After a funding project is completed (e.g., an NSF project), researchers often continue to conduct research based on that project, such as using databases, data tools, experimental material, facilities, or being inspired by the topics or conclusions derived from that project.

Is it necessary to acknowledge the original project in these cases? It would be great if anyone could offer me a document that stipulates the acknowledgment language for direct/indirect support.

  • 4
    If something or someone was of benefit to the paper, why would you not acknowledge that, even if it wasn't something that's appropriate to directly cite?
    – Makyen
    Nov 19 at 23:39
  • @Makyen Thank you for your advice.my question has been resolved.
    – asn kkk
    Nov 28 at 14:16

2 Answers 2


The general rule is that you cite what you use. If the new work is based on an existing work known to the new author(s) then it should be cited.

Beyond that, many (most?) papers also include a bit of background on the topic, often in the form of a literature search that is (partially) included. This might include papers/projects that aren't directly used but set the stage for the current work.

But if some tool (cited) is used in an independent work then the earlier uses of that tool don't need citation. (Broad sense of "tool" here, including databases etc.)

So, "inspired by" isn't a binary choice. There are a range of possibilities. However, when in doubt, it is better to cite than not to cite. This is proper scholarly behavior and also aids the reader in understanding context of any given work.

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    Thank you for your response. So another question I have is, if we disregard citations between publications, is it still important to acknowledge previous, completed grant-funded projects in subsequent publications?
    – asn kkk
    Nov 19 at 13:12
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    Failing to cite things you use is actually academic misconduct. In extreme cases it can be interpreted as plagiarism. Citation avoids all such issues.
    – Buffy
    Nov 19 at 13:48
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    Beyond the misconduct aspect, sponsors like to see that the basic research ends up being useful. This is why NSF has a Prior NSF Support section in their proposal. They want to see that their funding made a difference. If you can say, not only did it support the papers during the time of the period of performance, it also led to all these further developments, that is certainly something worth mentioning or even highlighting. I certainly wouldn't think to cover it up, as it's actually an achievement for NSF and could increase your value on an application. Nov 19 at 18:40
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    Thank you for your reply.@yourfriendlyresearchadmin BTW, researchers seem to have incentives to acknowledge previous funding projects in subsequent publications. However, this can also lead to over-acknowledge. So is the current NSF review mechanism for publications sufficient?
    – asn kkk
    Nov 21 at 3:52
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    @asnkkk the over-acknowledge thing is taken seriously by DOE, they will call out people who do that. I tell PIs that if you acknowledge a grant in a publication, it has to go into the progress report. Will that be embarrassing? If yes, you're over-acknowledging. The sponsors just want you to say what funding made the paper possible, that's all. It's really a simple process that many overthink. Just ask if you would put this in the report. If no, that's your answer. After the funding ends there is no obligation to continue citing original funding, and most don't. Nov 21 at 6:27

I would absolutely acknowledge a funding source if your data was acquired under that funding, or if essential machinery or tools were used in your new project that were originally acquired under that funding. Of course, as Buffy writes, this is not a binary decision: if you are still using some lab equipment that was acquired ten years ago, you probably don't need to acknowledge where the money originally came from.

However, there is a very simple solution to your question: just ask the funding agency whether they have any guidelines. It's their money, after all, so it's only right and proper that they have input on how long they should be acknowledged. (And this actually differentiates this case of acknowledging funding after the project is finished from correct citation of prior work that Buffy concentrates on in their answer.)

  • Thanks for your comments, inspired by your solution, I am sending an email to relevant agencies.
    – asn kkk
    Nov 21 at 3:33

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