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If a student receives a scholarship for their (B.Sc. or M.Sc.) studies, but at the same time works on a project that is totally unrelated to their studies voluntarily and receives no funding for the project from any entity, should this student acknowledge the scholarship in the paper?

To make it clear, the scholarship is given just for the purpose of the student completing their studies and the project is not a part of it, but regardless the student works on this project in their free time and receives no funding for their work.

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    My rule of thumb is: acknowledgements cost basically nothing and there is no reason not to err on the side of being very generous with them.
    – user168715
    Jul 26 at 17:02
  • Is the student an author? Jul 26 at 21:02
  • Ask yourself if the funding body would be happy to hear about it.
    – Karl
    Jul 27 at 7:04
  • @ScottSeidman the student is the leading author of the work.
    – Our
    Jul 28 at 9:32
  • @user541686 I suggest you to change your comments into an answer
    – Our
    Jul 28 at 9:34
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I would not mention it. The scholarship didn't support your work. It supported your studies (which I take to mean tuition, housing, etc.) just as it was intended to, and anything outside that is your own life. It's nobody's business how you finance independent parts of your life. In fact by mentioning it you're basically giving another entity that has no rights to your work a reason to doubt themselves and wonder whether they may have some claim to your work after all. Just as honesty requires you to give credit where it's due, it also requires you to avoid giving credit where it's not due.

What I think you do want to do, though, is mention your university affiliation in the paper (like where people usually mention it along with their emails), at least if you even talked to anyone affiliated with the university about the topics in your paper.

Also, I'm assuming the scholarship was solely for your studies (tuition), not for research. If your degree program has an official research component you're being paid to do, even if it's not this particular project, then it's muddier and would really depend on the situation I think.

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If the scholarship indirectly gives you the opportunity to conduct the research, for example by freeing up time that may otherwise be spent in a part time job, it would seem appropriate to acknowledge it.

It might depend on the level of unrelated, an undergraduate research project in your university (yes) vs a community project litter picking (no). Still, unless inappropriate, I would always err on the side of acknowledging support as significant as a scholarship to complete a degree.

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    "a community project litter picking" seems to be missing a word, did you mean "a community project like litter picking"? Which doesn't sound quite right to me but it might be OK in a different dialect :) Jul 26 at 3:46
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    @AzorAhai-him- Parses just fine for me (AmE): "a (community project) [performing] (litter picking)". Jul 26 at 22:02
  • I think your answer is reasonable but I disagree with it. Why does it matter if you'd have had a job outside your studies? You're saying if this person (or their parent!) was wealthy enough to not have needed a part time job, the acknowledgement would've been different, despite the fact that in both cases the scholarship would've been the same, going solely toward funding their tuition? Sounds bizarre to me. Why should the reader (or anyone) be entitled to know if this person is wealthy or not? Why should the author indirectly reveal their wealth (or lack thereof) like this?
    – user541686
    Jul 26 at 23:46
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It depends on the scholarship but if the work is part of the studies, and the scholarship is for the studies, it may have to be acknowledged, even if the topic of study is not specified. (Some Grad. Scholarships work that way.)

In most cases I know where an acknowledgment is required or expected, the scholarship comes with explicit instructions on what should or need not be acknowledged. Certainly most research grants come with such stipulation.

You might have to check with the contact person either at the grant agency or its delegate (possibly a university financial aid person) if you want a definite answer.

However, as a rule, it doesn’t cost anything to acknowledge a scholarship, so why not do it unless it’s clearly out of place?

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    "as a rule, it doesn’t cost anything to acknowledge a scholarship, so why not do it unless it’s clearly out of place?" This is the important point, I think. Expressing gratitude reflects well on yourself, even more so when you weren't compelled to express it.
    – kaya3
    Jul 26 at 12:22
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    "However, as a rule, it doesn’t cost anything to acknowledge a scholarship, so why not do it unless it’s clearly out of place?" Uhm, because it might risk you losing some rights to your work that you don't need to? You might have done the work entirely independently, but now you're potentially giving another entity the ability to lay some claim to your work. Why would you do that against the facts?
    – user541686
    Jul 26 at 23:30
  • @user541686 if a funding agency wants to eventually lay claim as you suggest, this is spelled out explicitly before the recipient agrees to the scholarship, and the OP would know about it. One cannot make retroactive claims of this nature. Jul 27 at 0:20
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(As far as I know) If the scholarship is unrelated to the study you are trying to publish, you do not have to acknowledge the funding source/scholarship.

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    The question was if the student should put in acknowledgement. I agree they probably do not have to do so, but do you think they should? Jul 26 at 17:24
  • @TerryLoring From how I understand the situation, I dont think that it is necessary. However, I have to side with other answers here, as it does not hurt to acknowledge the scholarship and to express gratitude towards the funding source, although unrelated to the work.
    – pbaer
    Jul 27 at 5:06
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I second others' comments that acknowledgements are low-cost and the indirect support of a scholarship in allowing one to engage in research may be sufficient reason to include it.

But here's another way of thinking about it.

Many agencies you will get funding from for your academic work are only the lowest members of a towering hierarchy of agencies. As an example, consider the US Department of Energy's Org Chart:

DoE Org Chart

Say I get a small grant from the Western Area Power Administration, which is nested under the Assistant Secretary for Electricity under the Office of the Under Secretary for Science and Energy under the Office of the Secretary under something... something... the POTUS.

Each level within an organization can compete for funding with other agencies at the level in a zero-sum fashion. The output of fundees is evidence that an organization is using its funding well and should continue to receive that funding, rather than it being given to one of many other needy, competing agencies.

This is one reason agencies like XSEDE supercomputing place such a strong emphasis on citations and standardized acknowledgements: this allows them to mine publications to justify their continued budgetary allocations.

Because acknowledgements are helpful to my funders and I want to reciprocate the help they've given me, I try to build a "big tent" with my acknowledgements and err on the side of including folks.

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