Opinion: Regnerus Anti-Gay Scandal — Elsevier Corporate Greed Drove Publication?
BRIEF STORY BACKGROUND
As previously reported, Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin took $785,000 — (through his long-time personal friend W. Bradford Wilcox of the anti-gay-rights Witherspoon Institute) — and produced a fraudulent anti-gay “study” that is being used as a political weapon to inflict harm on innocent gay people.
Counter to all science publishing ethics, the study was published without benefit of valid peer review. Indeed, the peer review of the Regnerus study, and of a study by Loren Marks propagandistically paired to it, was marked by corruption and improper insider influence. Wilcox is an editorial board member of the Elsevier company’s journal Social Science Research, which published Regnerus. Wilcox, furthermore, is a paid Regnerus study consultant. It appears he also did some peer review of the paired Regnerus and Marks studies.
Whereas the peer reviewers allowed the Regnerus study’s glaring methodological failures through to publication, a mass of experts in the academy expressed concern that the scientifically invalid study had been published, and at that, on a suspicious rush schedule.
According to Dr. Gary Gates of the Williams Institute, the mere fact that peer reviewers had conflicts of interest means that the Regnerus study did not have valid peer review. Gates is seconded in that opinion byÂ Vanderbilt University Sociologist Tony N. Brown, Editor of the American Sociological Associationâ€™sÂ American Sociological Review, who has said: â€œjournal editors shouldÂ alwaysÂ seek knowledgeable reviewers who do not haveÂ anyÂ conflict of interest regarding the submitted author or the studyâ€™s funder.â€ (Bolding added).
Gates further says: “We need to get answered the question about why the Regnerus study was published in a rush, with no valid peer review. Other issues surrounding the Regnerus and Marks studies may be interesting, but the core question relates to the fact that the study was published in a suspicious rush without valid peer review. What caused Social Science Research‘s editor-in-chief James Wright to publish this study in a rush, without valid peer review? We need that question answered.”
REED ELSEVIER CORPORATE GREED DROVE THE PUBLICATION OF THE REGNERUS STUDY
In the response to the letter from over 200 Ph.D.s and M.D.s, Social Science Research‘s editor-in-chief James Wright assigned SSR editorial board member Darren Sherkat to an “audit” of the publication process of the Regnerus and Marks studies.
In his audit, Sherkat admits that the Regnerus study is not scientifically valid, and that the peer review failed, yet he exonerates Wright and the peer reviewers from all accountability for their gross dereliction of duty. He says that the unethical process through which the Regnerus study was published is just “business as usual” at Social Science Research.
Sherkat actually analyzes how the publication of the scientifically invalid Regnerus study has harmed Social Science Research‘s scientific reputation, in context of explaining how corporate greed drove the publication of the Regnerus submission. Yet, very disturbingly, Sherkat said that had he been in Wright’s shoes, he may well have made all of the same publishing decisions. In other words, Sherkat is more devoted to his boss James Wright and to his greedy corporate Reed Elsevier bosses than he is to ethical science publishing.
Apparently, other anti-gay-rights organizations such as Regnerus’s personal friends at the Witherspoon Institute could fund an endless series of fraudulent studies booby-trapped against gays or against other minorities, and Social Science Research would publish all of them without benefit of valid peer review.
In his audit, Sherkat explains the role that parent company Reed Elsevier played in pushing greed to predominate over ethical science publishing in the Regnerus scandal.
The Regnerus publishing scandal actually is much broader than just the Regnerus and Marks papers. Three Regnerus study commentaries published alongside the Regnerus and Marks papers were done by three persons without same-sex-parenting science expertise, and with conflicts of interest in commenting on the study. Those three are 1) UT’s Dr. Cynthia Osborne, Regnerus’s co-researcher on the “study;” 2) Dr. Paul Amato, a paid Regnerus study consultant; and 3) David Eggebeen, a Witherspoon bigot crony who supports the continuation of sexual orientation apartheid.
Here is part of Sherkat’s explanation of how Reed Elsevier greed is driving the publication and promotions of the wide-scaled anti-gay Regnerus scandal:
“Controversy over sexuality sells and in only a week after publication these papers haveÂ already skyrocketed to the most downloaded papers published in Social Science Research.” (Bolding added). “ButÂ neither paper should have been published, in my opinion. Undoubtedly, any researcher doingÂ work on same-sex parenting will now have to address the Regnerus paper, and these citationsÂ will inflate the all-important â€œimpact factorâ€ of the journal. It is easy to get caught up in theÂ empirical measures of journal success, and I believe this overcame Wright in driving his decisionÂ to rush these into print. The fetishism of the journal impact factors comes from the top down, andÂ 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 theÂ already admirable impact factor of Social Science Research. As social scientists, popularityÂ should not be the end we seek, and rigorous independent evaluation of these manuscripts wouldÂ have made Social Science Research a less popular but better journal.” (Bolding added).
In his CYA “audit,” Sherkat further wrote:
“once they were accepted there wasÂ an unseemly rush to publication.” He continues: “that was justified based onÂ the attention that these studies would generate. The published responses were milquetoastÂ critiques by scholars with ties to Regnerus and/or the Witherspoon Institute, and Elsevier assistedÂ with the politicization by helping to publicize the study and by placing these papers in front ofÂ the pay wall.” (Bolding added).
SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH’S JAMES WRIGHT, BRAD WILCOX AND DARREN SHERKAT GUILTY OF GROSS DERELICTION OF DUTY
The Social Science Research editors contrived an “audit” of the publication of Regnerus’s pseudoscience to create an appearance that they had behaved responsibly when they manifestly did not behave responsibly.
In interviews that Wright and Sherkat gave to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the upshot is that all of the gross dereliction of duty that SSR people committed in relation to the Regnerus pseudoscience scandal can be explained away and shrugged off because people are just so darned busy these days.
Additionally, Sherkat did write in his audit:Â â€œscholars who should have known better failed to recuse themselves from the review process.â€
That is where the community must demand that Reed Elsevier and Wright do the right thing by retracting the Regnerus study from publication. The study could then be put through valid peer review prior to any future eventual re-publication. It simply must not be allowed to stand, that Reed Elsevier, Wright, Sherkat and Wilcox continue to abet fraudulent attacks against innocent gay people. These malefactors’ admixture of corporate greed and/or indifference to harm their actions are unjustly inflicting on innocent human beings is appalling.
Here is an example — from the Chronicle article — of Sherkat’s cavalier article about the editors’ and the peer reviewers’ gross dereliction of their professional duties. The following quote is in relation to the peer reviewers’ having allowed the Regnerus study through to publication, even though Regnerus made no scientifically adequate determination of whether he study respondents actually had “same sex parents,” as Regnerus claims in his study conclusion.
“At the same time, he,” — meaning SSR’s Sherkat —Â “sympathizes with the task of the overburdened reviewer inclined to skim. Because of how the paper was written, Sherkat said, it would have been easy to miss Regnerusâ€™s explanation of who qualified as â€œlesbian mothersâ€ and â€œgay fathers.â€
That is exactly why only gay parenting topic experts can be used to peer review a scientific journal submission on gay parenting. Â You do not ask a therapist to peer review a submission about the latest techniques in brain surgery. Here is how Sherkat continues with his duplicitous, self-serving alibis for the peer reviewers’ gross dereliction of professional duty:
“If a reviewer were to skip ahead to the statistics in the table, it would be understandable, he said, to assume that the children described there were, in fact, raised by a gay or lesbian couple for a significant portion of their childhoods.Â In reality, only two respondents lived with a lesbian couple for their entire childhoods, and most did not live with lesbian or gay parents for long periods, if at all.”
In the Chronicle interview, SSR’s editor-in-chief James Wright uses a euphemism to describe how corporate greed led him to publish the Regnerus submission without benefit of valid peer review:
“In his audit, Sherkat reveals that all the reviewers declared that the paper would generate â€œenormous interest.â€ Enormous interest leads to citations and downloads, which is how a journalâ€™s relevance is judged. The higher the impact of its papers, the greater its prestige. Wright acknowledges that he was excited about the interest the paper would no doubt inspire, and he wonders in retrospect if â€œperhaps this prospect caused me to be inattentive to things I should have kept a keener eye on.â€
The anti-gay-rights Witherspoon Institute funded Regnerus’s pseudoscience out of contempt for gay human beings and their rights.
The Regnerus “study,” 1) propagandistically paired with the Marks study, and 2) unethically pumped up further through Regnerus-and-Marks-studies-related propaganda pumped out by 3) the three non-topic-expert commentary writers with conflicts of interest, was 4) illicitly helped through to publication by the presence of Witherspoon’s Brad Wilcox on the Social Science Research editorial board.
The community now must — with unwavering determination — demand that the Regnerus study be retracted from publication and put through valid peer review prior to any eventual future re-publication.
The Regnerus pseudoscience scandal undermines the trust on which science is based.
This was hardly the first time that narrow-minded bigots ever commissioned a “study” for use as a political weapon against a minority.
We must now step up to the plate and demand that scientific standards be upheld, so that no other minority is similarly victimized through a combination of bigots’ spite and corporate greed in the future.
In 2010, Elsevier reported a profit margin of 36% on revenues of $3.2 billion.Â Elsevier accounts for 28% of the revenues of the Reed Elsevier group (â‚¤1.5b of 5.4 billions in 2006).
New York City-based novelist and freelance writerÂ Scott Roseâ€™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 â€œMr. David Cooperâ€™s Happy Suicideâ€ is about aÂ New York City advertising executive assigned to aÂ condom account.
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SCOTUS ‘Surprise’ Voting Rights Decision Could – and Did – Have Big Implications for Democrats, Legal Experts Say
It’s being called a “surprise decision,” a “landmark win,” and a “a major victory for the Voting Rights Act (VRA),” but some legal experts are warning that heralding the U.S. Supreme Court’s Thursday decision as anything except upholding the status quo is a mistake, and other experts suggest it means the Court’s earlier rulings wrongly threw control of the House of Representatives to Republicans. Some experts say a Democratic-majority House in 2024 is now more likely.
In short, in its 5-4 decision in Allen v. Milligan, the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Alabama discriminated against Black voters, which make up a quarter of its population, by drawing congressional maps to exclude them.
Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, who writes about law and the courts, exclaimed, “WHOA!” as he explained: “The Supreme Court’s final decision of the day is a 5–4 ruling that AFFIRMS the Voting Rights Act’s protection against racial vote dilution! Roberts and Kavanaugh join the liberals. This is a HUGE surprise and a major voting rights victory.”
Democracy Docket, the website founded by Marc Elias, the voting rights attorney who won 63 of the 64 court cases Donald Trump and his allies filed to contest the 2020 presidential election, also served up a similar response on social media, calling it “a massive victory for voting rights.”
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On its website, Democracy Docket calls it “an overwhelming win for Alabamians, specifically Black voters, whose voting power was found to be diluted under the current congressional map. Importantly, the conservative Supreme Court did not make the drastic decision to strike down Section 2 of the VRA, leaving an important tool in voting rights litigation in place.”
It adds the Supreme Court’s decision in Allen v. Milligan “leaves Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) intact and, in a landmark win for voters, struck down the state’s congressional map. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, is joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson and joined in part by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.”
Democracy Docket also notes the decision “will have major positive implications for outstanding redistricting lawsuits.”
Stern agrees, writing: “It’s a boon to Democrats’ chances of retaking the House in 2024. The Supreme Court had blocked multiple lower court rulings striking down congressional maps that diluted Black voting power. At least some of those rulings should now be implemented.”
Democracy Docket adds: “The Court’s decision in Allen likely means that litigation challenging Louisiana’s congressional map can move forward and paves the way for a favorable outcome for Louisiana voters. Louisiana’s situation directly mirrors Alabama’s. In both states, voting rights advocates argued that a second majority-Black congressional district is needed to ensure compliance with the VRA. The Supreme Court paused Louisiana’s litigation pending a decision in Allen.”
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Dave Wasserman, U.S. House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report calls the decision “a major surprise,” and says: “This could reverberate to LA, SC and/or GA, forcing creation of 2-4 new Black majority districts and netting Dems 2-4 seats” in the House.
Wasserman, known for his keen knowledge of congressional districts and iconic “I’ve seen enough” early and accurate predictions of House election races, offered this view of how the Court’s decision could impact current districts:
“The Alabama Republicans in most jeopardy owing to the SCOTUS ruling: Reps. Jerry Carl (R) #AL01, Barry Moore (R) #AL02 and Mike Rogers (R) #AL03. Moore could be squeezed the most in any map reconfigured to feature a second Black majority seat.”
University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck, author of a book on the Supreme Court, “The Shadow Docket,” offers up a stinging reminder of how the Court has damaged voting rights and helped Republicans in the process:
“If you assume that additional majority-minority districts in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, & 1–2 other states would’ve been safe Democratic seats, then today’s #SCOTUS ruling strongly suggests that the Court’s 2022 shadow docket stays [decisions/rulings] wrongly gave Republicans control of the House.”
Professor of law Anthony Michael Kreis, pointing to Vladeck’s remarks, adds: “there’s a House majority built on discriminatory lawlessness.”
Also taking note of Thursday’s SCOTUS ruling: House Democrats. Axios’ Andrew Solender reports House Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries’ office is “inviting Dem[ocratic] congressional staff to a Friday briefing on recent Supreme Court cases, including the Alabama congressional map case.”
Meanwhile, the well-known NYU professor of law, Melissa Murray, is stepping in to properly frame reactions to what she sees as the Court’s “weak sauce” decision on the Voting Rights Act.
“Some initial thoughts on Allen v. Milligan,” she writes on Twitter. “Media is trumpeting this as a ‘victory’ for the Voting Rights Act. And it is. And I don’t want to be a turd in the punchbowl… but this is pretty weak sauce from this Court.”
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Professor Murray says, “this doesn’t ‘strengthen’ the VRA. It preserves the status quo. And the status quo is that this Court has done an A+ job of hobbling the VRA over the last 10 years.”
Murray offers up some quick historical background.
“In 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder, it eviscerated the preclearance formula. The preclearance regime required states with a history of voting discrimination to first ‘preclear’ any changes to their voting rules and regs with the DOJ or a three-judge federal court panel.”
“The Court invalidated the preclearance formula on the ground that progress had been made and minorities were voting and blah blah blah,” she notes. “This progress narrative prompted RBG [the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg] to note in dissent that throwing out the preclearance formula was like throwing out your umbrella in a rainstorm because you weren’t getting wet. She was right.”
Murray also refers to a number of other cases along the way that weakened voting rights.
“So, yes,” she concludes, “today’s decision is a victory that maintains the status quo for Section 2 of the VRA. But it is cold comfort when one considers the way this Court through its decisions has actively distorted the electoral landscape and made true representative government more elusive.”
The Economist’s Supreme Court reporter Steven Mazie, calls Prof. Murray’s remarks, “Crucial zoomed-out context for today’s Voting Rights Act ruling. The 5-4 is a surprise, and it’s a victory—but after a long string of losses, today’s win amounts to…not losing YET MORE voting protections for people of color.”
The Nation’s justice correspondent, Elie Mystal, offers a bit of a more compact and down-to-earth response: “A way to understand what just happened with Roberts and Kav[anaugh] in the Voting Rights Case is that it’s not going to change much in terms of Alabama’s racist maps. This cost them little,” he says. “The *victory* is that these fools could have straight killed Section 2 of the VRA, but didn’t.”
'DISTURBING SURGE IN VIOLENT THREATS'
Biden Launches Major Initiative to Protect LGBTQ Community Ahead of Massive White House Pride Celebration
The Biden administration is launching a three-pronged plan to protect members of the LGBTQI+ community, including protecting their safety and civil rights, supporting LGBTQI+ children, and protecting students from book bans.
“Over a dozen states have enacted anti-LGBTQI+ laws that violate our most basic values and freedoms as Americans, and are cruel and callous to our kids, our neighbors, and those in our community,” the White House said in a statement Thursday. “The Biden-Harris administration stands with the LGBTQI+ community and has their backs in the face of these attacks.”
The initiative will be announced during President Joe Biden’s Thursday evening Pride event, which Reuters reports will be “the largest White House Pride Month celebration in history.” In a “a deliberate contrast to a cascade of Republican legislation and other attacks targeting LGBTQ+ people,” President Biden will host “thousands” on the White House South Lawn.
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“This year we’re seeing a disturbing surge in violent threats against LGBTQ community organizations,” Biden White House domestic policy advisor Neera Tanden told reporters. “In too many parts of our country, LGBTQ Americans are being targeted for who they are, and that, simply put, is discrimination.”
President Biden has directed three federal agencies, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to “launch the LGBTQI+ Community Safety Partnership. The Partnership will work hand-in-hand with LGBTQI+ community organizations to provide critical safety resources to ensure these organizations can remain safe spaces for the community,” the White House says. “In acknowledgement of the mistreatment that LGBTQI+ communities have often faced in interactions with law enforcement, the Partnership will also work to build trust between LGBTQI+ organizations and federal law enforcement agencies.”
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Kristen Clarke, will chair regular meetings with the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s LGBTQI+ Working Group, focused on “issues related to discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community.”
The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services on Thursday will “issue a Behavioral Health Care Advisory on Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth to provide evidence-based practices for mental health providers. HHS will also issue a guidance to states and communities on using federal funding to support mental health services for LGBTQI+ youth.”
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The administration points to the disproportionately large number of LGBTQI+ youth in the child welfare system, and notes that “far too often” they “experience trauma, including being exposed to so-called ‘conversion therapy,'” which Biden has spoken out against before. HHS says it “will issue a Behavioral Health Care Advisory on Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth to provide evidence-based practices for mental health providers. HHS will also issue a guidance to states and communities on using federal funding to support mental health services for LGBTQI+ youth.”
The White House also says it is working to “Shield LGBTQI+ kids and families from discrimination,” and “Address LGBTQI+ youth homelessness.” It also points to its efforts on “Protecting Americans from book banning,” and “Uplifting LGBTQI+ communities.”
In December, President Biden signed a law protecting same-sex and interracial marriages.
You can watch the video above or at this link, and read the entire White House announcement on its website.
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House Freedom Caucus Republican: Trump Is Spinning Out of Control
A right-wing GOP lawmaker who has backed Donald Trump through both of his impeachments is sounding the alarm that the former president is becoming increasingly erratic which could put the 2024 general election at risk for his party.
According to a report from Politico, the closer Donald Trump gets to becoming the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nominee the more some GOP lawmakers are growing worried that not only will they lose their shot at taking back the White House, but he’ll take down-ticket GOP candidates down with him.
The report also notes that the battle between Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis is starting to turn off conservative voters and some are hoping that an alternative will rise from the squabble.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was blunt about the GOP’s prospects as they stand today, telling reporters, “I’m worried about it,” and expressed fears that Trump will keep independent voters at a distance.
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With a wide array of candidates having just appeared over the past weekend in Iowa, Rep. Zach Nunn (R-IA) claimed the infighting is turning voters — even Republicans — off.
“We’ll see if the two titans punching each other fires up the base, or if six months from now people are tired of both and ready for a third way,” Nunn explained before making tha blunt observation, “When you talk to Iowans, s–t-talking other candidates will not get you success. We don’t necessarily pick the winner, but we’re pretty good at smelling bulls–t.”
Kentucky Rep. Tom Massie (R), who has sided with DeSantis, is very worried about the possibility of Trump at the top of the ticket.
“I wish Trump were on Twitter. He’s in an echo chamber right now. And people don’t know how far he’s spun out from where he was,” he said in an interview. “The more visibility that we can help Trump get — when he attacks [his former White House press secretary] Kayleigh McEnany, for instance — the better.”
You can read more here.
Image via Shutterstock
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