What is a slapfight? According to the esteemed UrbanDictionary.com, a slapfight is: “An argument, usually on internet forums or message boards, about a petty issue that gets blown completely out of proportion. Typically draws ridicule, but is quite hilarious and attracts interest from third parties.”
You’ve probably seen a slapfight before. Maybe it was two friends arguing over which superhero would win in a fight, or your parents arguing over which brand of coffee tastes better, or even two coworkers arguing over which document template looks better. No matter the case, I’m sure that you looked on in glee and wondered when someone would simply give up…And I’m also sure that neither side ever did!
Believe it or not, professors get into slapfights all the time. The phrase, “publish or perish,” means that professors need to regularly publish papers in order to receive tenure and further promotions. Sometimes, professors believe that new papers are a direct insult to their work. For instance, a professor may have originally published a paper claiming that self-efficacy is the primary predictor of motivation. Then, a different professor may publish a new paper claiming that emotions are the primary predictor of motivation. The original professor may see this as a direct transgression, and thus feel the need to response to the original work – possibly including a few underhanded statements. Then, the new professor may even respond to the response, again with some underhanded statements – and so on, and so on, and so on.
Other times, professors get into legitimate disagreements over series issues. For example, the American Psychological Association regularly forms task-forces to investigate highly debated topics, such as gay-conversion therapy or the relationship between race and intelligence, and they provide a public space for other authors to debate the findings of the task-force. While these discussions are certainly not slapfights, they are nevertheless fascinating to witness and understand the (sometimes) controversial arguments.
Whether a slapfight or a legitimate disagreement, academic responses to prior articles often include “A Response to…” in the title, hence the name of AResponseTo.com. The purpose of this website is to catalogue some of the more interesting instances of academic slapfights and disagreements. Some may be more civil than others, but they are all very interesting. If you have a particular academic slapfight or disagreement that you’d like to read about or a question regarding a post, feel free to email me at MHoward@SouthAlabama.edu.
AResponseTo.com is owned and operated by Dr. Matt C. Howard. Dr. Howard is currently an assistant professor of Marketing and Quantitative Methods in the Mitchell College of Business at the University of South Alabama. His personal academic website can be found at MattCHoward.com and his other website is StatisticalBullshit.com.