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I recently finished a paper in which I received valuable feedback from two professors (neither supervisors nor coauthors) at some specific points, which ultimately leaded to localized significant improvements. I highly appreciated it and of course I added explicit mentions in the acknowledgements section stating their suggestions.

My question now is: I hardly will see again these professors for a long time. I thought about sending an email to them commenting on their inclusion on the acknowledgements... But then I thought that it should be something understood as obvious, without too much interest for them or even spammy. So, shall I communicate their inclusion in the acknowledgements section? If so, what will be the correct etiquette for such an email?

EDIT: As @StephanKolassa comments, another important and highly related issue is what is the best timing for communication, if this is considered adequate:

  • First submission
  • Acceptance
  • Publication (early access or traditional)
  • 2
    Good question, +1. Looking forward to answers. I'd also be interested at what people believe the best point in time would be for such an email: at the first submission, at acceptance, or on (early online) publication? – Stephan Kolassa Feb 6 '15 at 17:12
  • Thanks @StephanKolassa. Indeed that is a question I would have in the future! I edited the question to incorporate it. – epsilone Feb 6 '15 at 17:24
  • I have seen journals require this. Example from the manuscript preparation instructions of many BMC journals: "Authors should obtain permission to acknowledge from all those mentioned in the Acknowledgements section." – arne.b Feb 12 '15 at 14:30
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shall I communicate their inclusion in the acknowledgements section?

Yes, why not? It helps at building connections and improving relationships. Besides, if the acknowledged people are from a different field than yours, they might never know you've acknowledged them otherwise.

what will be the correct etiquette for such an email?

I don't think there is any need to be overly formal. Typically I would write something simple, along the lines of (names and facts have been changed to protect the innocent):

Dear John,

thank you very much for helping me with the problem of packing holes. I've included an acknowledgment in a paper I recently wrote on the topic.

The paper is titled "Packing the unpackable and stacking the unstackable" and has been submitted to the Transactions on Painstaking Stacking. You can find a preprint of the paper at the address (link to, e.g., arXiv).

Kind regards/Sincerely/Cheers,

Massimo

The above example is meant to be sent just after the first submission. In more critical cases, when I'm not sure whether the acknowledgment would be well-received or not, or if I think I might have written a wrong detail (e.g., the affiliation), I typically send a copy of the paper before the submission, asking for feedback.

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IMHO, definitely before first submission. It would be a nice idea to send them a "Thank You" email and let them know that you've finished the paper and in order to show your appreciation you've included their names in the acknowledgements section. So If they do not feel comfortable with this they could tell you even before the paper is submitted.

  • 2
    +1, but you should also probably send them a note when the paper is accepted and a final copy with any revisions when it is published (or available online, or whatever). – Bill Barth Feb 6 '15 at 19:07
  • I was not considering acceptance or rejection of the paper; Instead I wanted to make sure the professors are happy with their names mentioned in the acknowledgements regardless of the peer-review result. – Alireza Feb 6 '15 at 19:11
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    Agreed, thus the +1. I think it's polite to let them know at submission, with a copy, and at acceptance and publication (with a final copy), too. It helps to foster the relationship in the future. – Bill Barth Feb 6 '15 at 19:19
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In math at least, you do not usually explicitly inform people that you have included them in the acknowledgements. You should of course thank them for their help, and it is common to send them a copy of the paper when you have a more-or-less final version (often this is the version you submit--in math the refereeing process takes a long time, plus your acknowledge-ees (sp?) may have additional comments/suggestions), or notify them when you post it on the arXiv. (This is regardless of whether they have seen a preliminary version or not.)

To add a little more on the question in the edit: sometimes I will send a pre-submission version if I really want to see if anyone has comments before I submit (students probably at least want to get comments from advisors before submitting), but usually I send out copies of the paper/post on the arXiv about the same time I submit. I don't typically actively notify acknowledge-ees when a paper has been accepted or published (though I will update the arXiv), unless the final version ends up being significantly different in a way that would be of interest to them. However, sometimes I see colleagues I have acknowledged, they will inquire about the status of the paper.

  • What if it's not a paper, but a dissertation? I'm not sure that everyone would appreciate receiving a 200+ pages document. Would providing a link to it be an appropriate alternative? – Aleksandr Blekh Feb 7 '15 at 2:53
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    In this context I assume that "send" means "send a link to the URL where the paper can be found. I don't think I've ever received a PDF attachment in this context; it's simply less convenient for the recipient. – Tom Church Feb 7 '15 at 3:10
  • @TomChurch Once upon a time, I sent physical copies. But in my circles, people often attach pdfs in email or send a link. I personally prefer giving links also--I usually give an arXiv link when possible, though occasionally I will email the pdf if I haven't yet posted the paper anywhere. – Kimball Feb 7 '15 at 3:19
  • @AleksandrBlekh Yes, a link is fine. See also my previous comment addressed to Tom Church. – Kimball Feb 7 '15 at 3:22
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My advice (coming from physical science experience) is yes, you should. Massimo's format for the communication makes sense. In addition to the courtesy, there is also an aspect of letting them know their name is running around there. 99.9% of the time they will be happy but if they are not, at least you surface it. [Note, this is notification, not permission, though.] Also if there is any chance they are going to kerfuffle about wanting coauther status versus attaboy, at least it gives them a chance to say it earlier. Again, though this is just informational, not a permission.

But in general, it will just make them happy. It may also open their eyes to some application of their work or apparatus or the like that they don't normally think of. For instance, if I acknowledged a physics prof for an insight in a chemistry paper, he would probably appreciate knowing that some ideas of his have meaning outside the tuff Bessel function loving world of physics and in the more applied materials space.

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