I had the impression that obtaining written permission before including someone in acknowledgements was required. Therefore, I just wrote to someone asking for written permission to include him in the acknowledgements of a paper, and he said he didn't think it was necessary. I don't recall where I got this notion from - perhaps the rules of a specific journal? So, I was wondering if there are any general rules about this or not, or are they perhaps journal specific?

  • 18
    For an interesting paper where people declined to be included in the acknowledgements, see arXiv:1003.6064.
    – E.P.
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 18:38
  • 6
    @episanty You do realize this is a April 1st joke, right? So I don't think standard rules in academia apply here.
    – dirkk
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 21:13
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    Of course I do. One of the best to grace the arXiv so far!
    – E.P.
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 21:19
  • One good reason to check with the acknowledgee is to make sure you are spelling their name correctly! Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 5:22

3 Answers 3


When you list someone in the acknowledgments, you're just thanking them, as opposed to speaking on their behalf or assigning them responsibility (the way authorship does), so I don't see why permission should be required. I've never asked for permission or been asked myself, so it's certainly not standard in mathematics. I haven't heard of it in other fields, but of course I can't say from personal experience.

Of course it depends on what you say. "I am grateful to Alice for her steadfast support of my research" suggests Alice endorses your research, and you should certainly ask for permission before saying something like that. "The determinant calculation in Section 2 was supplied by Bob" suggests Bob is responsible if it's wrong or clumsy, so you should make sure he is OK with being thanked (but in this case you presumably already discussed with him your plans to include his calculation in your paper and attribute it to him without making him a coauthor). And of course if your topic is really controversial, then you should be extra careful about everything. However, if you had helpful background discussions with Carl and write "We thank Carl for helpful discussions about functional analysis", I don't think you need to ask his permission.

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    You said what I wanted to say, only better.
    – aeismail
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 16:25
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    I also think this is a good answer. I would like to see a complementary answer from an academic in the field of law. The point of inadvertantly assigning responsibility/endorsement is key; I am going to review my acknowledgment sections to make sure of less/no fallout. Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 17:39
  • I wouldn't take "I am grateful to Alice for her steadfast support of my research" as an endorsement. Is that really what it's supposed to represent?
    – David Z
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 21:15
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    @DavidZ: I'd take it as indicating that Alice at least thinks the project is worthwhile and promising (although not that she has checked the details). It's probably not a big deal unless the research is controversial or of questionable quality, but I'd avoid saying this unless Alice has been unambiguously supportive (not just helpful), and even then it couldn't hurt to run it by her to make sure she's OK with it. For example, one could write to thank her for her help and support, and include something like "P.S. I hope you won't feel shy about being publicly thanked in the attached draft." Commented Apr 23, 2014 at 1:11

While Anonymous Mathematician’s answer holds for most fields I am aware of, this question and answer made me aware that some journals in the field of medicine and some mega-journals require consent for being mentioned in the acknowledgements, for example:

  • The Lancet:

    Please include written consent of any cited individual(s) noted in acknowledgments or personal communications

  • Plos One:

    Authors are responsible for ensuring that anyone named in the Acknowledgments agrees to be named.


I've never come across any rules about this. But I do often write to people to let them know I'd like to include them in the acknowledgements, particularly if I know them less well, and enclose a copy of the draft paper. It's a way of thanking them, especially as they might never come across the published paper, and it gives them a chance to escape if, for whatever reason, they wish to.

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