35

Is it ever appropriate to ask to be included in an acknowledgements section of a paper?

I contributed bug fixes to proofs in a CS paper without which it would have been incorrect in significant ways. Others who made writing-level contributions were acknowledged. As a female student, I worry I don't stand up for myself enough when I deserve credit and wonder if this is a situation where I should do so. On the other hand, it seems really awkward to demand that someone acknowledge me - it seems like a faux pas even to admit that I noticed.

  • 11
    I would ask to be an author! Others who made writing-level contributions were acknowledged - why are people writing parts of a paper they aren't an author of? I find this all very strange. – innisfree May 9 '18 at 5:28
  • 6
    @innisfree: The level for co-authorship depends a lot on the field. "writing-level contributions" could mean pointing out typos or proofreading, and there are many fields where this is commonly done without an expectation of co-authorship. – a3nm May 9 '18 at 9:46
  • 5
    What stage of your career are you at? Undergrad? Master's? PhD? Honestly, by the time you're an author on a couple of papers, acknowledgments count for very little so I wouldn't worry about it. – David Richerby May 9 '18 at 12:27
  • @DavidRicherby PhD student. I agree that in general an acknowledgement doesn't seem worth the fight. That said, I often find my comments or contributions being taken for granted. It comes off as petty to call this out every time it happens in a casual research discussion, but this contribution was important in the paper's success. It feels like more than "just an acknowledgement". – user219923 May 9 '18 at 20:56
  • 1
    @HighGPA Undergrads are rarely authors of papers, so being able to say "my contribution of X to paper Y was acknowledged" says "I've contributed at least a little to some real research." – David Richerby May 11 '18 at 10:10
39

On the other hand, it seems really awkward to demand that someone acknowledge me - it seems like a faux pas even to admit that I noticed.

Don't be embarrassed to ask to be credited for your work. If you're not willing to stand up for yourself as a professional, others may not do it for you!

An acknowledgment is entirely appropriate to recognize your contributions, which are technically useful, but not necessarily rising to the level where it is directly tied in to the goal of the final paper. To ask for it, I would ask the first author:

I think my bug fixes helped you carry out the research. Do you think you could mention my contribution in the acknowledgments of your new paper?

This makes it clear what you want and why you think it's useful. An acknowledgment is "free" in the sense that it doesn't dilute the author list, and there's no logical reason why you couldn't be accommodated.

  • Just perfect formulation. No reasons are needed! – yarchik May 10 '18 at 9:42
17

Adding an acknowledgment essentially doesn't cost anything, so there's little reason why the authors wouldn't want to do it if you helped; however it is true that there is still some awkwardness involved in asking others to credit you.

One way to defuse the awkwardness could be to focus on tangible practical reasons why you think this acknowledgment could be useful to you, instead of more sensitive subjective reasons (e.g., I want to be acknowledged, I feel like I deserve the acknowledgment, etc.) E.g.,

In case my bug fixes were useful to you, do you think you could point it out in the acknowledgements section? This could be helpful later to show to [thesis committee / potential future advisor / supervisor / etc.] that I made some contribution to the paper.

Essentially the idea is to sidestep the embarrassment in "admitting that you noticed", or embarrassment on their part for not having thought about it themselves, having possibly hurt your feelings, etc.; and just frame the request as something motivated by a practical need. (Of course the need may be completely hypothetical -- it's just an excuse to avoid mentioning more subjective motivations.)

  • 3
    Thing is, I'm not sure acknowledgments really are any use or that there is any practical need. – David Richerby May 9 '18 at 12:27
2

If I were in your place, I would not ask to be mentioned in acknowledgments, especially if you are planning to work with authors in the future.

Not all battles are equally important, think in the long run :)

p.s. if the authorship were discussed, I would say fight for it, but acknowledgments...I would not.

  • 2
    I agree with you to some extent. But, don't you think the OP should at least make the authors aware of this issue if she is planning to work with authors in the future? – scaaahu May 9 '18 at 14:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.