For the Record

10.02.2012, 9:31 PM

Barry Deutsch, a fellow blogger here at Family Scholars, has asked about my affiliation with the Witherspoon Institute. For the record, I served as a fellow and as the director of the program on marriage, family, and democracy at the Witherspoon Institute from 2004 to 2011. These positions were honorific, and designed to highlight my writing and speaking on family-related issues. I also provided my perspective to Witherspoon Institute staff about scholarly matters of interest to the Institute, from a conference on marriage at Princeton University to the New Family Structures Study. However, I never served as an officer or a staffer at the Witherspoon Institute, and I never had the authority to make funding or programmatic decisions at the Institute. (Over the years, I have held similar fellowships at institutions ranging from Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion to Yale University’s Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion; these fellowships have also never entailed any kind of administrative authority at these other institutions.) In the fall of 2011, I stepped down from these positions at the Witherspoon Institute because the Institute and I were heading in different substantive directions, with my focus centering on the growing marriage divide in America.

From October of 2010 to April of 2012, I also served as one of about a dozen paid academic consultants to the New Family Structures Study (NFSS). As a consultant, I attended an initial planning meeting in Austin, Texas and provided input to Professor Mark Regnerus about the design, analysis, and interpretation of the survey data associated with the NFSS. The process associated with this study was much like other academic projects that I have been associated with over my career, in which scholars from a range of disciplines and a range of perspectives offered input on a project.

I viewed my consultation for the NFSS as collegial, that is, as providing academic advice that Regnerus was free to take or ignore (and he took some advice, and went his own way on other matters). I was not acting in an official Witherspoon capacity in relationship to him.

Finally, I note that the NFSS data has been given to the University of Michigan’s Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) data archive. This means that other scholars can analyze the NFSS data for themselves, and draw their own conclusions about the value of the data and the study.

22 Responses to “For the Record”

  1. [...] his post earlier tonight, Brad Wilcox writes that I “asked about [his] affiliation with the Witherspoon [...]

  2. StraightGrandmother says:

    Dr. Wilcox I appreciate your coming forward and discussing your role at the Witherspoon Institute particularly how you intersect with with Dr. Regnerus and his New Family Structures Study as a paid consultant WHILE at the SAME TIME being the Program Director of the Marriage, Family and Democracy Program at the Witherspoon Institute.

    I would like to ask you if were paid for your “Honorific” duties from the Witherspoon Institute as you describe them as being “Honorific” ?
    If so how much were you paid? A cursory review of the record shows that you took your role with Witherspoon quite seriously and promoted that in other venues and were very active for Witherspoon

    Dr. Wilcox can you be a bit more specific as to the exact date in 2012 that you separated from the Witherspoon Institute?

    Dr. Wilcox I wanted to ask also, if at the University of Virginia, the National Marriage Project which you are director of, have you received funding for that Program from the Witherspoon Institute? If so for what years and how much was the funding?

    I appreciate your coming forward but note that it is probably only because of the recent publication of the letter (disclosed because of Scott Rose’s Freedom Of Information Act Request) from the University of Texas Austin’s letter to the Texas Attorney General which shows that you collaborated with Dr. Regnerus on the New Family Structures Study.

    It is good to come forward and clear the record.

  3. StraightGrandmother says:

    One more, Inquiring Minds Want To Know Dr. Wilcox will you state for the record that you were NOT a Peer Reviewer for Mark Regnerus’ article at Social Science Research?

    Anyone can read the report of the audit of the Peer Review process at the Journal Social Science Research by Dr. Darren Sherkat, you just have to pay $31.50 for the report. +200 Leading Social Science Scholars including the PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION WHO SIGNED, have objected to the Peer Review Process at the Journal Social Science Research. I have read the Dr. Sherkat audit. In my opinion the audit seems to point very strongly but not definitively that you were also one of the three Peer Reviewers of Dr. Regnerus’ study. It would be so GREAT if you would just come forward, as you have done at Family Scholars on other questions of the Funding Organization “participating” in the research, and say that you did NOT Peer Review the article for the Journal Social Science Research. It is a Public Record that you are an Advisory Board Member of the Journal. Please come forward and say, “I was not a Peer Reviewer of the New Family Structures Study”. And just a FYI Dr. Wilcox, I am aware that there are other open Freedom Of Information Act Requests that will validate your role (if any) in the Peer Review of the initial New Family Structures Study Report. Thank you Dr. Wilcox I am thankful that you are coming forward, now please finish the job.

  4. StraightGrandmother says:

    The readers should know how serious this admission is. This research is being used in the Prop 8 Trial and ALL the DOMA cases which are BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT. The House Republicans as BLAG, are quoting Regnerus in their Briefs to the Supreme Court to DENY Equal Civil Rights to Sexual Minorities. The Regnerus Research is in thier Briefs to the Supreme Court. This is truly a BFD admission by Dr. Wilcox.

  5. Philip Cohen says:

    I find this description not credible. I do not think any reasonable auditor or ethical agency would subscribe to the idea that the “director” of an organization was not and “officer” of it.

  6. Elizabeth Marquardt says:

    I just want to remind commenters that bloggers here are neither endlessly available for journalistic inquiries whenever readers want to lob questions at them, nor are they on the witness stand. It’s of course up to the bloggers how if at all they wish to handle additional questions.

  7. Straight Grandmother:

    Your comment about Elizabeth has been deleted because it violates our civiliy policy. Please don’t do it again, and please remember that attacking our civility policy is a violation of the civility policy.

    Also, you are pushing very hard here. Too hard. For example, you are exceeding the 3-comments per post guideline, both in this thread and elsewhere; and your tone is relentlessly aggressive and prosecutorial and entitled (unlike any grandmother I’ve ever met, by the way).

    I want to remind you that this is not your blog; it is not your personal forum or tool; and I ask — in fact I am doing more than asking — that you try harder to BE NICE and reflect, in your comments, the tone that we are trying to establish here. If you don’t like that tone, find another forum to make your points.

  8. StraightGrandmother says:

    I understand what you are saying David, however please understand how GD hard it is for the oppressed to be civil. “Yes Masser, No Masser”

    It is hard David, make no mistake of how extremely difficult it is. David it is hard to write at an arms length distance, when this research is right now in briefs that our Supreme Court is reviewing which will rant or deny Civil Rights to Sexual Minorities.

    David kindly appreciate the gravity of the situation and know how goll darned difficult it is to maintain that civility standard you demand in order to have comments stand. And how one would tend to lash out at comments that encourage limited disclosure. Comments that encourage limited disclosure. I will sincerely try my best to live by your standards but I ask sincerely that you try your best also, encourage full disclosure.

  9. [...] his roles at the Witherspoon Institute and as a paid consultant on the study, Wilcox published a blog post on Tuesday night, which he said was in response to questions asked by fellow [...]

  10. Philip Cohen is right – the idea that this web of associations doesn’t constitute a serious conflict of interest in the publication of the article just doesn’t pass the smell test. Under Occam’s Razor if nothing else, the most reasonable explanation, given what we know, is that Wilcox, Regnerus, and others in their circle colluded to make an end run around serious academic review in order to get seriously flawed information into the public eye. Now readers are being asked, essentially, “trust me” that there was no such collusion or intent.

  11. Matthew Kaal says:

    While I’m thrilled that Occam’s Razor has made an appearance in this thread – based on my experience working at think tanks and observing their far flung webs of affiliation, I question if the most reasonable explanation is widespread collusion to mislead the public and thwart academic review. Might it rather be that Prof. Regnerus simply didn’t recall that Prof. Wilcox was affiliated with Witherspoon as well as being a leading respected researcher at UVA when he wrote what he did about there being no overlap? That is just speculation on my part, and even if my guess is true, it doesn’t absolve Prof. Regnerus of not doing his due dilligence in knowing about, and pointing out the affiliation, but it seems like a deceptive conspiracy isn’t the most reasonable explanation…but then I tend to want to give people the benefit of the doubt.

  12. Matthew, I don’t think that’s a reasonable likelihood. Brad Wilcox’s affiliation with Witherspoon is all over the place, attached to his name in numerous websites, flyers, talk titles, etc., and so it was certainly incumbent upon both Regnerus and Wilcox to recognize the conflict of interest, and it would not have required any significant investigation to note that conflict. If, in fact, Wilcox was one of the peer reviewers of the article, as has been the subject of conjecture, that’s obviously a further conflict.

  13. thomas says:

    As an observer of this whole debate over Prof Regnerus’ study – here and in the larger press – it seems as if those who want to find trouble with the study will unlikely be satisfied with whatever explanations are given – in good faith – to explain the intentions, relationships and efforts on the participant’s parts to be as ethical and professional as they could be in conducting this study. Mr. Duetsch is to be congratulated for his unique civility and transparency in seeking good answers from Dr. Wilcox. I think Dr. Wilcox did a nice – and as straightforward as he could be – job in answering the questions asked of him.

    We should also note that the University of Texas carefully and soberly examined the very serious charge of “academic misconduct” leveled against Professor Regnerus by a blogger clearly politically and ideologically supportive of ssm. (Not to mention quite nasty in his descriptions of and assumptions about Regnerus’ character and intentions.) UTA wrote a strong, clear statement that their investigation found no indication of academic wrong-doing whatsoever, and none of the charges leveled were found to have any standing.

    Also, it seems to be missed that Regnerus did not just submit his study to the peer-review process of the journal (to which, if there are complaints about that process, they should be directed to the journal itself, not the submitting author(s)), but also, by his own intention, to a group of well-respected peers who offered their critiques of the study. Paul Amato being part of that group is no small thing. None of these scholars reported – among their various critiques – any methodologically damning conclusions to the study. The most critical was David Eggebeen from PennState and his critiques were not devastating to the design, execution and value of the study.

    I am also amazed that for all this fine parsing of very precise details in the NFSS, there has not been that same sort of razor-sharp analysis and critical examination of Nanette Gartrell’s substantive National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) project which has published a number of its findings in various journals, including *Pediatrics*. Her findings have been reported broadly in the major press without the slightest measure of ANY critical analysis from any mainstream journalist or scholar. If such exists, I would very much like to learn about it.

    All this is for the worse, when any honest reading of the methodology used in constructing and executing the NLLFS raises very serious questions about what can really be concluded and relied upon from the study. You can read the methodology, clearly explained by the authors in their 2010 Pediatrics article: Nanette Gartrell and Henny Bos, “US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-Year-Old Adolescents,” Pediatrics 126 (2010): 28-36.

    My main point being, did the crap-detector just kick in for Mr. Rose, HuffPo, Salon, the professors who signed the letter condemning Regnerus’ research, et al., when his research was published, or did they also turn that sharply focused critical-eye to the NLLFS study as well? As stated, there seems to be no evidence that anyone did.

    If one is being selective in which studies they give a sharp and critical eye to with in the larger literature on this very important social and academic topic and but clearly ignore other major studies, shouldn’t that raise doubts about the intentions of those finding such fault with selective works like Regnerus’. This is all the more concerning when we consider that Regnerus’ was the first study to rebut the “no-difference” assumption between same-sex and mom/dad parented homes. Are studies only worthy of such rigorous critiques when arrive at particular conclusion that some might personally not care for?

    The NLLFS, which reported its findings that kids raised by two moms actually do better in many important outcomes than kids raised by their own mother and father, should have attracted such careful scrutiny simply because of this ground-breaking finding. This sort of careful scrutiny is also warranted given that the NLLFS found that lesbian homes break up at substantially higher rates, but remarkably, “adolescents whose mothers had separated since [the studies beginning] fared as well in psychological adjustment as those whose mothers were still together.”

    This remarkable finding contradicts nearly every other study done on child-outcomes following the break-up of their parents. Why this dramatically contrary finding? Gartrell et al., do not even note that this is a contrary finding, much less give their reasons for why their research might have come to this conclusion.

    Of course, being critical and looking at real weaknesses in a colleague’s work is good and important. It is the road a healthy academic process runs on. But being selective with that critical eye has no academic merit whatsoever. It is unsophisticated and unprofessional.

    The seriousness of this issue deserves better.

  14. Jonathan says:

    thomas writes: “We should also note that the University of Texas carefully and soberly examined the very serious charge of “academic misconduct” leveled against Professor Regnerus by a blogger clearly politically and ideologically supportive of ssm.”

    This is not so. The University of Texas only investigated (and neither you nor I know how carefully or soberly) whether the study violated their policies in regard to accepting research grants. They investigated nothing about the acceptance of the article nor about the possible collusion among Wilcox and Regnerus et al., nor its validity.

  15. StraightGrandmother says:

    We should also note that the Dr. who headed the, “Inquiry as to should there be a full fledged investigation” has recently been re-assigned by the University.

    It is also disingenuous that Regnerus did not know that Wilcox was associated with the Witherspoon Institute, as the President of the Witherspoon Institute has stated that Dr. Wilcox acting in his capacity as the Director of the Family, Marriage and Democracy Witherspoon Program, organized the first meeting of potential scholars which Regnerus attended.

    Hopefully Dr. Wilcox will rejoin us and make a simple statement that he did not peer review the Regnerus paper.

    People in the field will have to discuss the ethics of Dr. Wilcox reading Dr. Regnerus report and not commenting that the part of the report which says that no one from the funding organization participated in the research was inaccurate. It is most coincidental that Dr. Wilcox’s confession happened just a few days after a Freedom of Information Act document revealed the same. I truly think a lot of people would exhale, if Dr. Wilcox would state that he was not a peer reviewer of the Regnerus “Research”

  16. [...] has confessed that in 2010, he was involved in the design of the Regnerus [...]

  17. [...] has confessed that in 2010, he was involved in the design of the Regnerus [...]

  18. This specific article For the Record

  19. [...] and Regnerus was recruited. Wilcox had been a fellow with Witherspoon from 2004 to 2011, and he has said that he worked as a paid consultant on the study from October 2010 to April [...]

  20. [...] and Regnerus was recruited. Wilcox had been a fellow with Witherspoon from 2004 to 2011, and he has said that he worked as a paid consultant on the study from October 2010 to April [...]

  21. [...] and Regnerus was recruited. Wilcox had been a fellow with Witherspoon from 2004 to 2011, and he has said that he worked as a paid consultant on the study from October 2010 to April [...]

  22. [...] and Regnerus was recruited. Wilcox had been a fellow with Witherspoon from 2004 to 2011, and he has said that he worked as a paid consultant on the study from October 2010 to April [...]