Recently, on various social platforms, an image containing an unusual acknowledgement in some paper have been circulating. This is about the following paper RF fingerprint measurements for the identification of devices in wireless communication networks based on feature reduction and subspace transformation by J.L. Padilla, P. Padilla, J.F. Valenzuela-Valdés, J. Ramírez, J.M. Górriz, Measurement 58 (2014) 468–475, which has the following Acknowledgement:

"This work has been carried out despite the economical difficulties of the authors’ country. The authors want to overall remark the clear contribution of the Spanish Government in destroying the R&D horizon of Spain and the future of a complete generation."

Another interesting example provided by @Federico Poloni is the paper Rumour spreading and graph conductance by Flavio Chierichetti, Silvio Lattanzi, Alessandro Panconesi, where the authors write:


This work is ostensibly supported by the the Italian Ministry of University and Research under the FIRB program, project RBIN047MH9-000. The Ministry however has not paid its dues and it is not known whether it will ever do."

Another paper recently published offers a sad story in the acknowledgements,(I will just put the reference here "On functional representations of the conformal algebra", by Oliver J. Rosten, Eur. Phys. J. C (2017) 77:477 DOI 10.1140/epjc/s10052-017-5049-5)

In "A New Horned Dinosaur Reveals Convergent Evolution in Cranial Ornamentation in Ceratopsidae by Caleb M. Brown, Donald M. Henderson, Current Biology, Vol. 25, Issue 12, R494–R496 DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.04.041, there is a proposal:

Funding for this research was provided by the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology and the Royal Tyrrell Museum Cooperating Society. C.M.B. would specifically like to highlight the ongoing and unwavering support of Lorna O’Brien. Lorna, will you marry me?

In "Rotational splittings with CoRoT, expected number of detections and measurement accuracy" by M. Goupil, et al., Caleb M. Brown, Donald M. Henderson, Current Biology, Vol. 25, Issue 12, R494–R496 , where is the following text:

We do not gratefully thank T. Appourchaux for his useless and very mean comments

There are also more: Van Valen (1973). A new Evolutionary Law. Evolutionary Theory 1:1-30.

I thank the National Science Foundation for regularly rejecting my (honest) grant applications for work on real organisms (cf. Szent-Gyorgyi, 1972), thus forcing me into theoretical work

Although I fully empathize with the authors view, I wonder about the legal and moral consequences of considering adding of such an acknowledgement in one's future career.

P.S. If you have discovered a similar story in a different paper that it is not listed here, please feel free to add it. Thank you!

  • 10
    not worth an answer, but morally, it would raise respect in almost every university of the country, a majority of university direction councils has raised concerns and official protests against R&D underfunding since 2011. almost every prince of asturias scholarship grant winner ( being the top student (highest GPA) of their field in the country on graduation date) rejects to shake hands with the minister of culture due to only a small portion of them ever recieving even one assistant grant . legal? none, it's freedom of speech.
    – CptEric
    Jul 20, 2017 at 11:45
  • 1
    Another interesting example (paywalled unfortunately): dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1873601.1873736 Jul 20, 2017 at 16:28
  • 1
    Back in the days some researchers from some South African universities would add a disclaimer that their institutions did not in any way condone apartheid, but this was a blanket statement rather than a more specific statement like the one reported by the OP.
    – user67075
    Jul 20, 2017 at 19:37

3 Answers 3


Academic publications are in general not the right place for politics. And especially not for personal vendettas. Doing the latter is deeply unprofessional (though I'd wager some great scientists did this as well).

However, government officials and institutions are public not private actors and as such are in democratic societies put to more scrutiny (in their official function) than private actors. Addressing StrongBad's concern of people starting to "not thank" your publisher,supervisor etc, this is definitely a difference I would see.

For contemporary major moral discussions - like "should we start a genocide or not" - I'd say the bigger moral question can trump the professionality aspect by far though.

Now that we covered the general and extreme cases, back to the dirty middle ground. Criticizing a political official or institution who acts in a researchers opinion damaging to science (or to society by his stance to science) or who likes to claim supporting science while his acts paint a different picture, I'd consider a borderline case. It's a public body and it affects science, thus to some degree relevant for the audience and the author. Especially when there is no official body properly representing the scientific community in that country, such a statement may be a reasonable approach to inform the public about the opinion of the broader scientific community. But it comes off as petty easily if it's just general critic for a particular agenda that doesn't suit your own ideas or if it seems you are just angry because you in particular didn't get funding while others did.

So legally, it's irrelevant in most countries, as long as you don't include libel or insult (depending on country). It is, in general, unprofessional, but sometimes the bigger issue at stake may still validate it morally.

It's basically your individual choice to break with the professionality in order to further your political agenda. It may hinder your scientific career and cost you reputation, while helping your agenda. However, if you're unlucky it may also have the opposite effect and along with your own reputation loss, cost your political movement reputation with conservative people/voters/observers. In the end, it is very context depending - who are you criticizing, for what reasons, who is your audience and how receptive may they be to your message. Same for your career. If your scientific peers agree with your opinion they may ignore your breach with professionality - but does that also hold for international colleagues who may have no idea what you are ranting about?


If you do not have a grant from a funding agency, there is nothing illegal about "not thanking them". It may ruffle some feathers and may not help the authors if they wish to apply for a grant from this agency, but otherwise people are free to thank or not, or "not thank" or not who they wish.

It's always preferable to make friends and avoid making enemies: some working in academia or working for funding agencies have long memories and don't react well to public criticism. I personally stay away from inserting the kind of editorial comment that you highlight in published work not because of moral qualms but because the funding situation may change but the printed paper will stay.


I personally find it out of place. Many journals have policies about acknowledging individuals (and possibly agencies). I doubt an individual/agency would willingly agree to a negative acknowledgement. While insulting the government might be fine, what about a funding agency

The authors want to overall remark the clear contribution of the NIH in destroying the future of a complete generation.

or a subset of an agency

The authors want to overall remark the clear contribution of the NIH NIMH in destroying the future of a complete generation.

or maybe even a study section

The authors want to overall remark the clear contribution of the NIH NMB study section in destroying the future of a complete generation.

which of course leads to an individual

The authors want to overall remark the clear contribution of Dr Borzan in destroying the future of a complete generation.

If not thanking became the norm, then people might start insulting journals where they have been previously rejected, or collaborators who have turned them down.

  • 5
    No downvote, but this sounds very much like a slippery slope argument. 'It all starts with a snarky footnote, and it ends with anarchy.'
    – henning
    Jul 21, 2017 at 14:03
  • 1
    yeah, this answer adresses imaginary aknowledgements instead of actual ones, or even just realistic ones
    – carlo
    Jun 17, 2021 at 16:16

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .