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I received some advice from two researchers, which were helpful at the time. So, I mentioned the researchers in the acknowledgements section of my paper’s early version.

After the first draft, the paper has been substantially modified, and their advice is no longer that visible on the paper. Should I still keep the acknowledgement? I feel it is difficult to remove it, since the paper is being circulated between more than ten co-authors. I would have to give some reason, but then I don’t know if I look silly for saying that their advice was after all not so useful.

What to do?

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    It sound like they were helpful in your understanding of the subject of the paper, and thus the completion of it. – Kimball Dec 31 '15 at 15:12
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How to decide who to include in the acknowledgements?

Generously.
If people gave up their valuable time to help you in the process of developing that paper, it is kind to acknowledge that. This is true even with contributions that are very helpful but may not be directly reflected in the final text, such as avoiding a long rabbit-hole or programming for some data collection or analysis part of it.
Per Mad Jack's answer, you can have the acknowledgement accurately reflect that the contribution was to an earlier draft, or whatever the contribution was, but they still helped.

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    Avoiding rabbit-holes is definitely worth acknowledgements. – Kimball Dec 31 '15 at 15:10
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In your particular case, you could consider changing the acknowledgement to something like:

The authors would like to thank Hans Moleman for his constructive feedback on an earlier draft of this paper.

In this way, you still acknowledge the person for their feedback, even though it may not be as relevant in the current version of the paper.

I should mention that the advice above may be field dependent. For example, in my subfield of EE, what I suggested above is a common solution for your particular situation; however, as @Wrzlprmft pointed out in the comments, my suggested modification is a typical acknowledgement in other fields "to indicate that somebody performed an internal peer-review."

In the event that you modify the acknowledgements (or make any change to the paper, for that matter), I suggest that you circulate this modification to your co-authors so that they are aware of the change.

  • This is almost the usual acknowledgement I (and others in my vicinity) use to indicate that somebody performed an internal peer-review. It also explicitly says that the feedback is on the paper, not the research. This may very well be the case in the asker’s situation, but the advice in question may aso have been given before the first sentence of the paper was written. – Wrzlprmft Dec 31 '15 at 8:23
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If you consider that they helped you, and merit some thanks, acknowledge them. That of the original advice nothing remains in the current version isn't so relevant. Help can very well be something that doesn't have a direct result in the text.

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