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Science magazine retracts pro-gay study over phony data

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LOS ANGELES, June 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A discredited paper that alleges LGBT activists can change the minds of traditional marriage supporters in one conversation has been formally retracted -- against the wishes of one of its authors.

On Thursday, the magazine Science said on its website that "with the concurrence of author Donald P. Green,” it is retracting the report “When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality,” which was published last December 12.

According to Science, "survey incentives were misrepresented." In the study, LaCour and Green said they had paid participants "to enroll, to refer family and friends, and to complete multiple surveys." However, Science said it "confirmed" with Green's co-author, Michael LaCour -- who has continued to defend the study -- that "no such payments were made."

Additionally, the paper misrepresented its financial sponsors. "In the report, LaCour acknowledged funding from the Williams Institute, the Ford Foundation, and the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund. Per correspondence from LaCour’s attorney, this statement was not true," said Science.

On Friday, Lacour released a lengthy statement in which he took "full responsibility for errors in the design, implementation, and data collection regarding the field experiments and panel survey reported" and apologized "for misrepresenting survey incentives and funding," though he also defended some of the survey's results.

"In fact, I received a grant offer from the Williams Institute, but never accepted the funds, the LA GLBT received funding from the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund., and the Ford Foundation grant did not exist," said LaCour. Additionally, the grad student said that he "raffled Apple computers, tablets, and iPods to survey respondents as incentives. I located some of the receipts....Some of the raffle prizes were purchased for a previous experiment I conducted."

Science's final reason for retraction included the fact that "independent researchers have noted certain statistical irregularities in the responses. LaCour has not produced the original survey data from which someone else could independently confirm the validity of the reported findings."

According to LaCour, he destroyed data "in the interest of institutional requirements" at UCLA -- in other words, because that was the university's standard.

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The retraction follows more than a week of criticism that began when LaCour's co-author, Columbia University political science professor Donald Green, expressed concern about LaCour's work. Green said that the UCLA grad student's work comprised "an incredible mountain of fabrications with the most baroque and ornate ornamentation."

LaCour has maintained that the study, which was published in December 2014, should not be retracted, and his 23-page response to critics indicated that he has not changed his position.

In the meantime, LaCour has been accused of faking another study on media bias that BuzzFeed reports "was unpublished but frequently cited at scientific conferences." That study was privately critiqued by Emory University political science professor Gregory Martin a year ago. Martin decided to publicly report that criticism after the Science controversy arose. 

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