Lori Holyfield is a Ph.D. and an Associate Professor of Sociology at the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Arkansas. She authored the book, Moving Up and Out: Poverty, Education, and the Single Parent Family.
“I am calling on Elsevier to retract the Regnerus article from publication.”
“The study’s methodology is not valid. Regnerus claims to have proved correlation between gay parents and bad child outcomes, but his study does not support those claims. This is a bogus study that perpetuates negative stereotypes.”
I spoke with Dr. Holyfield apropos of W. Bradford Wilcox’s involvement in the scandal.
Regnerus was chiefly funded by the NOM-linked Wtherspoon Institute. Wilcox was the Witherspoon Institute Program Director who organized the Regnerus study, and then collaborated with Regnerus on study design before Witherspoon approved Regnerus for full study funding. Wilcox also collaborated with Regnerus on data collection and data analysis. A preponderance of evidence shows that he was permitted to do peer review. Furthermore, Wilcox is on the editorial board of the journal that published Regnerus, Elsevier’s Social Science Research.
Dr. Holyfield says:
“It is Research Ethics 101 to disclose conflicts of interest. Wilcox had so many roles in this, that it is unbelievable that journal editor James Wright never bothered to disclose any of Wilcox’s conflicts of interest to the public. That I see, we know for sure that Wilcox is on the journal’s editorial board, and that he is a long-time collaborator of Regnerus and of journal editor James Wright, and that he was the Witherspoon Program Director who recruited Regnerus for the study, and that he collaborated with Regnerus on study design, and then also did data collection and data analysis work. How did it happen, that none of this was disclosed? It is extremely important to note, that disclosure of these conflicts of interest would be necessary, whether the study was valid or not.”
“For Wilcox to use the word “honorific” about his position of Witherspoon Program Director, and Regnerus study design collaborator, is a veiled attempt to turn back the clock. But the damage is done, and the credibility of this study is absolutely, indisputably undone. That Wilcox was a study designer, and that was not disclosed, is alone enough to justify retraction. The further possibility that he was a peer reviewer just adds weight to the case for retraction.”
“It is especially unacceptable that the conflict of interests were hidden, and that there is an ongoing attempt to deceive the public about them. It adds insult to that injury, that what was produced was a methodologically invalid study that perpetuates negative social stereotypes. This is a very malevolent situation; something must be done about it.”
Regnerus alleges to have found that 23% of his respondents, young adult children of “lesbian mothers” experienced sexual victimization while growing up. Yet, the question he posed to come up with that finding asked only if “a parent or other adult caregiver” had abused the respondent. Dr. Holyfield says:
“The question as posed does not give us answers that we can use in any way to help sexually abused children. The abuser could have been the heterosexual husband, or an uncle, or an older cousin, or anybody. The question Regnerus posed is an irresponsible and ridiculous question. In the absence of anything that would tell us who was the most likely perpetrator, the information is useless to us. But we see that it is useful to political agents seeking to perpetuate negative stereotypes. Regnerus is implying causation by reporting this rate for children of lesbian mothers. He can say he didn’t prove causation all he wants; the fact is, he implied causation. And, it is ironic, because we know that pedophile perpetrators often are male heterosexuals. That would be just one reason this finding should have raised a red flag.”
Dr. Holyfield is aghast that the Regnerus study was carried out at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Politically-motivated groups bend facts all the time. The difference here is that this took place at a research university, which absolutely should have measures in place to insure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen. It sounds like there was some social networking going on, and that the $55,000 planning grant from The Witherspoon Institute got talked about, and then the work with the full $785,000 in funding followed. Somewhere along the way, though, the relationships that allowed this unacceptable thing to happen in a research university got obscured.”
Social Science Research editor James Wright took the Regnerus paper from submission to acceptance for publication on a suspicious rush schedule. It is documented that the Regnerus submission did not receive valid peer review. Dr. Holyfield says:
“When you look at that phenomenally short turn-around time from submission to acceptance, you just can’t help but wonder if somebody connected with Witherspoon or Regnerus didn’t call the editor and make special arrangements. With all the evidence and documentation now known, all signs point to Wilcox. Because of that, I think it would be in the best interest of the editorial board and the journal to provide the names of the peer reviewers in this case. Peer reviewers’ anonymity should be respected when the research is valid. This research is not valid. If a full investigation is not carried out, the journal’s reputation will be permanently darkened. Peer reviewers who were in any way involved in Regnerus’s funding and/or in his research should have recused themselves immediately; this never should have happened.”
Dr. Holyfield continues:
“Wright himself has lost credibility. I can not imagine that the protection of the peer reviewers is more important that the protection of the integrity of the research.”
Writing in his sham “audit” of the publication of the Regnerus study, Social Science Research editorial board member Darren Sherkat said: “scholars who should have known better failed to recuse themselves from the review process.”
“The point is,” Dr. Holyfield continues, “to not protect a reviewer who engaged in conflicts of interest, over the integrity of the research itself. Just to say ‘This is not valid research’ is not enough, given that the study made it into publication in these unethical ways on Social Science Research editor James Wright’s watch. This is a terrible disservice both to the journal and to the discipline. And, it is a tragedy for the American academy and for the public as a whole.”
I asked Dr. Holyfield if she wanted to make any other statements about the Regnerus study.
“Yes,” she said. “I am calling for retraction of the Regnerus study from publication. I call for retraction, and I strongly encourage disclosure of the names of the peer reviewers who engaged in conflicts of interest. These are only some of the ways that integrity can be restored to the process. The Regnerus study must be retracted from publication.”
New York City-based novelist and freelance writer Scott Rose’s LGBT-interest by-line has appeared on Advocate.com, PoliticusUSA.com, The New York Blade, Queerty.com, Girlfriends and in numerous additional venues. Among his other interests are the arts, boating and yachting, wine and food, travel, poker and dogs. His “Mr. David Cooper’s Happy Suicide” is about a New York City advertising executive assigned to a condom account.
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