Incredibly, it appears that one of the anonymous peer reviewers of the Regnerus study, was Professor Brad Wilcox, who was involved in the study at every level.
I’m amazed I haven’t seen more people talking about this revelation in Inside Higher Ed – although, to be fair, they buried it pretty deep in the story:
In an e-mail, Wright said he has never publicly disclosed who reviewed the articles and doesn’t plan to. But he said that both “Amato and Wilcox mentioned their prior involvement with the Regnerus study in response to my initial reviewing request. I asked, as I always do, whether this involvement precluded their writing an objective review. Both said no and so both were asked to proceed.”
That’s James Wright, editor of Social Science Review, identifying Paul Amato and Brad Wilcox as two of the three anonymous peer reviewers who vetted the scientific methodology of the Regnerus study. (The Regnerus study is the discredited “study” of gay parenting designed to smear gay parents, as you’ll recall.)1
Paul Amato had a minor role as a paid consultant on the study, and has said “In retrospect, I understand that providing a review was not a good idea, because one should avoid even the hint of impropriety in matters like this.”
Amato’s duel role doesn’t seem like a big deal. Wilcox’s role is far more unethical.
Philip Cohen provides a useful timeline of events. Wilcox was involved with the Regnerus study before Regnerus himself ever heard of it. Here is the 2010 portion of Cohen’s timeline:
September 3, 2010: Witherspoon’s Luis Tellez writes to a research company, “At the request of Brad Wilcox, I am sending you a description of ‘The New Family Structure Study.’” Later that month he writes to Regnerus, “It would be great to have this before major decisions of the Supreme Court.” September 21, 2010: Regnerus writes to Wilcox to nail down administrative details with Witherspoon, “And per your instruction, I should think of this as a planning grant, with somewhere on par of $30-$40k if needed” (Wilcox approves). October 2010: Regnerus’s $55,000 planning grant from Witherspoon begins. October – December, 2010: Regnerus attempts to recruit consultants. (“Why am I running this project, you may wonder. Good question. Pragmatically, probably because Brad Wilcox is swamped…”)
So Wilcox got the ball rolling on the study, arranged the financing with the right-wing Witherspoon foundation, and according to Regnerus, might have personally run the study if he had more time. Wilcox was also the one to suggest Social Science Review as a home for the study, and was paid $2000 as a consultant on the study.
Wilcox is obviously not an objective reviewer. To use Wilcox as a reviewer of a study that he himself all but created makes a mockery of the peer review system. Wright never should have asked Wilcox to be a peer reviewer, and Wilcox, once asked, should have had the integrity to refuse.
In October of 2012, in answer to an email I sent him, Wilcox downplayed his involvement with both Witherspoon and the Regnerus study. At the time – based on years of infrequent-but-friendly contacts with Brad Wilcox, and on Brad’s assurances that he was only peripherally involved – I defended Wilcox both in private emails and in public, writing that there was “nothing unethical” about Wilcox’s involvement.
I cannot hold that opinion today. It is plain that Brad Wilcox has abused his position of trust (both as an academic and a peer reviewer), and has deliberately deceived me and the public about his actions and his involvement with the Regnerus study. I’m sorry to say, I can’t imagine ever trusting Brad Wilcox again.
- For those interested in reading up on the matter, I recommend this post and the comments at Scatterplot, and also following the links in this post at Family Inequality. For a peer-reviewed response to Regnerus, see here. [↩]
- Professor Regnerus’ Study Seems Deceptive About His Funding Source’s Participation
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