I think the academic community has a reputation for being kind of… boring. Shows like ‘Big Bang Theory’ give the impression of academics as a bunch of nerds who are incapable of interacting normally with ‘regular’ human beings. As much as I quite enjoy Big Bang, and shows like it, the humour is based on laughing AT the academics, rather than laughing with them. This is an entirely unfair characterisation of academics, who are often very witty. Here I have provided links to five of my favourite humorous academic journal articles. These articles, while being hilarious, also comment on research methodologies and what it’s like to work as an academic.
Here we go…
Number Five: Maternal kisses are not effective in alleviating minor childhood injuries (boo-boos): a randomized, controlled and blinded study
Recently released, and the inspiration for this blog post, this article tries to decide whether ‘kissing a boo boo’ is an effective form of treatment for said ‘boo boos’. It uses a completely preposterous method of inquiry (including hurting children on purpose) and concludes with suggesting that a moratorium should be placed on the practice of mums kissing childhood injuries. Unfortunately, the article has also been taken as fact by many in the non-academic community. This is therefore a great example of how academic texts can (and frequently are) taken out of context by those outside of academia.
Number Four: The case of the disappearing teaspoons: longitudinal cohort study of the displacement of teaspoons in an Australian research institute
Spoons….. spoons cause us so much trouble. I’ve worked in a number of workplaces and have never encountered such difficulty with tea spoons. Everywhere else I have worked tea spoons just existed, for your tea consumption, in eternal supply. In academia, where departments are large, people are distracted and budgets are tight, teaspoons are in short supply. My own school has resorted to replacing tea spoons with paddle pop sticks, and I have purchased my own tea spoon for my own tea consumption. It is, I suppose, reassuring to note that this is a near-universal institutional dilemma, so indicated by this scientific analysis of the attrition of tea spoons in lab tea rooms.
Number Three: A letter from the frustrated author of a journal paper
Those outside of the academic community will never know the ire of Reviewer Number 2. In the spirit of kindness, editors generally order reviewer comments from nicest to meanest, with the meanness of Reviewer Number 2 or 3 sometimes incredible (yes, in its literal term, it is impossible to believe). There are many reflections of the meanness of Reviewer number 2, including a whole string of them on the ‘Shit Academics Say’ Facebook feed, as well as a number of Twitter hashtags, but rarely do you get the pleasure of an academic article about responding to terrible reviewer comments…
Number Two: Indirect Tracking of Drop Bears Using GNSS Technology
This Australian favourite talks about the drop bear, a vicious vampire-like relative of the otherwise cuddly koala. It maps the likely geographical range of the drop bear based on existing noted characteristics of the drop bear. It is, of course, a comment on the way the assumptions we make in our research design can influence our findings. The drop bear, being an entirely fictitious animal, has no geographical range. However, the assumptions we make about it could lead us to believe that it does exist, and that we know just where to find it. (As a side note, this is also a great comment on the competitive nature of academics. Published by Australian Geographer, the extremely high number of views this article receives causes much consternation for AG’s chief competitor, Geographical Research).
Number One: Fuzzy Homogeneous Configurations and Get me off your F***ing Mailing List
For its sheer ridiculousness these academic articles are hilarious. Unlike the other four articles, these were never intended to be published, but instead rejected. The fact that such articles were apparently ‘peer reviewed’ and published in a ‘reputable journal’ is comment on the growing problem of predatory journals in academia. Predatory journals charge you to be published, and will then publish almost anything, but in the meantime they can appear on academic manuscripts without anyone being the wiser – an easy step to a promotion for a dodgy academic.