News (USA)

University of Texas panel: No scientific misconduct in anti-gay parenting study

AUSTIN, Texas — A University of Texas advisory panel consisting of four senior faculty members has concluded that the author of an anti-gay parenting study had not published nor committed falsification of data, plagiarism or other ethical breaches constituting scientific misconduct.

As a result, the panel found that no formal investigation of allegations against Mark Regnerus — an associate professor of sociology who had published the study back in June — is warranted.

In his study, which has been widely denounced by LGBT advocacy groups, RRegnerus claimed “that the adult children of gay parents reported significantly different, and often worse, life experiences than the children of married, heterosexual biological parents.”

Mark Regnerus

“I think it’s a just and wise decision, and I’m certainly pleased with it,” Regnerus told the Austin American-Statesman, in an email. “It was a thorough and fair process, and conducted professionally.”

A number of sociologists and gay marriage advocates objected to Regnerus’ findings, contending that they subverted a decade of research.

The critics also questioned his methodology, the peer review process and the fact that the study was paid for by two conservative groups, the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation. An internal draft audit by Social Science Research, the journal that published the study, found “serious flaws” in the peer review process and concluded that the journal never should have published his report.

One of the leading critics of the study, freelance writer Scott Rosensweig, who uses the byline Scott Rose, leveled allegations of scientific misconduct in a letter to UT President Bill Powers.

After consultation with Robert A. Peterson, a research integrity officer in the UT Office of the Vice President for Research, Powers ordered the inquiry.

Rosensweig charged among other things that the anti-gay-rights Witherspoon Institute long cultivated a relationship, with Regnerus before approaching him to commission a study that would demonize gay people and be available in time for pernicious exploitation during the 2012 elections.

“Top officials of the anti-gay-rights Witherspoon Institute also have positions of authority over the anti-gay-rights National Organization for Marriage (NOM),” wrote Rosensweig.

“NOM’s founder and mastermind Robert P. George, moreover, is a senior fellow with the anti-gay-rights Witherspoon Institute, as well as a board member of the Family Research Council (FRC), a Southern Poverty Law Center-certified anti-gay hate group known for spreading malicious falsehoods against its umpteen millions of victims, the entire LGBT community and heterosexuals supportive of LGBTers’ equality.

“Since the publication of the fraudulent Regnerus study, enemies of gay rights — led by Robert George‘s anti-gay-rights Witherspoon Institute, NOM and FRC – have been using the “study” as a basis for their anti-gay fear-and-hate-mongering disinformation campaigns.”

Rosensweig disputed UT’s review results, noting that some peer reviewers of the study were also paid consultants, which he labeled “a most serious matter.”

Peterson told the American-Statesman that he felt that the question of whether Regnerus’ study has serious flaws is one best left to debate among scholars, future research and an expected release by Regnerus of the data underlying his research.

UT had hired Alan Price, a former chief research fraud investigator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and now working as a private consultant, to monitor the inquiry.

In a statement, Price said that the inquiry was handled “consistent with the University policy and procedures for scientific misconduct” as well as “consistent with federal regulatory requirements of inquiries into research misconduct.”

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