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I'm working on a research paper and two well-known professors have reviewed and commented on the paper. They have also accepted that their names be mentioned in acknowledgments section.

My question is whether including the names of prominent researches would influence the acceptance of a paper by a journal?

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    Is it only me that adds the acknowledgment paragraph only after the paper has been accepted? – user68958 Jul 18 '18 at 12:46
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    @corey979 I do that as well. Mainly because originally I did not think it was useful to peer review, and because I was waiting to add specific comments on reviewers' & editors' contributions. – Scientist Jul 18 '18 at 13:05
  • @Scientist You can always add to your acknowledgments after peer review, so your second reason doesn't make a lot of sense. – David Richerby Jul 18 '18 at 14:40
  • @DavidRicherby Sorry if my comment is not clear: I usually add (or complete) acknowledgments after peer review partially because I wait to acknowledge some eventual contribution by reviewers and/or editors along with specific details, where available (e.g. Y anonymous reviewers and David Richerby provided useful comments). – Scientist Jul 18 '18 at 15:34
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    @Scientist Sure. I'm just saying that you could acknowledge my useful comments in the submitted version, and then add the acknowledgment to the referees (and anyone else who might have helped improve the paper after its submission) to the final version. So the fact that you may want to acknowledge the referees isn't a reason to omit all acknowledgments from the submitted version. – David Richerby Jul 18 '18 at 15:59
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For reputable journals, including the names of prominent researchers should not influence the acceptance of a paper, and in the top tier journals I expect this would certainly be the case.

It would be easy (but not ethical) to include the names of prominent or famous researchers in acknowledgements or as co-authors in the hope of influencing a decision for acceptance but reputable journals will not publish something that does not meet their publication standard.

If prominent researchers have provided feedback or otherwise helped with the writing (but not to the extent that they would be co-authors) then it is appropriate to include them in the acknowledgements.

Also, some journals only forward the text (without authors or acknowledgements) to reviewers in the interests of having impartial reviews, so that the reviewers will not see names and then not be influenced to recommend acceptance for a paper they might otherwise reject.

For not-so-reputable journals, they will publish regardless of the names (and if a paper includes the names of prominent researchers, the journal will sit securely behind the declaration that the submitting author has signed).

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    I would only add that you can't account for psychological effects on reviewers who see a big name and say "wow". Hopefully an author doesn't count on that effect, of course. – Buffy Jul 18 '18 at 10:37
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    I agree, but I think more experienced reviewers would have their "wow" tempered by some degree of skepticism whether the name contributed. Also, some journals only forward the text (without authors or acknowledgements) to reviewers in the interests of having impartial reviews. (I will edit this note into my answer.) – Mick Jul 18 '18 at 10:42
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    May I know what is a difference between reputable and top tier journal? – Idonknow Jul 18 '18 at 10:50
  • A quick search shows academia.stackexchange.com/questions/68593/… – Mick Jul 18 '18 at 10:52
  • I really believe there is no such thing as absolute as a "reputable journal", but reputable editors and reviewers. And unfortunately these may not be the majority, even in the most appraised institutions and publishers. – Scientist Jul 18 '18 at 12:04
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I believe it does affect positively the acceptance of a paper. Pre-publication peer review is biased by a number of factors, particularly the typically low number of reviews, their brevity and superficiality, the secrecy around what happens, field politics.

In fact, I believe my name is being recurrently added to the acknowledgements section of a number of papers issuing from a bad group I recently happened to work with. These people believe I am fairly well-known in our field of research, and probably seek to avoid me as a reviewer. They have first-hand told me other manoeuvres locally (nationwide) employed to skew peer reviews and papers' acceptance. Also I am aware of a number of "reputable professors" who actually secretly pass on their review assignments to PhD students and postdocs who just want to "be done with that" -- likely these are reviewers who will cling onto just anything to support accepting/rejecting a paper.

So, if you wish to use this as an asset to speed up acceptance of your paper, go ahead. The system as it is remains quite open to manipulation. However do fear a few judicious reviewers and readers that do exist everywhere, particularly after publication of your paper. The weaknesses of your manuscript might be so easy to spot and expose that a single easily-published paper might be your reputation's demise. A late public exposure that could be avoided with the help of a couple of good reviewers.

Good luck, and welcome to the Academia.

P.S. Please note that I am not saying that you ought not to add names of contributors to your acks section. These people must be acknowledged for their participation. Also I am not saying that you necessarily seek to game the system: you're just asking here because you're curious. I am warning you and other passersby of some reality in relying on peer-review and paper acceptance gimmicks as 'scientific career shortcuts'.

  • This answer is quite confusing for several reasons. The first paragraph obscures more than it reveals. The next paragraph seems to indicate a similar experience that you have had, but you also states your belief that the group in question was trying to avoid having you as a reviewer. This is a completely distinct motivation than what OP has asked about, so while it is not incorrect, I think it is irrelevant. Finally the link to the 'bad group' seems to talk about administrative issues rather than issues with the group. As such the link is unhelpful and distracting. – AppliedAcademic Jul 18 '18 at 14:45
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    @user153812 I believe the OP is still young and may benefit from learning related facts. – Scientist Jul 18 '18 at 15:13
  • That is a well-intentioned thought, maybe if you make it clear what issues are related but not directly relevant, it would be more informative.. – AppliedAcademic Jul 18 '18 at 15:33
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    You've described evidence that some people believe that acknowledging Famous People can have a positive effect, and attempt to game the system based on that belief. But do you have evidence that their belief is correct, that acknowledging Famous People actually does have a positive effect? – JeffE Jul 18 '18 at 17:18
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    @JeffE The research on double-blind reviewing strongly suggests that big names in the author list have a postitive effect on publication. If I had to guess, I would assume that also translates to acknowledgements, but maybe the effect isn't as strong. – 6005 Jul 18 '18 at 18:27
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Reading a paper takes several iterations. From a quick skim of figures and tables, to an in depth reading of the details. I only reach the acknowledgements in one of the later passes, if I ever bother reading them.

I cannot speak for others, but when I am reviewing, I take the same approach, but now I am trying to make up my mind about the merits of the paper. By the time I reach the acknowledgements, my mind is pretty much made up, and nothing you say in that section is likely to change my mind about it.

Who could be sway by this? Perhaps a lazy reviewer that just skims through figures? I don't know, but the review will show lack of effort, and one hopes the editor won't put too much faith on it.

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