Time travel: Regnerus study timeline suggests superhuman abilities

I will comment more soon on Mark Regnerus’s paper, “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study.” (Short: I think it’s a bad-quality piece of research that should not have been published; and that Regnerus cynically manipulated promotion by the conservative press and anti-equality advocates eager to declare, “this new research tends to affirm that the ideal for a child is a married mom and dad.”)

But here’s a quick note:

In the controversy over the publication, several people have remarked on the extremely fast timeline by which the journal Social Science Research operated. According to the data listed at the top of the article, it was submitted, revised, and accepted within 6 weeks. That’s fast, but that doesn’t make it wrong, necessarily.

On the other hand, time travel is definitely cheating. Neal Caren pointed out to me this pattern: according to the study design document online at the University of Texas (here), and the article history dates listed by the journal Social Science Research (here), this is the timeline for the study:

  • Data collection start date: August 19, 2011
  • Email and postcard reminders sent to non-responders: December 15, 2011
  • Telephone reminder campaign: December 20, 2011-January 17, 2012
  • Paper received by Social Science Research: February 1, 2012
  • Data collection end date: February 21, 2012
  • Data file delivered to University of Texas “containing the collected data”: February 24, 2012
  • Revised paper received by Social Science Research: February 29, 2012
  • Paper accepted by Social Science Research: March 12, 2012
  • Paper published online: June 10, 2012

According to these documents, the paper was submitted for publication 20 days before the end of the data collection, and 23 days before the data were delivered to the University of Texas! That’s fast.

There must be some post-hoc excuse Regnerus or the journal could give to clear this up.

Commentary on the study includes:

Why Mark Regnerus’ study shouldn’t matter, even if it were the most scientifically robust study in the world,” by Ilana Yurkiewicz at Scientific American

Study questioning same-sex parenting draws fire, by Stephanie Pappas at Live Science

Do children of same-sex parents really fare worse? by Belinda Luscombe at Time Healthland

49 Comments

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49 responses to “Time travel: Regnerus study timeline suggests superhuman abilities

  1. Yes, yes, yes…..And, really, what was the response rate of that survey, and when were those interviewers making the calls? Who runs that data collection firm? The whole thing stinks, eh? Imagine that, right-wing Christian foundations fund a “study” overseen by a committed ideologue……

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  2. Mark R

    Phil, Mark Regnerus here. Just to clarify about the data collection process:

    I received a nearly-complete version of the data in mid-January, and earlier versions before then, upon request. The pace of picking up cases in the group of interest here—respondents whose parent reported a same-sex relationship—had slowed to a crawl by January. I elected to submit the first version of the manuscript by the end of January, content to presume that any more cases out there were both worth collecting and wouldn’t likely alter the study’s central themes. There weren’t many to be had in the five weeks between receiving the penultimate and final datasets (~15), and the story didn’t change.

    In praise of openness, I didn’t have to post any of this—the questionnaire, the data design, and the codebook—but I thought it was the right thing to do. The review process proceeded faster than I anticipated, yes, but was not unusual in its process: blind, three reviews, revisions, etc.

    I understand critical comments about the substance of the study, my analytic decisions, etc. That’s all fair and fine. This other stuff is an unnecessary attempt to raise specters where none exist.

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    • To clarify: Social Science Research is very unusual in that it does not practice double-blind reviewing, but rather has a single-blind process in which reviewers are told the identity of the authors while the authors are not told the identity of the reviewers.

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      • Scott Rose

        Regnerus’s self-serving explanations do not answer the most fundamental of questions; why — if he as a sociologist without ulterior political motives — wanted to compare children raised mainly be homosexual parents, to children raised mainly by heterosexual parents, did he not find a survey facilitating company that had the capacity to find such families? It’s a lie, to say that no such families existed up through the 90s. I know of several families, where parents were lost to accident or death, and the child was subsequently raised by a gay aunt or uncle. Regnerus and his supporters want to make it sound as though gay people never had families before the year 2000. Knowledge Networks is good for studies of some things, but it absolutely did not have the right contacts for carrying out this study. The very strong appearance, is that KN was picked, precisely because it did not have the right contacts. And something very curious — how did it happen that the study surveyed some adult children of parents who adopted them, but not a single one of the adoptive parents was gay or lesbian? The study compares “gay” parents against adoptive parents, as though those are two mutually exclusive categories. How did that happen? Were gay adoptive parents excluded as survey candidates?

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    • Mark,

      In your, “Response to Paul Amato, David Eggebeen, and Cynthia Osborne” you write that, “Additionally, more exhaustive results from this study are available online at the website, including those that convey—per Amato’s and Osborne’s request—a clearer sense of the magnitude of such differences.” Could your provide a link? I didn’t see it at
      http://familystructurestudies.com/ or http://www.prc.utexas.edu/nfss/

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    • Scott Rose

      How stupid do you think people are, Mr. Regnerus? You were confronted with the criticism that your definition of a “gay” parent, was anybody known to their children ever to have had a “romantic relationship” with a person of the same gender. People correctly point out, that could include a one-night stand. (And I’ll further point out, it could be a one night stand with a same-sex partner, that did not end the underlying heterosexual marriage. Not all marriages end because of affairs; look at the Clintons). You told the interview that you “assumed” that the same-sex “romantic relationship” was “substantial” because the offspring knew about it. Is that how science works? Instead of verifying, instead of fact-checking, you make it up as you go along, and assign a meaning to something that it might not have, knowing that you have not done everything possible to get at the precise definition? I have news for you; I’m in contact with survey facilitation firms, that tell me that they “could” find same-sex-headed families for the decades in question, given enough time. And, I asked for cost estimates, — they appear to be lower than what you paid to Knowledge Networks, which doesn’t have the capacity to find a group of children from same-sex-headed households raised through to the 1990s. My investigation into that business, is strengthening my supposition that you produced your study for Robert George et al according to a pre-set timetable, i.e. they needed the study completed in time for the 2012 elections. Here’s a quote from Regnerus, explaining why he didn’t want to seek funding from the National Institute of Health: “‘I had a feeling when we started this project that it would not survive the politics of, in my opinion, the peer review system at the National Institute of Health (funding) — and it takes so long to get money from them, and there are revisions and revisions; I understand that works to the long-term benefit of science, but some scholars don’t feel like going that route.”

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    • Daniel

      Meh, it’s irrelevant, really. You never submit a research report until it’s complete. Unless you are saying you just submitted the lit review and methods while waiting for more data, but I don’t see why any journal would accept that…

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  3. Lynn

    Mark, since you are answering questions here about irregularities in your process, can you explain why you used a different indicator from the delinquency index for every paper you wrote on the subject? For example, in two different papers you use 4 delinquency indicators from the index for minor delinquency, but each paper has different indicators. In one you include graffiti, in the other you exclude it but include gang fighting. In one you include being loud in public or lying to one’s parents, but in other studies you don’t. You include some things in both minor and serious deliquency. There is no conceivable research justifications for how wildly your selection of indicators varies. I can find no other researcher who has done anything even similar with that data set. And studies done without the type of manipulation that you engaged in have shown very different results. Doesn’t changing the definition of the dependent variable from study to study without justification and based on what you want to prove raise the specter of cheating? Shouldn’t your history of data manipulation be considered when you ask us to give you the benefit of the doubt as you do here?

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  6. Scott Rose

    Regnerus above wants a medal for openness; but he hasn’t earned his openness medal yet. He says Witherspoon/Bradley supported his study “in part;” who else gave money, and how much did they give? And, where is an open accounting of how all the money was spent? We should know if the donors gave money for promoting the study, for example.

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  7. Scott Rose

    PS — I have sent an e-mail to both Robert George and to Mark Regnerus, telling them that I’m doing a follow-up piece on my article saying that the study is a One-Percenter Dirty Campaign Trick. I am asking them if they can provide documentation showing that anything I wrote in my article is untrue.

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  12. Scott Rose

    In Re: Mark Regnerus’s anti-gay parenting study:
    In this letter to his university president, I accuse Regnerus of SCIENTIFIC MISCONDUCT
    Please read and re-post

    http://tinyurl.com/7hmyxye

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  18. I had read that the paper was used as evidence in a DOMA trial, one day after it was published. Is that true? If so, that would explain the incredibly fast timeline involved in getting published. The sponsors of the paper desperately wanted to demonize the gay community in a court of law, in the hopes that the inaccurate study would prove that DOMA serves a valid purpose.

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