Thursday, July 26, 2012

Count your fingers

Recently the Chronicle of Higher Education has been publishing some questionable stuff in their forum.  Now Eli is not talkin differences of opinion here, but damn close to if not defamation, academic misconduct and similar.

Naomi Schaefer Riley, got disinvited from the Chronicle, for making stuff up without having read (let alone understood) the stuff she was opining on.  A comment from one of those who replied to Ms. Riley pretty well captures her arrogance
"In fact, most of the people most of the people (especially those who work in Black Studies/African American Studies/Africana Studies) have objected to your post because you dismissed an entire academic field based on the cherry-picked titles of three in-progress dissertations. As you admit, you have not bothered to actually find out any concrete details of the methodology, research, presentation, and so on, of these projects. And, yes, you have a responsibility to check these things out before you lay waste to the validity of a scholarly field, not to mention the careers of three young scholars, in one of the websites most widely read by academics."
Oh yes, she also whined about left wing persecution.

The editor, Liz McMillan wrote
We now agree that Ms. Riley’s blog posting did not meet The Chronicle’s basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles. As a result, we have asked Ms. Riley to leave the Brainstorm blog.
Since Brainstorm was created five years ago, we have sought out bloggers representing a range of intellectual and political views, and we have allowed them broad freedom in topics and approach.  As part of that freedom, Brainstorm writers were able to post independently; Ms. Riley’s post was not reviewed until after it was posted.

I realize we have made mistakes. We will thoroughly review our editorial practices on Brainstorm and other blogs and strengthen our guidelines for bloggers.
 But, of course, John Mashey's good friend, Peter Wood, honcho of the National Association of Scholars (probably the NAS that Fred Seitz was referring to in the Oregon Petition Papers) came right to her defense, of course, whining about left wing persecution.

Wood has been trying to throw mud at Michael Mann, but fortunately, like Naomi Schaefer Riley, has not RTFR, so it is pretty easy to deal with him in comments.  Alas no one reads the comments.  The latest attempt was the old student body left, writing first about Jerry Sandusky, then about Mann, under the heading of "A culture of evasion" (read the comments).

Wood, of course is a great fan of academic freedom, which brings Rabett Run to Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at UT Austin who got his doctorate at Chapel Hill (that's a teaser bunnies).  Regnerus took a bunch of money from a group opposing gay marriage and published a study which was, well confused. Let a comment at Wood's plaint about left wing persecution explain the facts.
I'd be more sympathetic to Mr. Regenerus' current situation if he hadn't jumped through so many hoops, and made so many oddball choices, to reach the conclusion he did. He stacked the deck by comparing intact same-orientation marriages to collapsed mixed-orientation marriages with a known affair, and the mother abandoned the child at some point. These are known predictors of bad outcomes for children. They may, in fact, account for all of the bad outcomes, and the "gay" parent has nothing to do with the bad outcomes. We don't know, and Regnerus can't say, because his work is so shoddy. This is a politically potent topic and when you make assertions that not only defy years of previous research as well as create a weapon to be used against a minority group, you better get your facts straight, so to speak. Regnerus failed mightily in that regard. To say, well, it's hard to get a decent sample size doesn't cut it. If you can't do the study properly, don't do it.
 As far as the academic malpractice concerns, let's just say the police have accused, and a jury convicted, someone of murder on lesser evidence.
Bad studies are everywhere, what made this one radioactive is that the study was used in as evidence (right after publication) in a suit about the legality of gay marriage, and Regnerus was not shy about exaggerating his study.  Scatter has a summary of the criticisms and a bunch of links, but no, that is not what this is about.

Now comes one Christian Smith, again in the Chronicle, to whine about how the left wingers are persecuting poor Mark (shorter version at Lawyers, Guns and Money:
“If academic freedom means anything, it’s that published work should be completely beyond criticism, even when a researcher draws inferences from data that the data plainly cannot support and writes popular articles further defending these unsupportable inferences. Why won’t his hardcore leftist critics, like known Trotskyite Walter Olson, leave him allooooone?”
For some, not Eli of course, that would be the point, but no, the point (Have any doubts Eli would get there) is a line in Smith's whine:
Regnerus was trained in one of the best graduate programs in the country and was a postdoctoral fellow under an internationally renowned scholar of family, Glen Elder, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Full disclosure: I was on the faculty in Regnerus's department and advised him for some years, but was not his dissertation chair.)
That is bunny bait, because it leaves a lot of room for shenanigans.  Dissertations have a) advisors, b) readers and c) the thesis oral exam has, usually a Chair, who is not the advisor, and one or more external examiners.  So Eli hit ProQuest (the old diss abstracts on line) and looked up one Mark D. Regnerus' thesis, and there, on the title page, what appears:

Prof. Smith, was the Advisor:)  Which says in no uncertain words it ain't shenanigans, its straight old North Carolina wool pulling. When these folk start whining on your lapel, count your fingers.


Anonymous said...

Well color me stoopid, that is why they call me "Hey Stoopid"!

Ah, Peter Wood, has crossed the one bridge too far, the Rubicon of "Free Speech".

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

You know, I am a big believer in seeking out the best writing of those with whom I am likely to disagree. However, I am finding it extremely difficult to find anything even remotely interesting coming out of the US political right these days. It seems it is all either flat-out lies, logical fallacy or anti-science idiocy. Are they serving paint chips at Rethuglican conventions these days?

Jeffrey Davis said...

"If academic freedom means anything, it’s that published work should be completely beyond criticism ... "


You keep using that word.

Anonymous said...

Eli, it is ALL bunny bait.

badger badger badger said...

Anybody with the whiff of a real argument has been frummed out of the right.

Ed Darrell said...

What's wrong with Trotsky? Anyone who gets tossed out of Soviet Russia, and pursued to the ends of the Earth to be assassinated by Stalinistas can't be all bad, can he?

Where's the historical perspective?

n-g said...

If academic freedom means anything, it’s that published work should be completely beyond criticism

Nearly lost half my lunch on that one.

J Bowers said...

Well, in light of tis year's horrible weather, and now kickers of storms in the NE US, US public opinion's been coming round to the idea that there might be something to this climate change thing. Something must be done to stop the people opening their eyes! Watts has shut down his blog because there's something biggo about to break. He even cancelled his vacation.

Just guessing, but could the hacker known as FOIA have released the password to open up the entire archive and Climategate3's about to hit the streets? Last card played?

chek said...

Whatever it is, we can be sure that despite how many creamed pants there may be in denierland, it'll be pretty underwhelming.

Watts is, after all, a credulous fool and his attempt at barnuming to big up his breaking news is only made sillier by his poe-faced belief in its import.

Roll on Sunday. Icertainly won't be getting upearly to find out the latest is from Clowntown.

John Mashey said...

At least they have updated it to say that Smith was Advisor, with note at bottom to that effect.

Hinageshi said...

Actually Christian Smith is not alone the advisor but the director of the dissertation.

Page iii begins with:
MARK DANIEL REGNERUS: Adolescent Socialization and Avoiding Trouble:
A Perspective on Religious Influences
(Under the direction of Christian Smith.)

① Go to this page;

② go down to Regnerus and click the appropriate link;

③ then select Preview on the right, which will provide (for free) the first 24 pages of Regnerus's dissertation.

Sorry for not providing a direct link (I guess the process needs cookies, or unique session ID, or something technical…).