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I completed an internship at a company. During the internship I worked on a generic and publically well-known problem statement and delivered its solution to the company.

After the internship, I wrote a research paper under the guidance of my college professor on a similar problem statement (a kind of subset of the problem statement) with a very different solution as compared to the solution delivered during the internship. The paper was accepted at an A+ international conference. When the company got to know regarding the paper, they demanded an acknowledgment towards them in the paper.

But I feel that the only role of the company was to give me the problem statement. The paper was made possible only because of me and my professor's hard work. And the solution developed by me during the internship was also due to my skill and hard work.

So, how legitimate is the demand of an acknowledgment by the company, should anyone demand such acknowledgment in someone's work? Am I obliged to acknowledge the company in my paper? As an ethical practice I can show gratitude towards the company by mentioning in the paper that "the company gave me an opportunity to work on the statement etc". But it should be my decision that I want to or not?

What are the consequences if I don't acknowledge the company.

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    You don't explain why you don't want to acknowledge the company ? – Basile Starynkevitch May 27 at 14:45
  • Did the company also give you resources like a place to work, knowledgable employees, industry clout, etc? You got a problem statement and visibility into the business that you would not have had without an internship. If you really did this in a vacuum why did you have to wait for an internship to solve this problem? – acpilot May 27 at 17:11
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    “The only role of the company was to give me the problem statement.” That’s very important and it should be acknowledged. Without the problem statement, there would be no problem and no publication! It seems perfectly reasonable to acknowledge someone who literally gave you the problem. – Shalop May 27 at 18:08
  • @BasileStarynkevitch I was skeptical about giving the acknowledgement to the company because they demanded it in an unfriendly manner, and I saw it as a potential threat. And before acknowleging them i wanted to seek some actual advice regarding the matter. I have apologized the company for my innocent mistake and have acknowledged them everywhere i can. Thank you – Devashish Prasad May 28 at 9:03
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At least in my field, Acknowledgements are generally regarded a fairly informal mechanism. There are few rules dictating what must and mustn't go in there. However, given that mentions in the acknowledgements don't dilute formal credit, I see no reason not to be as generous, gratuitous and grateful as possible in an acknowledgements section. Its not like adding an author, it costs you nothing and makes you look like a better person. Why wouldn't you?

Also there is probably an argument that you spent time thinking and learning about the general problem domain while being supported by the company.

I recommend adding something like "The author acknowledges BigCorp PLC for first bringing the problem to the authors attention and [financial?] support for work on related approaches", to the acknowledgements.

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    It could even be a footnote or the final sentence in an introductory paragraph. – Buffy May 26 at 11:09
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    I completely agree with this answer, even though it may not be "required" ethically, it is strongly advised to acknowledge such help. There is no downside and might be an upside at some future point. – Buffy May 26 at 11:12
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    I also agree, it is good practice, shows character and may even help down the line. If the relationship allows, one can even send a "look, I put you in my paper" email. – user117109 May 26 at 11:19
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    Thank you for the help guys and the prompt replies, I will add the acknowledgement of the company in the paper. And should I also acknowledge the company at the official github codebase of the paper? – Devashish Prasad May 26 at 11:22
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    Up to you, I doubt anyone really cares, but then again, why not? Normally papers have a seperate acknowledgements section. But keeping it short if are lacking space is fine. – Ian Sudbery May 26 at 22:21
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What are the consequences if I don't acknowledge the company.

You just burn bridges if you do that (you basically behave socially wrongly). For future conferences, it will hurt your professional reputation

FWIW, any European funded H2020 project contractually requires such an acknowledgement (at least in some footnote). AFAIK, NSF or NASA or ESA funding -of semi-academic work- has similar rules.

But I feel that the only role of the company was to give me the problem statement.

In Europe, that role alone is worth many thousands (or even millions) of €. Reports like ITEA3 roadmaps (or future HorizonEurope call for proposals) are exactly defining problems and inspiring funding of research proposals. The people writing them are paid, sometimes full-time. I guess that Indian people writing Indian DST call for proposals are paid too. Very probably, if you are happy enough to get funded for your research by them, you'll be contractually obliged to acknowledge such funding institutions.

In addition, research motivated by industrial needs is, in this decade, more professionally popular than unfunded research.

Suggestion: acknowledge both the company and your professor (unless he is a co-author).

FWIW, I tend to believe that lack of institutional acknowledgement in past submission related to RefPerSys (a not-yet-funded research project in AI) have been negatively evaluated.

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  • Thank you for the answer, I never thought acknowledging someone in the research paper can be such a serious matter. Out of my curiosity I asked the question to which I can say I received very clear and true advices. I have acknowledged the company in my paper and will make sure to give acknowledgements to rightful people in my future works. – Devashish Prasad May 28 at 9:10
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I'd like to add to the so far excellent answers:

  • Increases the reputation of the company, because they contributed to your research - even if you think in this case it wasn't much.
  • Increases the reputation of the field, because the paper shows there is interest for it in the private sector. This might not be important in this subject, but a lot of fields seem to have to practical applications. Showing at least one company was interested disproves that assumption.
  • Increases your and your professor's reputation, and shows you are both available for practical research.

And - as already pointed out - this has no negative side, no cost, nothing.

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    There is a tiny cost: conference papers are very constrained in size (e.g. number of pages or words). The OP would have to remove a few sentences to have his submission fit in the CFP – Basile Starynkevitch May 28 at 19:28

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