Connect with us

BOMBSHELL: Editor Darren Sherkat Admits Peer Review Failure Of Invalid, Anti-Gay Regnerus Study

Published

on

We have been reporting on an invalid sociological study on gay parenting carried out by researcher Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas, Austin.

Regnerus’s known total of $785,000 for the study was arranged by The Witherspoon Institute and The Bradley Foundation, where Robert P. George, head of the anti-gay-rights, scientifically disreputable National Organization for Marriage holds positions of authority. Witherspoon president Luis Tellez is a NOM board member.

The Regnerus study currently is being used as an anti-gay-rights political weapon in the 2012 elections.

The Regnerus study was published in the Elsevier journal Social Science Research.

After over 200 Ph.D.s and M.D.s sent Social Science Research a letter complaining about the Regnerus study’s lack of intellectual integrity, and the suspect rush process through which the study got published, SSR editor-in-chief James Wright assigned Sherkat to conduct an “audit” of the publication process for the Regnerus study.

Darren Sherkat, an Editorial Board member of Social Science Research admitted in an e-mail exchange with this reporter that “The peer review process failed here.”

Sherkat went on to say in a subsequent e-mail: “How did this study get through peer review? The peers are right wing Christianists!

Sherkat further says that Social Science Research editor-in-chief James Wright is the authority who picks the reviewers for submitted papers.

Sherkat also said: “Regnerus produced some exceptionally distorted and inferior research that should not have been published in a major general interest journal.”

Sherkat said:  “There are other ethical issues related to this paper which I am continuing to investigate, and I have filed a FOIA to the University of Texas regarding those issues.” UT has asked Texas Attorney General Republican Greg Abbott for Freedom of Information Act exemptions for all of the requested documentation of the Regnerus study. The Witherspoon Institute is on record, not wishing to release any of the requested documentation.

Sherkat completed his audit without seeing any of the Regnerus-study-related documentation that he allegedly requested from the University of Texas, Austin under the Freedom of Information Act.

There was nothing ethical or acceptable about Wright assigning Sherkat to an “audit” of the publication of the Regnerus study. Wright earlier wrote to me in an e-mail that he had asked Sherkat to conduct the audit; in that e-mail, Wright noted that Sherkat was already a vocal and public critic of the Regnerus study. Sherkat’s position on the editorial board of Social Science Research, on top of his public condemnations of the study, mark him as an entirely inappropriate figure to carry out an audit, regardless of one’s opinion of gay rights. And, there certainly was no possibility of Sherkat carrying out an independent audit, which is what is desperately needed in this case, as a CYA farce audit is worse than useless, and unethical. Moreover, although Sherkat promised this reporter a copy of his written audit as soon as it was ready, Sherkat failed to follow through on that promise, instead discussing his full, completed audit with The Chronicle for Higher Education.

CHE reports that Sherkat found conflicts of interest with two of the study’s peer reviewers; Sherkat can not even get his facts straight; he previously told me that he had completed his audit and found “only” one conflict of interest among the peer reviewers.  Additionally, as you can see in the CHE interview with Sherkat, Sherkat 1) condemns the study as invalid, but then says that despite its invalidity, and 2) despite the conflicts of interest he found — in which conflicts of interest, 3) persons paid with NOM-linked money to consult on the study design, which appears to be an inappropriate and inadequate study design, went on to 4) approve for publication the study with their apparently inappropriate and inadequate study design; 5) despite all of the foregoing, Sherkat says that he may well have made Wright’s same decision to publish the Regnerus study.

A further red flag in Sherkat’s public statements about his audit to the CHE, is that he admits that three of the six peer reviewers are on record as being against same-sex marriage. What — if it is not too much to ask — might be the other three peer reviewers’ opinions of gay people and same-sex marriage? Are they maybe neutral? Without a genuine investigation of the publication process, there is no way to know whether Wright hand-picked all of the peer reviewers with a mind to giving the Regnerus study an unwarranted peer review “free pass” towards publication.  Let us not forget; NOM officials are on record saying that homosexuals are not human. NOM’s Maggie Gallagher has said that she is “unwilling” to live in a nation that gives homosexuals anti-discrimination protections. For Sherkat to audit the publication of the invalid, Regnerus study defamatory of gays, and to report in his audit that three out of six of the study’s peer reviewers are on record as being against same-sex marriage, leaving the public to imagine that the other three peer reviewers are neutral on same-sex marriage — (as if!) — highlights that the “audit” appears to be a CYA sham.

In addition to the Regnerus study peer reviewers having had conflicts of interest because of their paid involvement with the study design, Wright also chose persons paid to consult on the study to write commentary on it, which commentaries were published alongside the study. The letter from over 200 Ph.D.’s and M.D.s notes that none of the Regnerus study commentators have experience in the sociological specialty of gay parenting. In regard to that, Sherkat said: “Wright erred in picking who commented, and he did this to rush the papers to publication in order to jack up journal publicity.” One of Sherkat’s alibis for Wright is, “he’s an older scholar.”

Furthermore, Sherkat is falling all over himself , praising Social Science Research editor-in-chief James Wright for his handling of the publication of the Regnerus study. Sherkat told CHE that he “may well have made the same” publication decisions as Wright. Wright meanwhile is described as having made his decisions to publish the paper because of the attention it would attract to his journal, (for political rather than for purely scientific reasons). Ergo, Sherkat “may well have made the same” publication decisions as Wright for business-and-reader-attention reasons rather than for scientific reasons.  However that may be, that Wright assigned Sherkat to conduct an audit, the upshot of which is that Sherkat is falling all over himself praising Wright, is on its face a towering ethics fail. Moreover, Sherkat told a source that he did not want to inspect the e-mails of those involved in the Regnerus matter, because he did not want others to be able to see his own e-mails as part of any eventual inquiry or investigation. That is to say, apparently by his own admission, Sherkat seemingly had conflicts of interest in conducting the audit. Some independent entity should now further investigate the circumstances of the publication of the Regnerus study, if the community’s trust in the journal Social Science Research‘s integrity is not to continue in its sadly undermined condition. Social Science Research‘s integrity is every bit as trashed as that of anybody else connected with the public perpetration of the unscientific travesty known as the Regnerus study. My official allegations of scientific and scholarly misconduct against Regnerus, now presented to the University of Texas, Austin, express grave concerns about the process through which the Regnerus study was published.

Meanwhile additionally, an amicus brief filed in the Golinski-DOMA case by eight major professional associations including the American Medical Association criticized the Regnerus study for improperly labeling as “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers” persons not actually known to be that, and logically by extension, for not making a scientifically valid comparison between its test group and its control group. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Dr. Nathaniel Frank said of the Regnerus study: Regnerus  “fails the most basic requirement of social science research — assessing causation by holding all other variables constant.”

In view of the blatant scientific invalidity of the study, I sent SSR editor-in-chief Wright an e-mail, asking whether he defends Regnerus’s invalid comparison between his test group and his control group. I specifically asked: “Can you cite ten additional studies with test and control groups mismatched to at least an equal degree as those in the Regnerus study, which ten studies are widely acknowledged as valid and cited as important contributions to the field of sociology?”

Sherkat, answering for Wright, said that it is “not up to the editor to answer” that question, or any other question posed about the publication of the Regnerus study. Thus, Social Science Research‘s editor-in-chief James Wright takes on a likeness to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who, absurdly, was at Bain after he was not at Bain and then resigned from Bain retroactively even though he had not really been at Bain. Though James Wright is editor-in-chief of Social Science Research, he will not answer any questions about how the invalid Regnerus study came to be published on his watch. He will not answer as to whether any sociological studies exhibiting failings as glaring as those found in the Regnerus study enjoy any respect whatsoever in the community of scholars. Wright through Sherkat is admitting that the journal Social Science Research published the Regnerus paper even though it does not make a valid comparison between its test group and its control group — “The peer review process failed here” — but Wright as editor-in-chief is refusing to explain how so fatal a flaw in a study got published on his watch as editor-in-chief. Wright is hiding behind Sherkat, refusing to explain his unacceptable publication decisions. For Sherkat to say that 1) the Regnerus study never should have been published, but that 2) he may well have made the same decisions as Wright to publish it, shows that Sherkat is confused about how to present his audit and his opinions to the public coherently, and without coming off as a danged, double-talking fool, which he now has succeeded perfectly in doing.

Dr. Gary Gates of the Williams Institute gave this reporter the following statement about this matter. His commentary, while somewhat lengthy, is worth reading in its entirety. Gates provides insight into the publication process at a mid-tier scientific journal such as Social Science Research, and he also gives a direct assessment of questions that SSR editor-in-chief James Wright should already have answered, but has not yet answered.

Gates writes:

“Sound and compelling social science is not the only driving force behind research and publication.  The truth is that there are a wide variety of incentives associated with why social scientists do research and why journals publish it.  The top academic journals are all quite established and have little trouble getting good submissions of research from scholars. One way for smaller and less prestigious journals to delineate themselves and get better submissions is to get their citation index and impact scores higher.  Scholars know that the tenure process often includes a review of the relative impact of journals in which a scholar publishes, so younger scholars are very motivated to try to submit to journals with higher citation and impact scores. One way for smaller and less prestigious journals to bump up their impact is to publish research that will get attention.  They have a clear incentive to publish more provocative papers, even if they have flaws.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since it offers an outlet to scholars doing work that is perhaps a bit out the mainstream and that top tier journals are still leery about.  Top ranked journals can at times be somewhat conservative and focus on fairly canonical science.  Less prestigious journals play in important role in disseminating scholarship that the mainstream academy may be reluctant to embrace.  So I don’t necessarily find it problematic that an editor is motivated to find provocative, attention-getting research.

“However, in the case of the Regnerus paper, there are still too many unanswered questions about why this editor seemed to have such a sense of urgency not just to publish a provocative paper, but to publish it now.  There was a clear rush here that goes beyond just a motivation to get the journal attention.  That urgency led to very bad decisions about the selection of commentators and perhaps peer reviewers.  The editor has still not answered this key question about what motivated such urgency.”

Elsevier, which owns the Social Science Review journal, previously alleged that it had referred SSR’s publication of the Regnerus study to the Committee On Publication Ethics (COPE) for review. However, in an e-mail, COPE Chair Virginia Barbour then said she had yet to receive that referral from Elsevier. Barbour said that if Elsevier said they were going to refer the matter to COPE, she was sure that Elsevier would do that. In a subsequent official e-mail from Elsevier, however, a company spokesperson said that Elsevier could not refer this matter to COPE, that somebody outside the company, as a matter of company policy, would have to take that action. In other words, Elsevier is not communicating its policies coherently to the public. Meanwhile, Elsevier’s CEO Youngsuk Chi has made political donations to Senator Tom Inhofe of Oklahoma, one of the most virulent political gay-bashers in the United States. Asked whether he supports LGBT equality, CEO Chi, through an Elsevier spokesperson, refused to answer, in an age when Apple, Microsoft, Starbucks, General Mills, J.C. Penney and many additional top-ranked companies have come out for LGBT equality.

Whereas Regnerus first submitted his study to SSR before he had completed his data collection, and whereas the letter to SSR from over 200 Ph.D.s and M.D.s expresses concern that the Regnerus study was accepted for publication on an unusually hasty schedule of just five weeks, Sherkat asks that everybody be patient until November, when SSR intends to publish the professionals’ letter, though it has been available right here on our TNCRM site since June 29, 2012.

SSR’s foot-dragging in publishing the letter from 200+ Ph.D.s and M.D.s questioning the Regnerus study’s intellectual integrity is unforgivable, given that Elsevier has the technical capacity to publish that letter online alongside the Regnerus study immediately.

Regnerus’s NOM-linked funders had a political stake in the outcome of his study, and are juicing his study constantly and nationally for political gain. Section 3(c) of the American Sociological Association’s Code of Ethics says:  “Because sociologists’ scientific and professional judgments and actions may affect the lives of others, they are alert to and guard against personal, financial, social, organizational, or political factors that might lead to misuse of their knowledge, expertise, or influence.”

Wright’s and Sherkat’s “professional judgments and actions” in publishing — and now in auditing their own publication of — the invalid Regnerus study are negatively affecting the lives of others.

There  is an appearance that — less a valid investigation — many of the transparency scandals in the publication of the Regnerus study will never be sufficiently set aside. According to the journal’s peer review policy, Regnerus was able to recommend people to “referee” (i.e., to peer review) his own paper. Although a researcher is not guaranteed that his recommended peer reviewers will be used, in the event that a researcher’s recommendations are accepted by the editor, the public has no way of knowing whether that happened. For all we know, Regnerus recommended all six of his study’s peer reviewers, and Wright accepted all six of Regnerus’s recommendations.

However that may be, it would appear very telling that Sherkat said: “How did this study get through peer review? The peers are right wing Christianists!”  He also said: “You are not on the editorial board of SSR, and I am the only board member who knows who the reviewers were. I will not be informing the rest of the Board about who the reviewers were, much less the public. You are not privileged to know who the reviewers were on a blind reviewed article. Indeed, it is irregular that I know that information. No, you cannot “fact check” that, or whatever.”

Summing up what we know, then; 1) Sherkat admits that he knows the identities of those who peer-reviewed the Regnerus study, and he says: 2)  “How did this study get through peer review? The peers are right wing Christianists!3) Notice very carefully that in that remark, Sherkat did not say that only three of the peer reviewers are “right wing Christianists.” He did not say that “some” of the peer reviewers are “right wing Christianists.” He clearly implied that all of the peer reviewers are “right wing Christianists.”

I asked Sherkat if he was investigating whether any of the Regnerus’s paper’s peer reviewers are being investigated for possible conflicts of interest  (i.e., were any of the Regnerus study’s peer reviewers paid consultants on the study) —  and whether he would release those reviewers’ names to the public, if he found they had had conflicts of interest.

“Yes, I am,” he said. “I don’t report to the public. However, I would advise the editor and the editorial board that the paper should be retracted and resubmitted for a full review (that is normal procedure in all sciences). Sherkat also said: “I am almost finished with my audit response, and I will send it to you very soon. I hope it will answer some questions, but I know it will never be satisfying. It can’t be. The fuckers played this one perfect, and now we’re all just on the defense.”

(Journalist’s note: Where Sherkat says “now we’re all just on the defense,” he appears to mean that the journal’s editors are “all just on the defense.” The question of exactly how the Regnerus study got peer-reviewed by “right wing Christianists” and then published, leaving “all” the editors of the journal Social Science Research “on the defense” has yet to be answered.) 

In one particularly angry e-mail, Sherkat alleged that I am “not a journalist.”  That is a rogue’s attack, which this journalist has heard many times before from people in positions similar to Sherkat’s, when people like Sherkat do not want the public to have a full and complete understanding of their behavior.

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.

Continue Reading
Click to comment
 
 

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. The New Civil Rights Movement depends on readers like you to meet our ongoing expenses and continue producing quality progressive journalism. Three Silicon Valley giants consume 70 percent of all online advertising dollars, so we need your help to continue doing what we do.

NCRM is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. From unflinching coverage of religious extremism, to spotlighting efforts to roll back our rights, NCRM continues to speak truth to power. America needs independent voices like NCRM to be sure no one is forgotten.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure NCRM remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to NCRM, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Watch: Democrat Delivers Fiery Rebuke to House Republicans Trying to Deprive Veterans of Abortion Rights

Published

on

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan, blasted congressional Republicans on the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday, accusing them of turning a basic, bipartisan bill to help the nation’s veterans into “a cold heartless, violent” referendum on the right to abortion.

“In terms of making decisions on behalf of women, if you want to take a veterans’ bill and make it about abortion, then let’s do it,” Slotkin dared her Republican colleagues. “What you are saying – and you’re saying in front of the American people – is that you believe a veteran who has been raped, who was the victim of incest, or who is having a dangerous miscarriage, does not deserve access to abortion.”

Slotkin was referring to the Solid Start Act, her legislation designed to help veterans transition into civilian society. Republicans tried to block the bill after learning it includes a “requirement that the Department of Veterans Affairs provide female veterans with information ‘tailored to their specific health care’ needs, which would adhere to a new VA policy providing abortion access for women vets who are victims of rape, incest or whose life is jeopardized,” HuffPost reports.

READ MORE: ‘Yes’: GOP Nominee Mastriano Supports Charging Women With Murder if They Have an Abortion After a 6 Week Ban (Audio)

“If you can’t state it, then be clear you believe in no exceptions for women — a cold heartless, violent approach to women’s health,” said Slotkin, whose stepdaughter is a female Army officer. “You want to ban all abortions. That is your goal. Many of you have been open about that, and if you flip the House, we know that you will put forward a full ban on all abortion for all states.”

Slotkin, a military spouse and military step mother, is correct. House GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s plan for Republicans to take back control of the House, his Newt Gingrich-endorsed “Commitment to America” says it very clearly. In the section called “Preserve Our Constitutional Freedoms,” he says Republicans will “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.”

But GOP opposition to the abortion provisions in the veterans’ bill is even more extreme than McCarthy’s message – and does not protect the life of the mother.

READ MORE: ‘Doesn’t Get to Tell the County What They Can Read’: Lawmaker Blasts Christian in Viral Video Attacking LGBTQ Library Books

“We are all, on this floor, elected officials and not medical professionals,” Slotkin added in her more-then two-minute rebuke. “If it was your wife, your daughter who was suffering through a miscarriage, are you going to tell her she can’t until her fever gets high enough and until she’s bleeding harder?”

“If that’s what you want for veterans, shame on you! Shame on you!”

Watch below or at this link.

 

 

Continue Reading

RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Ginni Thomas Testifies Today Before J6 Committee

Published

on

Far-right-wing activist and lobbyist Ginni Thomas, who held a months-long pressure campaign with Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to try to force him to somehow overturn the 2020 election, and sent numerous emails to GOP lawmakers in multiple states also trying convince them to overturn the election, will testify today before the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack.

Were Thomas merely a far-right wing extremist, or even a wealthy and powerful lobbyist, her actions would have received less scrutiny, but given she is married to a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas, who was the sole vote opposing the release of January 6 documents to the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection, many see her actions as concerning and deserving of investigation.

Politico’s Kyle Cheney broke the news Thomas will testify before the Committee today. Her testimony will be virtual. The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell adds, it is “voluntary.”

READ MORE: Former GOP Congressman Has ‘Legitimate Concerns’ Clarence Thomas Was Involved in ‘Push to Overturn the Election’

Calling Thomas “one of the panel’s most high-profile outstanding witnesses,” Politico reports, “Lawmakers took interest in her connections to John Eastman, a legal architect of former President Donald Trump’s last-ditch plan to subvert the 2020 election. She’d invited Eastman to speak to an activist group in the aftermath of the election, though Eastman has denied ever discussing Supreme Court-related matters with Thomas.”

In a March opinion piece on MSNBC, Wayne Batchis, associate professor of political science at the University of Delaware, examined the Supreme Court’s “Clarence Thomas (and Ginni Thomas) problem.”

“It turns out that Thomas not only sat on the board of an organization that promoted the dangerous fiction that the 2020 election was ‘stolen’ from former President Donald Trump through fraud, she also attended the rally attempting to vindicate this paranoid propagandistic fantasy (and said she left before Trump took the stage),” Batchis wrote.

READ MORE: Trump Sarcastically Prayed for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Health – Before Asking ‘How Much Longer’ She Had: New Book

” All the while, in what might resemble the coordinated efforts of synchronized swimmers, husband and wife seemingly sought to thwart the investigation into the democratically perilous events of Jan. 6. Ginni Thomas signed on to a letter seeking the expulsion of Republican Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger from the Republican conference for joining the House Jan. 6 investigation committee; Clarence Thomas was the sole dissenter — standing in opposition to the rest of the court, including its three Trump appointees — in a decision allowing for the release of Jan. 6-related documents to said committee.”

“Without trust in the courts,” he warns, “American democracy does not stand a chance.”

 

Continue Reading

News

Former GOP Congressman Has ‘Legitimate Concerns’ Clarence Thomas Was Involved in ‘Push to Overturn the Election’

Published

on

Questions surfaced after Justice Clarence Thomas was the only member of the U.S. Supreme Court to oppose the release of Mark Meadows’ texts and information to the Jan. 6 committee. It turned out that in those text messages that the justice didn’t want revealed were communications with his wife.

Former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA), wrote in his new book that he thinks Justice Thomas is far more involved in his wife Ginni Thomas’ 2020 election overthrow attempts.

Riggleman, who left the committee in April, included many of the text messages that had previously been released from Ginni Thomas, along with the note that he had a difficult time trying to get the House Select Committee to sound the alarm on her actions.

“Supreme Court spouses are typically low profile. Ginni’s involvement with political groups had already led to questions about whether Clarence would need to recuse himself in cases with a political component,” wrote Riggleman. If Clarence had been in the logs, it would be a much bigger deal than all that. When I began to suspect Ginni and Clarence had texted with Meadows, I put together a technical brief outlining how we might be able to cement the identifications.”

IN OTHER NEWS: GOP lawmaker leaves people baffled with his opinion of drug seizures

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) called him to express concern that telling Americans that such an influential figure had gone full-Q. Cheney was worried it would turn the whole committee into a political sideshow and overshadow all of the other work the committee was doing. The release of Riggleman’s book has left the committee members furiousover possible leaks after spending a year with so few.

Riggleman persisted in pressing Cheney to tell Americans about the Thomases.

“The committee needed to show the American people that there was an organized, violent effort to reverse the election—and that there were indications it could have been directed by the White House,” he wrote. “Thanks to their prominence, Ginni and Clarence would make a lot of headlines, but those headlines might overwhelm the other important work we were doing.”

The conversation with Cheney didn’t go well, with the two “type A personalities” duking-out their arguments. Riggleman argued that data wasn’t political. It wasn’t right or wrong.

“I also thought that, given Clarence’s position and Ginni’s prominence in conservative circles, the American public had to know what she had been up to,” argued Riggleman. “Some of the messages went beyond simply cheering Meadows on. It was legitimate for me to have concerns as to whether a Supreme Court justice had been involved in the legally questionable push to overturn the election. Was it possible that one of the country’s nine top judges was on board with an authoritarian interpretation of the Constitution? The implications were overwhelming. Cheney found it all improbable. I think she still had more faith in the institutional GOP than I did at that point.”

Riggleman’s book, The Breach, is on sale now and Raw Story has complete coverage here.

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2020 AlterNet Media.