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As a part of a research project, I perform numerical simulations in my computer, and initially I could not work with bigger systems due to lack of computer memory.

A friend from college had a spare RAM module, which was compatible with my computer. He gave it to me (for free), and I would return it when this project would be over.

This enabled me to work with larger systems. We got some new results, and we are in the process of writing a paper. How can I acknowledge my friend? I don't know if it is a standard practice.

Also, I had once told my research supervisor that I obtained this RAM module from a friend, but did not say that I want to acknowledge him if we write a paper (because back then I did not even know if I would get publishable results). How should I ask my supervisor about this? My supervisor is a friendly person.


My friend is a classmate, but not a part of my research group, and did not contribute to the research. But I feel that I should acknowledge his help, because without it I would not be able to run these simulations. Something like "I acknowledge X for providing computational facilities" might seem confusing.

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    I think the most appropriate way would be to buy them lunch or some such.
    – Buffy
    Oct 7 at 20:38
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    @Buffy how about both? I know acknowledgements don't count for much, but it's nice to say publicly that someone is helpful and a good collaborator. It's not clear whether the friend is still in academia. OTOH maybe they're working for a tech firm on a massive salary and would feel awkward having a lunch bought for them by their grad student friend
    – Chris H
    Oct 8 at 8:52
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    The friend is a classmate. Buying a lunch is something I certainly had in mind, I wanted to know if I can also acknowledge in the paper, and I got the answer to that. Oct 8 at 9:23
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    @Issel it's quite easy to fall into a gap with a project that's a bit big for a standard-issue desktop, but too small to be worth the hassle/cost of getting onto a supercomputer. Or it looks fine at first on the standard desktop, but doesn't scale well to the full problem. Sometimes the solution is a custom desktop but uni purchasing policies can make that very difficult and expensive. I've just beefed up the RAM in my uni machine at the expense of an idle machine for similar reasons (slightly different - I need a Win10 VM to run CAD packages under a Linux host)
    – Chris H
    Oct 8 at 13:47
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    @ChrisH Exactly. I only needed to expand RAM from 8 GB to 16 GB. I could buy it, of course, but found someone who was willing to lend a spare RAM stick. Oct 8 at 16:45
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On how to ask your advisor:

Hi advisor - I got this RAM unit from friend X for the research, should I acknowledge them in the paper?

If you decide on doing the acknowledgement (I think you should):

I would like to thank [friend] for lending me some of the hardware used in this research.

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The acknowledgements section in your paper is the right place. Although it is used a lot for more or less mandatory information (funding etc.), there are no strict rules what you can express there. You can just write it the way it was: "I gratefully acknowledge X for making the necessary computer memory available to allow the calculations." The sentence you suggest yourself is also good. Do not overthink this. There is nothing wrong with adding a personal touch, either. You know your friend, so you might know how to express your gratitude in a way he would appreciate.

In any case, acknowledging the help of others is good practice. So if your supervisor is a kind person, just ask the way you would ask any other question.

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    "Memory" could be confusing especially if the simulations are only one aspect of the paper so the reader isn't fully thinking from a computing point of view. "Computer hardware" would be sufficiently detailed and clearer
    – Chris H
    Oct 8 at 8:49
  • @ChrisH Thank you, I edited a bit. Oct 8 at 9:23
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There is no set format for Acknowledgments in papers. You can acknowledge anyone and anything, and a reasonable statement would be something like this:

The author acknowledges Joe Shmoe for enabling this research by loaning out a memory module that has allowed to run larger computations than would otherwise have been possible. The loan is much appreciated!

And, if you really want, you can always add something like this:

... The loan is much appreciated and will be paid back in the form of an invitation to the local pub, with the tab paid for by the author.

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  • I once recalled a paper that promised a free car in the footnotes that was offered as someone read through the volume, or something to that effect. I don't recall the actual conditions or circumstances, nor can I verify that such a story is true, but this seems like an opportunity to insert something whimsy in academia. Oct 8 at 16:38
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    @BestQualityVacuum Absolutely. I've thanked jetlag in one of my papers, a friend his favorite beer. You find all sorts of odd things in the acknowledgments. Oct 8 at 21:19
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You can mention the hardware in the main text and mention the help you got with this in a footnote. Alternatively, you could also include a reference and in the reference section you write his name and then specify in a short sentence the type of hardware that was provided. This is then similar to how people mention private communication in the references.

In the acknowledgements section, you can thank him for the help you got in an informal way. See e.g. this paper were colleagues were thanked for discussions and for "being cool":

We would like to thank Shakir Mohamed, Fabio Viola, Oriol Vinyals, Irene Garnelo, Daniel Burgess, Kevin McKee and Ellen Clancy for insightful discussions and being pretty cool.

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    I think mentioning the hardware in the main text is rather excessive.
    – Brian
    Oct 8 at 15:15
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    @Brian This will depend on the subject matter. If you were to publish in, say, Phys. Rev. E on the results if a simulation of a condensed matter system, then mentioning the way the simulation was done and mentioning some details of the hardware so that readers get an idea of what sort of computing power was used to obtain the results, would be useful information. Oct 8 at 16:41
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    @CourtIblis: Sure. In the OP's specific case, he is running the software on a standard consumer device.
    – Brian
    Oct 8 at 17:06

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