, the publisher has permission to edit, print, and distribute the article commercially, but the author(s) retain the other rights themselves.” (Wikipedia, Scientific journal). And, there ARE journals that have published papers without the usual peer reviews…”cold fusion” comes to mind. And THEN there is this issue about reproducibility, which is what killed Cold Fusion absolutely! This is how the community can force this study’s inconsistencies, exaggerations, and out right lies.

  16. scottrose says:

    To be even more precise about it, for other readers’ understanding:

    Regnerus editor James Wright assigned his “Social Science Research” editorial board member Darren Sherkat to a “sham” audit of the circumstances of the publication of the anti-gay Marks and Regnerus papers. Wright and Sherkat understood among themselves even before the audit was started that Sherkat would not hold Wright accountable for what they both already knew was his gross editorial misconduct.

    Because the peer review of both the Marks and Regnerus papers was rigged in advance, Sherkat in his audit attempted to create an alibi for Wright, by alleging that it is so difficult to locate anybody willing to peer review anything, that Wright had to be excused for having used inappropriate, non-expert peer reviewers with conflicts of interest. Not a single reputable journal editor agrees with the alibi that Sherkat created for Wright (and I’ve interviewed a slew of top journal editors about the ethics of this). On top of the alibi that it is hard to locate peer reviewers, Sherkat made the case that Wright is just constantly overburdened with work for the journal, that he is a valiant being struggling to keep ahead of his “Social Science Research” journal workload, et cetera.

    By contrast, in his deposition in the Becker case, Wright is trying to impress the court that his work for “Social Science Research” has nothing whatsoever to do with his work for the University of Central Florida, where the journal is headquartered. If the journal work is supported by the university’s public funds, the Regnerus-related documentation that Becker requested must be released under Florida’s Sunshine Laws.

    So in sum, what you have is Regnerus editor James Wright lying through his teeth out both sides of mouth in an attempt to cover up for his gross editorial misconduct. In the audit, the claim is that he’s so busy with SSR journal work that we all should excuse him for using non-expert peer reviewers with conflicts of interest because he is so busy with his work for the journal that nobody could expect him to be able to find peer reviewers without conflicts of interest. In the deposition, though, instead of saying what he said in the audit, that he is so hugely busy that he has no time to find honest peer reviewers, he lies to a COURT by saying that he only works on average two to three hours per week on the journal, to create the impression that the journal is not using University of Central Florida resources, and that therefore, the Regnerus-related communications should not be subject to Florida’s Sunshine Laws.

    Meanwhile, UCF funds pay for the graduate student interns to work for Elsevier’s Social Science Research during the school year. i.e. public funds are paying for much of the labor that goes into editing and publishing the journal, and therefore, the Regnerus-related communications that Becker requests under Florida’s Sunshine Laws will have to be released. The fact that UCF and Wright are fighting release proves that they are hiding very incriminating additional things.

  17. scottrose says:

    And thank you, BeccaM, for continuing to cover the story.

  18. BeccaM says:

    One background detail if found interesting: In defending himself, Wright tried to claim that he only spent a few hours a week on the SSR journal and that he wasn’t under any particular pressure from Elsevier to keep his ‘impact factor’ number up.

    Then along come the contradictory statements (esp. from Sherkat’s ‘audit’) — that Wright is heavily involved in the journal on a day to day basis, it chews up a lot of his time, and Elsevier regularly pings him on the impact factor numbers, and so on.

  19. BeccaM says:

    Hi Scott — hey, thanks for taking the lead in this (including addressing the commenters for this post). I already know your research on the mechanisms behind the publication of Regnerus and Marks goes into far greater depth than my own.

  20. The_Fixer says:

    Thanks for the great work, Becca. I let part one slip by me, and caught it this morning. before I read this. I had been aware of some of the information you’ve presented here, but it’s great to have it all wrapped up in one nice, neat package.

  21. scottrose says:

    I am emphasizing that something DGT says in his comment above is untrue.

    It is untrue that Regnerus’s editor James Wright is unpaid for his work as editor in chief of Elsevier’s journal “Social Science Research.”

    Wright receives a salary from Elsevier for doing that job.

    It also has to be emphasized that it is untrue that Wright thought these papers would make a valid contribution to the scientific literature.

    He knew that both papers were junk science, and that they were going to be heavily promoted by the anti-gays.

    And, in John Becker’s ongoing lawsuit against Wright’s University of Central Florida, in which Becker seeks Regnerus-study-related communications under Florida’s Sunshine Laws, both Wright and UCF are fighting tooth and nail against release of the requested documentation. They are fighting tooth and nail because the documentation is full of additional INCRIMINATING materials showing how corrupt James Wright is. UCF houses dozens of Elsevier journals, has financial benefits from housing them, and is terrified that the whole corrupt house of cards is going to be brought down because of Wright’s gross editorial misconduct.

    By the way – James Wright tells several lies in his deposition in that case. I am prepared to appear in a court under oath with the documentation showing that James Wright lied in his deposition.

  22. scottrose says:

    The real villain of the Regnerus hoax is editor James Wright,
    who knowingly and deliberately subverted peer review ethics to publish the hoax
    papers. None of the peer reviewers were trained or experienced in LGBT
    sciences. All had significant conflicts of interest, including fiduciary
    conflicts of interest with both Regnerus and his religious anti-gay bigot
    funders. Please consider signing and
    reposting the petition at this link, asking Wright’s University of Central
    Florida to discipline James Wright for his gross editorial misconduct, and his
    violations of UCF’s “Creed,” its academic honor code, which applies
    to faculty as well as to students: http://tinyurl.com/nrut5oe

  23. scottrose says:

    Sign and share the petition at this link telling American Sociological Association authorities to hold
    #Regnerus accountable for ASA Code of Ethics violations:


  24. scottrose says:

    To DGT: As Sherkat confessed in his “audit,” Elsevier officials regularly put pressure on “Social Science Research” editor James Wright to up the journal’s impact factor. Wright receives a yearly salary from Elsevier for working as editor in chief of Social Science Research. If you believe that Elsevier does not give Wright raises on the basis of “performance,” i.e. of the journal’s impact factor going up, I have a bridge to sell you.

    Moreover, we have solid documentation demonstrating that Wright knowingly enabled the Regnerus hoax, with prior knowledge that the Marks and Regnerus papers would be reaching him as a “package.” The information came to him via Brad Wilcox, who was a Regnerus funding agency representative (and who is neck-deep in all of the anti-gay groups mentioned in the article above). Wright knowingly and deliberately put both papers through kangaroo peer review.

    His corruption of peer review ethics is so bad, that he actually published the anti-gay bigot Loren Marks’ duplicitous gay parenting literature review – a qualitative research article — even though Social Science Research never, ever published qualitative research. One scholar — Dr. Eric Anderson — did an experiment. After the Regnerus hoax was published, he submitted a high-quality qualitative research article to Wright. Wright did a “desk reject” (i.e. no sending the submission out for peer review) and told Anderson it was being rejected because Social Science Research *never* publishes qualitative research articles.

    Get it? Wright knowingly enabled the whole hoax.

    One thing that his gross editorial misconduct in this matter has done, is to throw everything he’s ever published into doubt. And in fact, in the audit, Sherkat fatuously confesses that one of his own articles previously published through Wright did not receive full valid peer review. Wright is a shady character.

  25. scottrose says:

    The journal that published the Regnerus hoax, Elsevier’s “Social Science Research,” charges authors $3,000 to make their accepted articles open access for the period that the journal issue is current. For James Wright’s first installation of the Regnerus hoax in June/July, 2012, five papers related to the Regnerus paper — by Regnerus, Marks, Eggebeen, Osborne and Amato — were made open access. That means that Elsevier and the journal took in $15,000 by making those five papers available for free.

  26. Monoceros Forth says:

    Universities subscribe en masse to bundles of publications, so academics generally have access to any article.

    At absolutely ruinous prices, it must be added. Furthermore, institutional access may be revoked at any time. I experienced this once when the ACS temporarily took away the University of Washington’s journal access on the excuse that someone at UW had been illegally downloading too many articles.

  27. DGT says:

    While I agree with most of what you write, I think the section about the profit motive in journals reflects a fundamental misunderstanding about the journal publication process. If I understand correctly what you are saying, it is that because academic journals charge for access to articles, it provides a profit motive for publishing controversial research.

    Journal editors do seek to publish highly cited articles, but it has nothing to do with money. Editors are generally academics who hold full-time professorships at universities and edit the journal for prestige and in fulfillment of their “service to the academy” portion of the professor’s three-fold job description (teaching, research, service). They aren’t paid, nor are authors, so I don’t see how money is an incentive. A journal’s prestige is based on its impact factor, which is a measure of citations by other researchers’ publications, and, to a large degree, the acceptance rate (the lower, the more prestige).

    Hardly anyone pays the per-article fee. Universities subscribe en masse to bundles of publications, so academics generally have access to any article. (And very few non-academics read academic articles.) If my university doesn’t have access, for some reason, to a journal, we can use Interlibrary Loan to get a copy from another university that does.

    The Science article refers low-quality for-profit journals, which are another animal altogether. No legitimate researcher would publish there; most universities have “approved” lists of quality journals. An analog might be for-profit diploma mills that sell “PhDs” … recipients may call themselves “Dr.”, but nobody at an actual university would recognize those credentials. We know legit universities, and we know legit journals.

    Social Science Research is a respected, legit journal. As its own auditors acknowledge, the peer review process failed, but nowhere is there any indication of a profit motive, since neither editors or reviewers received any profit. The editor assigned some reviewers who were ideologically opposed to same-sex marriage (some journals allow authors to suggest possible reviewers who are experts in that area), and some others were sloppy. Some of them may not have been sufficiently expert in quantitative techniques (some sociologists are trained more in qualitative techniques), and unfortunately sometimes reviewers don’t put the time they should into reviewing. (I’ve gotten one-sentence reviews with “accept” recommendations, but generally they are offset by 1-2 thorough and harsh reviewers.)

    The editor undoubtedly saw a paper with a timely topic that, if done correctly, would undoubtedly contribute to scientific debate, with positive reviewer recommendations. To infer a profit motive, or to lump this journal with pay-for-play journals, is unfair. The review process utterly failed here (my field is not sociology, but I would hope that I would have easily identified the problems), but I see no evidence that it was because of money.

  28. lynchie says:

    The only thing the right left america to manufacture is hate, lies and distortion and they own the lock stock and barrel.

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