Over at OrgTheory, Philip Cohen asked about norms of retraction when a reviewer has an undisclosed conflict. Here is a test case.
Walter Schumm (Kansas State) is the author of an article in Social Science Research defending the New Family Structures Survey (NFSS) and the Regnerus article that uses the data. Dr. Schumm was also paid by the Witherspoon Foundation to consult on the, “early stages of the development of the NFSS”. His non-peer-reviewed article* makes no mention of this relationship. In an email to me, Dr. Schumm wrote, “I don’t recall if it did come up.” Jim Wright, the editor of Social Science Research, told me, “This was never revealed, at least not to me. This is the first I have heard of Schumm’s involvement.”
Ball is in your court, Social Science Research Editorial Board.
* The article is included in a “Commentary and Debate” section of SSR on the Regnerus and Marks articles. In his introduction, the editor writes, “This ‘Commentary and Debate’ section contains several items pertinent to the controversy. They are published here so that the journal’s readers, authors, editorial board members, and reviewers will have the full story as well as some of the larger context in which the story unfolded.” If you looked at Schumm article without reading the Wright preface, you would likely think it was a normal SSR article. It does not say “Commentary” anywhere and provides “Article Info” including the “Article History.”
Update: I missed this before, but Mark Regnerus cites both his SSR followup and the Schumm article in the Supreme Court brief he co-authored. They write:
…what is clear is that there remains much to be studied in this domain, and hence confident assertions of “no difference” ought to be viewed with suspicion. As the study author [Regnerus] indicated, [long quote from the Regnerus sequel] See also Walter R. Schumm, Methodological Decisions and the Evaluation of Possible Effects of Different Family Structures on Children: The New Family Structures Survey, 41 Soc. Sci. Research 1357-66 (2012) (validating methodological decisions made in New Family Structures Study, and noting similar decisions in other large-scale surveys).
A reasonable person who followed the citation to the Schumm article would have no idea that (1) Schumm was a consultant on the NFSS, or that (2) neither article was not peer-reviewed. Setting aside the issue of whether or not the Schumm article should have ever been published, I think SSR has an ethical obligation to clarify both of these issues ASAP.
Update 2: Both the Schumm and Regnerus articles in the, “Commentary and Debate” section are labeled, “Original Research Article.”
None of the others have this designation. For example, here’s the listing for the Gary Gate’s piece:
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