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Very recently, my feed suggested a new paper which was an extract from a thesis in an old group of mine. It was interesting for me, as I synthesised the material used. However, whilst the text referenced my paper in the "synthesis previously reported," I didn't have the expected acknowledgement of "we thank x for product y."

I just wanted to check that it would be the norm to give me an acknowledgment.

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    Its worth baring in mind that the citation of your old paper is almost certainly more valuable to you, career metrics-wise than an acknowledgement. Mar 27, 2023 at 8:58
  • The synthesis paper is chugging along at ca. 20 citations per year, and it isn't anywhere near the limiting paper for my H-index. Mar 27, 2023 at 9:23
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    Yeah, but an acknowledgement is worth nothing (I bet not a single person will ever read the acknowledgements), other than, you know, the personal manners involved in an acknowledgement, where as a citation is worth a non-zero amount, even if its very small. Mar 27, 2023 at 10:34
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    Are you sure that they did not synthesize the material using your process?
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 27, 2023 at 12:41
  • @JonCuster I am absolutely sure. I had an idea for a study of a particular modification and gave the exact material to a student for the study. I learnt later that study had been submitted to JACS and rejected without any acknowledgement to me (conceptualised the study and provided the starting material) or knowing it was being submitted. One of the modified materials from that study was given to another group, who did the lions share of the work. I certainly haven't earned authorship on the latter paper, but I would have liked acknowledgement. Mar 28, 2023 at 16:00

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I think almost anything can qualify for acknowledgement, some people even thank family members. There aren't really rules for acknowledging. So while it would be totally acceptable to acknowledge you for the materials, it is also ok not to do it and cite your previous contribution instead. I highly doubt it was done out of malice.

If it really bothers you, try to get in contact with your old group and tell them so. It will probably be to late to change anything (I highly doubt that someone will make the effort to change the acknowledgement section of an already published paper), but maybe they will be made aware that this might be something people expect/wish and will try to act differently in the future.

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@Sursula's answer is right, there are no particular rules what kind of contribution must be mentioned in the acknowledgements section of a paper. However, I would prefer to be more on the generous side here. Assuming that you put in some days of work for the synthesis and characterization of the material you provided, I think it is rather rude to just take and use it without mentioning specifically your contribution. It is also not wise because it irritates a collaborator and might make future cooperative work more complicated.

It simply is a nice courtesy to acknowledge people's help, and therefore it should be the norm.

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  • I'd be careful with the advice you give to different sides of the situation. "It might be seen as rude" seems like good advice to the authors, but OP is the acknowledgee. I don't think it's appropriate to tell them it is rude because I highly doubt anyone thought about it that way. Their paper was cited, so they've been given credit for the intellectual contribution, and there's no need to blow up old relationships over something like an acknowledgement missing in this situation.
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 27, 2023 at 12:49
  • I think there's potentially a difference between someone doing you the favor of synthesizing a material and, as may be the case here, using an old material sample synthesized years earlier when OP was in the same group, that was just sitting in a drawer somewhere.
    – Anyon
    Mar 28, 2023 at 13:21

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