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If a journal requires an acknowledgement section, but you have nothing to acknowledge, how is this put best?

"The authors have nothing to acknowledge."? This sounds a bit arrogant to me.

The formatting instructions say: "Must be brief and must not include thanks to Editors or referees, effusive comments or dedications." It is given as optional; yet, the editor asked for it for the second time now.

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    I removed a bunch of obsolete comments, some of which attempted at answering the question. Please make them proper answers because comments cannot be downvoted, edited or marked as accepted answers, bypassing the site's quality feedback.
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Jul 16 at 18:06
43

Write

This research has received no external funding.

or something along those lines - or simply respond to the editor that you have not received any external funding, and thus do not see the need for an acknowledgement section.

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One possibility is simply to extend your gratitutde to the reviewers and the editors.

According to this paper, the acknowledgement section can be quite hetereogeneous and can comprise the following sections. Perhaps you will find some inspiration here:

  • Financial disclosure
  • Conflict of interest
  • Disclaimer (Ex.: "The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.")
  • Ethics
  • Peer communication (Ex.: "NN provided insightful discussions.")
  • Investigation and Analysis
  • Supervision and Management (Ex.: "Research included in this review was partly completed at the University XYZ under the supervision of NN.")
  • Materials and Resources
  • Writing
  • Dissemination
  • Organization (Ex.: "The second author would like to thank Organization XYZ.")
  • Combination
  • Vague or other (Ex.: "We thank NN for their contribution during various stages of the paper preparation.")
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    The formatting instructions say: "Must be brief and must not include thanks to Editors or referees, effusive comments or dedications." nature.com/documents/ncomms-formatting-instructions.pdf
    – Libavius
    Jul 14 at 11:17
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    @Libavius the instructions you link to for the Acknowledgements section clearly indicate that that section is “optional”. I think you are simply misinterpreting “must be brief” as “must be included, and be brief”, when what it actually means is “must be brief if included”.
    – Dan Romik
    Jul 14 at 15:30
  • 60
    "No undergrads were harmed in the writing of this paper."
    – Paul Price
    Jul 14 at 22:18
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    @PaulPrice isn't that an oxymoron? :) Jul 15 at 12:15
  • @PaulPrice Pretty sure that the IRB wouldn't be too happy if they were.
    – nick012000
    Jul 16 at 6:26
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When you don’t have anything to acknowledge, there is no logical reason to include an acknowledgements section. I speculate that almost no reputable journal will insist on you adding such a section, or, if they do insist because they do have some logical reason why they want such sections included, they will provide instructions what to write in the case when the author has no one to acknowledge.

In the case in question (the link you posted in the comments), the acknowledgements section is explicitly indicated as “optional”. Since you say the editor asked about it, tell them you will not be including an acknowledgements section. I hardly see how the editor can go against their own journal’s official instructions to authors of what papers should include.

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tl;dr: Just ask the journal.

There is no reason to demonstrate your superior intelligence and conclusive skills in these situations; nor are we the best people to ask. Just write the journal's editor/secretariat/point-of-contact what they want, e.g. like so:

About the submission requirement of an acknowledgement section: Can you clarify which kinds of acknowledgements are expected? I'll mention I have not received any external funding for the research underlying my paper, so there is no funding body I could acknowledge.

and they'll tell you what needs to be in there - if anything.

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  • It is worthwhile to note that an author can succesfully submit a paper to one of the top journal of the Nature family, even if he/she/they are not able to conclude the social interaction with the editor without recurring to some sort of suggested behavior from the internet. Dictature of the masses, for the masses. Maybe there should be a IG:Academia, IG as per InstaGram ...
    – EarlGrey
    Jul 15 at 10:16
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If you have nothing to acknowledge then you could use the space to do a land acknowledgement or note that black lives matter. The journal may not like it but they could hardly say it's not an acknowledgement.

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    Rest of the world does not give a damn about internal US politics. This really starts to be annoying (at best). Hurting political views of your readers is probably not a good idea. Unless this is a social sciences journal because everybody will agree (or pretend to). Or nobody will read it and be hurt : )
    – v1nce
    Jul 15 at 22:07
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    Not understanding the downvotes here, the OP wants to know how to write an acknowledgement when nothing comes to mind. This answers provides US centric material to acknowledge. Downvoters may not agree or like this but there are other suggestions they also don't like and did not vote.
    – Kwame
    Jul 16 at 13:00
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    @Kwarme Do you want to be (mis)judged on the sole merits of your work or on your political views ? Pro Choice or pro Life statements would also be acknowledgements. And both would be wrong imho.
    – v1nce
    Jul 16 at 16:21
  • The downvotes likely are there because people consider the answer as well as such an acknowledgement as a troll move / political stunt. And most academics like the academic work to be free of political strife and wouldn't include their own political views for the same reason. It's simply a distraction and totally goes against the spirit of papers - putting the essential information into a condensed representation. Jul 17 at 4:29

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