An inquiry by the University of Texas at Austin has found no evidence of scientific misconduct by Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology whose controversial gay-parenting study caused a stir when it was published, in June.
But, according to a report released on Wednesday by the university, that does not mean the study isn’t “seriously flawed,” only that there was no evidence of falsification or other unethical practices.
The inquiry was prompted by a complaint by Scott Rose, a blogger for the New Civil Rights Movement who has aggressively covered the Regnerus case. As part of the inquiry, Regnerus’s computers, e-mail, and grant applications were examined, and the professor responded to each of Rose’s allegations.
According to the university’s report, the inquiry found that "[n]one of the allegations of scientific misconduct put forth by Mr. Rose were substantiated either by physical data, written materials, or by information provided during the interviews.”
Because the inquiry found no wrongdoing, there will be no formal investigation.
None of this is terribly surprising. The outcry over the study wasn’t prompted by allegations that Regnerus falsified data, but rather by the study’s implication that gay parents produced troubled children, a finding that was based on questionable evidence.
An audit of the study that will appear in the November issue of Social Science Research, which published the study, called Regnerus’s presentation of data “extremely misleading” and chastised reviewers for playing down “the fact that the study did not examine children of identifiably gay and lesbian parents.”
A letter signed by 200 scholars called the methodologies in the study “inappropriate” and questioned the journal’s decision to publish it.
Even so, talk of the Regnerus study hasn’t gone away. In a recent debate between Dan Savage, a writer and activist who founded the “It Gets Better Project,” and Brian S. Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, the merits of the Regnerus study and the findings of the audit were discussed. And it continues to be cited in opinion pieces as evidence that gay marriage should not be legal.
Regnerus has promised to release all the data used in the study sometime this fall, a step that will allow other scholars to pore over the numbers and analyze his methods in more detail.
UPDATE: Scott Rose, who filed the complaint that prompted the university’s inquiry, writes in an e-mail that “the inquiry did not dig deep enough to determine whether my allegations have merit. It is not uncommon for institutions to mount and close inquiries without turning up evidence that exists, but that would be extremely embarrassing for the institution.”