'Rapid-onset gender dysphoria' paper to be retracted for bogus 'informed consent' violation: author
Publisher already removed deidentified and redacted survey responses that show far more "supportive/progressive" responses to children's gender confusion by parents who nonetheless express concern.
An academic paper based on a parental survey of suspected rapid-onset gender dysphoria in nearly 1,700 children, which drew criticism from transgender activists and allies, could soon be retracted by its publisher over a pretextual dispute about informed consent, according to its corresponding author.
Springer Nature is currently investigating "concerns" about the paper's methodology following threats by academics to boycott the Archives of Sexual Behavior until its longtime editor, pioneering gender dysphoria researcher Kenneth Zucker, is replaced for accepting the ROGD paper among others questioning common LGBTQ narratives.
The publishing company added a publisher's note May 16 indicating "the Supplementary Information has been removed due to a lack of documented consent by study participants," six days after announcing the investigation.
That information, which shows de-identified and redacted survey responses coded as "Supportive/Progressive" (70) and "Unsupportive/Conservative" (five), was quickly archived after the paper's publication.
"We are completely fine with our child being gay, and even non-binary, but deeply opposed to any treatments that cause permanent changes at this age," reads a supportive comment.
An unsupportive comment says: "We are being called homophobic, transphobic, violent, abusive and bigoted by our daughter, her friends, our former friends, and ... family. We were given no chance to defend ourselves from any of these accusations."
Northwestern University psychologist Michael Bailey told Just the News Tuesday he was informed the paper would be retracted on Friday, having received notice earlier in the week that lack of informed consent was the basis.
Bailey specified further to Unherd magazine Wednesday that a Springer Nature employee justified the pending retraction to him and coauthor Suzanna Diaz on the basis that the survey participants didn't give permission in writing to publish their scores and data.
The retraction, which would leave the paper online with a scarlet letter, was allegedly waiting for the authors' agreement or protest due Friday. Bailey told Just the News Friday night he couldn't give an update.
ROGD research was pioneered by social scientist Lisa Littman, who left Brown University after it falsely implied her 2018 paper on the phenomenon – marked by "social or peer contagion" in friend groups or online communities –had been discredited by its publisher.
Diaz runs ParentsofROGDKids.com and parents contacted her "after seeing her invitation to complete a survey. These parents were concerned their children have ROGD," Bailey wrote in a tweet thread Tuesday. "They wanted the data out. Obviously." A person identifying as one of those parents confirmed he gave "full consent."
The survey data showed strong differences in ROGD by sex, including earlier dysphoria and more common "social transition" among females, and an association between mental health issues and transitioning, both social and medical.
The publisher hasn't specified the methodological concerns, but the academics who signed the open letter demanding Zucker's ouster claimed the paper "does not seriously engage" with or "integrate insights" from critiques of ROGD and is "not designed to support robust scientific inferences."
They cited the authors' alleged circumvention of institutional review board (IRB) approval by using an "unaffiliated layperson" – Diaz – to "collect data prior to the researcher’s [Bailey's] involvement."
The practice "threatens the foundations of research ethics," according to the signatories, who include World Professional Association for Transgender Health President Marci Bowers.
Bailey elaborated on the history of attacks on ROGD research and rebutted the IRB rationale for retraction in an Unherd essay the same day the journal removed the supplementary information.
His coauthor Diaz, who believes her child has ROGD, uses a pseudonym to protect her family's privacy, and Bailey doesn't know her real name, he said.
"I consulted my own IRB to seek retrospective approval so that I wouldn’t get into trouble," according to Bailey. While the board allegedly told him it cannot currently do that, it could approve his co-authorship using Diaz's data. Bailey noted Springer Nature's policy also gives the journal editor – in this case Zucker – discretion to waive IRB review as a condition of publishing.
They addressed methodological limitations "forthrightly and thoroughly" in the paper but emphasized "no one knows at this time how representative the families we studied are" and there was "no reason to assume" these parents were "any more biased observers than are adolescents reporting on themselves," Bailey wrote.
"To the activists it is a 'gotcha,' because most people won't know why it was retracted and will assume fraud," Bailey responded when asked what retraction would accomplish. "Also the publisher can disappear the article later if they choose to. And scholars may be discouraged by editors from citing the article."
Springer Nature Vice President of External Communications Susie Winter told Just the News on Wednesday, "Our investigation is still ongoing so it is not possible to provide further information at this time" but we "should be able to update you shortly."
Shown Bailey's claim about the scheduled retraction on Friday, she said Thursday, "We are currently clarifying the outcome of the investigation and the timescale."
The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, which organized a competing letter in support of Zucker, denounced the publisher for the alleged scheduled retraction.
"The appropriate action is to have an open debate about the paper—not to silence those whose views one finds disagreeable," the group said.
"The [paper's] conclusion must have been unfashionable," concluded philosopher Peter Boghossian, a FAIR adviser who quit Portland State University following an alleged second pre-textual IRB investigation after the university banned him from research for undertaking a "grievance studies" publishing hoax project.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter's Notebook
- parental survey of suspected rapid-onset gender dysphoria
- Springer Nature is currently investigating "concerns"
- publisher's note May 16
- quickly archived
- received notice earlier in the week
- the corresponding author tweeted
- Streisand Effect
- falsely implied her 2018 paper
- "social or peer contagion" in friend groups or online communities
- Bailey wrote in a tweet thread
- one of those parents confirmed
- open letter demanding Zucker's ouster
- Unherd essay the same day
- Springer Nature's policy
- Bailey responded
- denounced the publisher
- philosopher Peter Boghossian
- alleged second pretextual IRB investigation
- PSU banned him from research