Friday, October 07, 2005

Peerless Review

Warren Throckmorton is the psychologist at Grove City College who makes a living telling people that gay people can become straight. He works with groups like the CRC and PFOX to promote anti-gay causes, goes around the country speaking, writes articles and maintains a web site. His contribution to the ugliness is worse than some, because he has a PhD and a professorship and he gives these hateful things an appearance of legitimacy.

So now the PFOX website has a big page announcing:
Peer-Reviewed Study

and it goes on with a press release apparently written by Warren Throckmorton to announce that he has had a paper accepted by a journal.

Now, you must know that "publish or perish" is the rule in real universities. You don't get tenure without publishing. Even though an apparently self-written online bio says "His academic articles have been published by journals of the American Psychological Association," there seems to be a bit of inflation in those esses at the end of "article" and "journal." He did have an article published in 2002 in the APA journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. And I think that's it. Somebody can write in the comments here if they know of anything else -- Throckmorton is not the kind to keep quiet about these things. I think he has published one article in a minor APA journal. He also published one in 1998 in The Journal of Mental Health Counseling, which is not an APA journal.

The press release for his new article says:
The Journal of Psychology and Christianity is a peer-reviewed journal published by the Christian Association of Psychological Studies. Edited by American Psychological Association Fellow, Peter Hill, PhD,the journal publishes only 28% of the articles submitted making it a highly selective journal of scholarship and research for scholars in psychology and religion.

Now, I don't have any issue with Christian psychologists. There are certainly some very rich psychological traditions surrounding the church, and these might serve to inspire hypotheses worthy of scientific research. Further, spirituality is a psychological factor that is often overlooked, and I would be glad to see more research done regarding that. And not this stupid what-part-of-your-brain-is-God-in stuff, I mean to study the parts of the human psyche that transform life into something worth caring about.

I went to the Journal of Psychology and Christianity web site. Here's what they say about themselves:
The Journal of Psychology and Christianity (JPC) is an official publication of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, Inc.(CAPS), designed to provide scholarly interchange among Christian professionals in the psychological and pastoral professions. Journal articles focus on clinical topics, research, theoretical issues and special theme areas. A book review section is also included in each issue. The journal is published quarterly in March, June, September, & December. Both solicited and unsolicited manuscripts must be submitted to the Editor. A board of referees evaluates and selects articles for publication.

Again, it sounds like a nice journal, they don't claim to publish "scientific research" but rather "provide scholarly interchange" among professionals.

That last sentence asks to be repeated, though:
A board of referees evaluates and selects articles for publication.

This is not peer review.

"Peer review" is a term you hear, but it is rarely explained. Oh, good, WikiPedia -- which I just love, by the way, it's such a cool idea -- has a chapter on Peer Review. They define it like this:
Peer review (known as refereeing in some academic fields) is a scholarly process used in the publication of manuscripts and in the awarding of funding for research. Publishers and funding agencies use peer review to select and to screen submissions. The process also forces authors to meet the standards of their discipline. Publications and awards that have not undergone peer review are likely to be regarded with suspicion by scholars and professionals in many fields.

All of this sounds quite accurate to me -- I review articles for more than a dozen different journals, and this is what it's like:
Peer review subjects an author's work or ideas to the scrutiny of one or more others who are experts in the field. These referees each return an evaluation of the work, including suggestions for improvement, to an editor or other intermediary (typically, most of the referees' comments are eventually seen by the author as well). Evaluations usually include an explicit recommendation of what to do with the manuscript or proposal, often chosen from a menu provided by the journal or funding agency. Most recommendations are along the lines of the following:
  • to unconditionally accept the manuscript or proposal,
  • to accept it in the event that its authors improve it in certain ways,
  • to reject it, but encourage revision and invite resubmission
  • to reject it outright.

During this process, the role of the referees is advisory, and the editor is under no formal obligation to accept the opinions of the referees. Furthermore, in scientific publication, the referees do not act as a group, do not communicate with each other, and typically are not aware of each other's identities. There is usually no requirement that the referees achieve consensus. Thus the group dynamics is substantially different from that of a jury. In situations where the referees disagree about the quality of a work, there are a number of strategies for reaching a decision.

Traditionally reviewers would remain anonymous to the authors, but this is slowly changing. In some academic fields most journals now offer the reviewer the option of remaining anonymous or not; papers sometimes contain, in the acknowledgments section, thanks to (anonymous or named) referees who helped improve the paper.

That may be more than you wanted to know about the subject, but this is a very accurate description of the process. I don't know about the part about revealing reviewers' identities to the authors, I've never seen that. I mean, you always try to figure out who they are, and sometimes somebody'll say something at a conference, like, "Hey, I reviewed your paper," but generally you never know.

OK, so that is peer review.

Going back...
A board of referees evaluates and selects articles for publication.

It doesn't sound like the same proceess to me, does it to you?

PFOX and similar groups would just love to be able to point to some piece of science that supports their viewpoint. They can't. There isn't any. So when a guy gets a paper published in a friendly little journal for "scholarly interchange" among professionals, they have to try to make it sound like real science.

It'd be funny if it wasn't such such nasty business they're up to.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there isn't any science to support their views, they have no problem creating the appearance of science and using it to sell their views.

And they are up to nasty business, all right. Here's a little review of some of the other nasty business they've been up to recently.

-Promoting sex education programs that have been shown in repeated studies to be ineffective.

-Encouraging parents to opt their teens out of lifesaving health instruction.

-Discouraging FDA approval of the cancer preventing HPV vaccine.

-Discouraging the inclusion of information about homosexuality in the curriculum.

-Advocating for reparative therapy, a practice which was banned a generation ago due to the harm that it caused.

-Suing their own school system and taking money from much needed programs for children.

-Threatening to sue the BOE if they don't allow CRC/PFOX to violate the terms of the Settlement Agreement.

-Stealing and using private information intended solely for use of the PTSA.

-Trying to intimidate users of public community communication networks by having your lawyer send a threatening letter.

October 07, 2005 11:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, anonymous. the Professor did all that. Too bad this is not Salem. You could have him tried for witchcraft.

Mr Aghast

October 08, 2005 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe if you had spent the time that you opted out of health class in English class instead, you'd realize that "they" is not "he" and never will be.

Warren Throckmorton is on record supporting the first five items on this nasty business list:
1. he promotes ineffective sex education programs (abstinence only)
2. he encourages parents to opt their kids out of health classes that include lifesaving instruction (about contraception)
3. he does not support the HPV vaccine
4. he co-wrote a paper (dated December 3, 2004 and distributed at the public RECALLMONTGOMERYSCHOOLBOARD meeting on December 4, 2004) that said the revised MCPS health education curriculum amounted to advocacy of homosexuality
5. advocates for and actually conducts reparative therapy on students

It is his local cell of followers who are responsible for the last four bits of nasty business on this list:
6. suing their own school system and taking taxpayer funds from much needed programs for their own children
7. threatening to sue the system again if the BOE doesn't let CRC/PFOX name their own representatives to the new CAC in violation of the settlement agreeement
8. stealing and using private PTSA information for unintended purposes
9. attempting to intimidate members of community listserves by sending a letter containing threats of legal action

You may be Aghast, mister, but you choose to support these people and their tactics. Just sign me


October 08, 2005 10:22 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Further, this particular organization and its journal have published belief statements that are quite strong-for itself and its members. And that is where the issue is- because if your religion tells you that you must believe something and that belief statement is part of the group for which you publish- then your work will have to reflect that. It will not reflect pure science and it is possible, even likely that you will conduct your work so it could be published. So you are only looking for people in your study who say what you want. Peer review would ask - what were the selection criteria for your subjects( a huge issue for this study), how large was your initial group, how many respondents were there- and these are just simple initial questions.

I can certainly see how this "study" would have great appeal for this organization and its journal-but it is not a peer reviewed study. If PFOX believes in this research, then they shouldn't have to advertise it as something it is not. I suppose it is possible that Griggs/Cohen and company don't even know what peer review means- except that it would give the stamp of science to their fakery.

October 08, 2005 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might want to reconsider the Salem witchcraft analogy, Mr. Aghast. I don't think it reflects very well on fervent religious types.

Aunt Bea

October 08, 2005 10:42 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Aghast, if some professor at some local religous college wanted to post inflated claims on his self-promotional web site, I doubt we'd make any big deal out of it. But this comes from the PFOX site. They see this as their paper, supporting their cause. They're claiming credit for this. And they just sued the Montgomery County school district and shut down pilot testing of a new curriculum.


October 08, 2005 1:30 PM  

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