The reason I've brought up this question is due to the following observation.

Let's say, for instance, there is some field which is called "Specific Grand Theory". The field is quite minor and only A,B,C are the reputable experts regarding the field.

Reading some published papers from young researchers concerning the "Specific Grand Theory", someone observes every of those young researchers shows a gratitude to one of those A,B,C at the 'Acknowledgement' section.

So that 'someone' begins to suspect that whether there is an implicit rule in that field which demands for a young researcher to consult one of the experts before publishing his/her own paper to the field. Otherwise, that 'someone' should worry about the acceptance rate of his/her submitted paper for not getting stamped with authentication by the experts around the field.

The hypothetical situation I described above is similar to what I'm facing. I think that even assuming this kind of custom do exist in some fields, it shall vary field by field. The field I'm particularly interested is one of discrete mathematics. However, if you have your own experience with my question in your field, I would also like to hear your opinion.


I have an additional question. I may assume that the hypothetical situation I've described above exists, leaving aside whether it results from the custom in that subdiscipline or just a coincidence by the closeness of network.

Then, in the eye of journal editors, would not getting some authentication mark by the experts affect the credibility of the newly submitted papers compared to other papers which got its stamps from those experts?

I'm particularly concerning this, in mathematics, many of the papers are left unread if they give some air of crackpots.

I wonder the opinions from journal editors or reviewers whether not having some authentication mark unlike others will have possibilities to affect the credibility of the submitted paper in some minor fields.

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    This is not how the refereeing process works. Such acknowledgements are irrelevant when evaluating a paper. Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 19:56
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    are left unread if they give some air of crackpots --- Regarding mathematics at least, I think you're vastly over-estimating the influence of "authentication by experts/authority", and vastly under-estimating how obvious actual trite and/or crackpot results/writing are to detect by someone even the least bit knowledgeable about the subject matter. On the other hand, don't mistake difficulty of concepts/proofs and correctness of results with "worth publishing". Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 20:15
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    Acknowledgments simply do not function as a seal of approval. I am grateful to Prof. Bigname for their useful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript says literally nothing about what Prof. Bigname thinks about the paper and could in reality mean anything from I exchanged two emails with Prof. Bigname about the topic and am erring on the side of being polite to Prof. Bigname loves my paper to I showed a messy draft to Prof. Bigname and they provided some feedback while also politely indicating that the results might not be very significant or even true. Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 20:39
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    @user1851281 If you genuinely feel that they could provide useful feedback and that they might find your work relevant and interesting, then there is no need to feel shy. Circulating manuscripts among peers is what scientists do. But don't do it in order to get some fictional stamp of approval. Of course, this works much better if you have some pre-existing relationship with them (for example, they know you from seeing you around at conferences). Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 20:49
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    I don't quite understand the way that you've used the word "counsel" in this question. To counsel is to give advice, and I don't know why a young researcher would need to give advice to an expert. Did you mean "seek advice from" when you wrote "counsel"? Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 4:09

4 Answers 4


Short answer: no

Longer answer: in small fields many of the junior researchers will be PhD students or postdocs with either expert A, B, or C. Since the advisor often comments on articles before they are published or are in another way helpful, they end up in the acknowledgement section.

Maybe there is a really supportive culture in that subdiscipline and the experts are really generous with their time, and thus often end up in the acknowledgement section.

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    Research funding may also have an effect - in a minor subfield, there aren't that many funding opportunities, and established experts have better chances of acquiring such, so a lot of the research happens in their groups.
    – jpa
    Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 17:14

For the record: My area is math, I had served as a managing editor for 3 journals, currently just for one. I also edited proceedings of several conferences.

As an editor/referee I pay very little/no attention to acknowledgements when evaluating a paper (with one exception that I discuss below). As an editor, I either know the specific research area of the paper well enough to evaluate if it is at the level of the journal after a quick look through it (which includes eliminating crockpot papers) or I ask for an "expert quick opinion" instead.

Now, for the exception. In general, I prefer to receive a quick opinion or a referee report from a person who is not too close to the author(s) of the paper, to ensure impartiality. If the author thanks all three main experts in the area, my job, as an editor, becomes more difficult.

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    Thank you very much! And yeah I'm confident that I won't be in the exceptional situation you've mentioned!! Commented Jan 13, 2023 at 20:57
  • Recently I've been getting asked to evaluate papers because I'm in the acknowledgements.
    – Kimball
    Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 23:35
  • @Kimball: Oh, dear... I guess, not everybody shares my concerns about impartiality. Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 23:50
  • Well I wasn't a mentor/advisor in these situations (except once, which must have been an accident). If I haven't been that involved with the paper, I think I still can be relatively impartial.
    – Kimball
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 0:36
  • I suppose this means that, if there is anyone (other than @Kimball, apparently!) whom one particularly does not want to have as a referee, then one should thank that person in the acknowledgements. 😄 I see this has also been mentioned by @‍yarchik. (Not, by the way, that I would have any problem with @‍Kimball as a referee, except that I wouldn't want to inflict that on him.)
    – LSpice
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 23:55

Do journal editors/referees expect relatively unknown authors to provide evidence of counsel from an expert when submitting a paper?

No, but ...

No: Whether there is evidence of a mentor is not considered by the editors.

But: Whether the paper shows understanding of the field is important. One way (not the only way) to learn the ins and outs of a field is through a mentor.

And a corollary: "Name dropping" a famous person will not rescue a bad paper from rejection.

  • Thank you very much for the answer! Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 15:17

I agree with the No answer above. Adding names to the acknowledgment section will not alter your acceptance rate.

However, some authors do play games with acknowledgments: assume one is in conflict with profs. A, B, C. One does not want them to review the manuscript as it would reduce the chances of acceptance. Therefore, one acknowledges them! Next, the editor reads these acknowledgments and does not consider A, B, or C as potential referees (see the last paragraph in the answer of @MoisheKohan). After the manuscript has been reviewed by other unproblematic referees and already accepted, one removes acknowledgments while in the proofs stage.

It remains to be said that I do not support such practice.

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    lol, I would not practice it. But just note it,,,! xD Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 15:15
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    I did not say that I would not, just it would not be my first choice. However: In the case of a conflict of interests, the right thing to do for an author is to write a separate letter to the editor(s), mentioning a conflict and asking that the paper not to be sent to some experts for a review/quick opinion. Such wish is normally granted. The same for grant applications. Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 16:20
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    You often don't even need to write a separate letter: some submission portals ask you for the names of suggested and opposed reviewers.
    – Matt
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 2:36

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