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I had the impression that obtaining written permission before including someone in acknowledgements was required. Therefore, I just wrote to someone asking for written permission to include him in the acknowledgements of a paper, and he said he didn't think it was necessary. I don't recall where I got this notion from - perhaps the rules of a specific journal? So, I was wondering if there are any general rules about this or not, or are they perhaps journal specific?

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For an interesting paper where people declined to be included in the acknowledgements, see arXiv:1003.6064. –  episanty Apr 21 at 18:38
    
@episanty You do realize this is a April 1st joke, right? So I don't think standard rules in academia apply here. –  dirkk Apr 21 at 21:13
    
Of course I do. One of the best to grace the arXiv so far! –  episanty Apr 21 at 21:19

2 Answers 2

When you list someone in the acknowledgments, you're just thanking them, as opposed to speaking on their behalf or assigning them responsibility (the way authorship does), so I don't see why permission should be required. I've never asked for permission or been asked myself, so it's certainly not standard in mathematics. I haven't heard of it in other fields, but of course I can't say from personal experience.

Of course it depends on what you say. "I am grateful to Alice for her steadfast support of my research" suggests Alice endorses your research, and you should certainly ask for permission before saying something like that. "The determinant calculation in Section 2 was supplied by Bob" suggests Bob is responsible if it's wrong or clumsy, so you should make sure he is OK with being thanked (but in this case you presumably already discussed with him your plans to include his calculation in your paper and attribute it to him without making him a coauthor). And of course if your topic is really controversial, then you should be extra careful about everything. However, if you had helpful background discussions with Carl and write "We thank Carl for helpful discussions about functional analysis", I don't think you need to ask his permission.

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You said what I wanted to say, only better. –  aeismail Apr 21 at 16:25
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I also think this is a good answer. I would like to see a complementary answer from an academic in the field of law. The point of inadvertantly assigning responsibility/endorsement is key; I am going to review my acknowledgment sections to make sure of less/no fallout. –  Not Quite An Outsider Apr 21 at 17:39
    
I wouldn't take "I am grateful to Alice for her steadfast support of my research" as an endorsement. Is that really what it's supposed to represent? –  David Z Apr 22 at 21:15
    
@DavidZ: I'd take it as indicating that Alice at least thinks the project is worthwhile and promising (although not that she has checked the details). It's probably not a big deal unless the research is controversial or of questionable quality, but I'd avoid saying this unless Alice has been unambiguously supportive (not just helpful), and even then it couldn't hurt to run it by her to make sure she's OK with it. For example, one could write to thank her for her help and support, and include something like "P.S. I hope you won't feel shy about being publicly thanked in the attached draft." –  Anonymous Mathematician Apr 23 at 1:11

I've never come across any rules about this. But I do often write to people to let them know I'd like to include them in the acknowledgements, particularly if I know them less well, and enclose a copy of the draft paper. It's a way of thanking them, especially as they might never come across the published paper, and it gives them a chance to escape if, for whatever reason, they wish to.

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