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It looks like I may completely write a paper while in coronavirus-related quarantine. Would it be appropriate to thank my local government in the acknowledgements? If I'm honest with myself, I don't think I would have been able to do this with such focus and efficiency if all other aspects of my life hadn't been suddenly shut down.

People often acknowledge visits to other institutions, which seem to serve a similar purpose, hence why I pose the question seriously.

Edit: I'm also in an at-risk group, and the government-mandated quarantine is kind of saving my life, so there's also that.

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    The answer to this is no. Mar 20 '20 at 16:44
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    When this is all over, and most of your readers will probably know multiple people who died during the crisis, this would not be a good luck. Mar 20 '20 at 17:19
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    All other factors aside, publicly presenting yourself as someone who benefited from a crisis that is causing untold misery around the world sounds like — how to say this politely? — not an amazing idea.
    – Dan Romik
    Mar 20 '20 at 17:31
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    To be honest, that sounds more like an acknowledgement to the Corona virus for arranging focus time for you. And no, that doesn't sound good. Mar 20 '20 at 17:53
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    Yes, I meant to say that I don't think people will understand the acknowledgement as "he is in a critical group, so he thanks the government" but rather as "thias strange guy wants to be funny over a catasteophe".
    – user111388
    Mar 20 '20 at 19:50
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I decided to elevate my comment to an answer.

When this is all over, and most of your readers will probably know multiple people who died during the crisis, this would not be a good [look].

This is a global crisis that is only just beginning. By the time the dust settles, millions may have died from the virus alone. It would be a rare reader who does not personally know someone affected. More will have died because of how overwhelmed the global healthcare system is.

Even more will be affected by the economic fallout.

Viral infections can have lifelong consequences, even if you live.

If you're in a medical field, many of your readers will be caregivers who were worked to the bone for months, and had to make impossible triage decisions.

For your readers, researchers are forced to halt research, often at great expense. Many studies cannot be paused for three months and picked up at the same place.

And you're proposing to put in your acknowledgements "gee I got so much done while quarantined!" This is offensive at best, and obscene at worst. We in universities are extremely lucky that our pay will most likely not be stopped, and we can just pick up and work from home. That is not happening for most of the nation.

Frankly, I would be ashamed to be your co-author, and if you were in my field, put you on blast across every channel I knew how. Do not do this.

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    This is a great perspective, and why I accepted it. BUT your answer might be assuming that I'm 100% healthy myself. (I'm not.) The quarantine thus far has protected me and my co-author (also in the at-risk group), which is one reason we're kind of grateful to the government.
    – user108403
    Mar 20 '20 at 19:36
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    @artificial_moonlet It wasn't clear that was your perspective. I think you risk it being taken extremely poorly. Stay safe. Mar 20 '20 at 19:54
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    millions will have died from the virus alone. [Citation needed] especially on the alone part
    – Jeffrey
    Mar 21 '20 at 1:03
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    Regarding "if you were in my field, put you on blast across every channel I knew how.", I would find such behavior unscientific since you choose to put somebody on blast not for their academic contents, but for one sentence in their acknowledgements.
    – user897029
    Mar 21 '20 at 9:30
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    Also, for what it's worth, I don't think that something like "I would like to thank the government of [area] for saving my life with their quick and effective actions in enforcing quarantine during the Covid-19 epidemic" would be offensive.
    – nick012000
    Mar 22 '20 at 0:09
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To me, it would seem unusual and tongue-in-cheek to acknowledge a person or organization who did not make any conscious effort to assist you. Acknowledgements are typically used as a means of recognizing the effort of others and thanking them for their contribution. Your local government's quarantine may have incidentally benefited you, but no effort was put into helping you with your paper.

This would seem like thanking the local lottery for making you independently wealthy enough to pursue research, or thanking the local government for a parade that really got you inspired, or thanking Ikea for the comfortable bed you bought there - none of those things relate to your study or were specifically intended to benefit it. You might as well acknowledge the weather, as it is equally indifferent to your manuscript's success.

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To add to the other answers, which already clarified the problem with your idea quite clearly, if you truly are grateful to the government and to your community for helping to protect you and other at-risk individuals, there are many ways to show your appreciation that would be more meaningful than a perfunctory acknowledgement in a paper, which frankly no one in the government will ever read, or care about if they did.

Specifically, it would be much more helpful to express your appreciation to the local health authorities on social media or by writing blog posts and newspaper letters/opinions, or to donate money to local charities that are helping your community deal with this crisis. You can also donate your time and skills to help, say, mentor local community college students who are struggling with learning difficult material through online instruction. Perhaps this may come at a small cost to your scientific productivity, but it would be a much more meaningful and genuine expression of gratitude and likely to be much better received.

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I'm going to agree with the consensus and say this is definitely a bad idea. I don't think it's nearly as bad as the higest-voted answer (by Azor Ahai) suggests.

It's neither wrong nor particualarly unusual for acknowledgements to be humorous and personal. However, inclusion of humor into published papers is a risky business - to make a successful joke, you need to understand your audience, which is difficult face to face and nigh impossible in writting. Hence, it's generally best to stick to jokes that cannot possibly be construed as offensive, no matter who reads them. Want to thank your cat - sure, go ahead, nobody is going to be offended by a feline. Puns are fine too, some people will roll they eyes, some will chuckle, but none will feel personally hurt. Jokes about an epidemic are a different matter entirely.

I personally would appreciate a flippant remark like the one you mention - if it was coming from a colleague who knows that neither me nor anyone within earshot was personally affected by the pandemic, beyond the inconvenience of having to stay at home. Even if we were being personally affected, I could see myself enjoying some dark humor (e.g. coming from a friend who was actually infected and reached some breakthrough during that time). The problem with putting it in writting is that it will be read by many people who lost their loved ones during the pandemic, and barring a miracle all of us will soon know someone who lost someone. Many of these people will be offended and will not see the fine line between making jokes about the daily life during the pandemic and making jokes about people dying in the pandemic.

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If you sincerely want to thank them you can try. The journal might make you remove it. A 2019 PLOS article did a review of acknowledgements. One quote from the article demonstrates you're not the first person to be uncertain about acknowledgment:

The literature also underlines the elusive nature of acknowledgements, pointing to their form and tone, which have been described as sometimes flowery, personal, and even manipulative

An Insider Higher Ed post by Glen Wright rounded up The best academic acknowledgements ever. Some examples describe similar situations to yours:

Others explain the occasionally unusual circumstances surrounding their work:

  • “Most of the paper was written during my daily commute from Vancouver to Surrey, Canada, and I would like to acknowledge TransLink, Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation authority, for making the task of writing in buses and trains such an enjoyable exercise.”

  • “If the book is not a success, I dedicate it to the burglars in Boulder, Colorado, who broke into our house and stole a television, two typewriters, my wife Helen's engagement ring and several pieces of cheese, somewhere about a third of the way through Chapter 8.”

Although, just because you can, it does not mean you should. In this case, you may want to think about the tone of your acknowledgement. As noted by Azor Ahai's answer, there is a large chance your action will quite likely be taken in bad taste and tarnish your reputation as both a scientist and decent human.

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  • I think they are not similar. The first is just funny, the second one affects only the author, not the reader.
    – user111388
    Mar 24 '20 at 18:51
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The acknowledgments are the one location in a paper where you can put personal stuff, sometimes not to be take too seriously. I have a paper in which I thank jet-lag for giving me the nocturnal clarity of mind to write most of the paper in one (very early) morning. A colleague thanks a particular brewery for their product. I think it is fair game to put a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment into a paper.

I do appreciate @AzorAhai's perspective on the issue, but I don't share his opinion.

(If you do want to try: Put the acknowledgment in after review is over and your paper is in its last edits. You're unlikely to be called out by anyone at this point ;-) )

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    What OP is asking about seems less comparable to thanking a brewery for making a beer that you like, and rather more similar to thanking a brewery for a food poisoning event that led to your main competitor dying...
    – Dan Romik
    Mar 20 '20 at 23:15
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    @DanRomik: No, not really. The OP does say "I'm also in an at-risk group, and the government-mandated quarantine is kind of saving my life, so there's also that." That seems very different from what you're suggesting. I don't know where you actually are, but it's worth pointing out that not all governments around the world have approached the current situation with the same indifference and ineptitude as the US government have; some actually do deserve credit. Mar 21 '20 at 0:02
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    Readers don't know the context of OP being a risk peesion. They will assume what @DanRomik says.
    – user111388
    Mar 21 '20 at 9:49
  • @WolfgangBangerth yes, really
    – eps
    Mar 22 '20 at 17:39
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    Nothing to stop his acknowledgement for saying he (and the co-author) were in the high risk group.
    – boatcoder
    Mar 23 '20 at 15:17

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