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In a PhD thesis I read recently, the author mentioned open-source software in the Acknowledgement section, an idea that I liked very much (I missed that opportunity in my thesis).

Now I am considering to do a similar thing in the paper I am currently writing (working everyday on a Linux system with a lot of open-source software tools). Would you consider that as weird and inappropriate?

(My field is physics.)

Update: As mentioned by @pseyfert in the comments, the LHCb experiment seems to have an acknowledgement to open source software in their templates (looking at their paper repository, they seem to use that template), it reads "We are indebted to the communities behind the multiple open-source software packages on which we depend ".

  • I have seen numerous papers where software has even been cited in the bibliography. Granted, I remember only science-oriented software, like scipy, but I don't see why one wouldn't be able to cite, say, the linux kernel as well. I think one ought to do so, actually; the only problem being that the number of software packages one uses in doing one's research is large, maybe prohibitively so, and it's easy to miss a piece of software used. But then again, people frequently cite hundreds of papers where necessary, so why should software be exempt? – RQM Sep 13 '17 at 8:47
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    @RQM as long as the paper is not about some research about the software itself, I would rather prefer to not cite some software, because in the end the physics results should be totally independent on the software used for data analysis for example. This is why I would like to say Thank you instead to the general open-source community (and maybe do so for all my future papers). – Alf Sep 13 '17 at 8:54
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    But often, the results are not truly independent from the software used. First, there are various ways in which you may implement, say, performing non-analytic derivates on data in analysis software, which have different numerical properties, and second, software has bugs, which might alter the results. Stating which software and which version one used makes research more reproducible. (Of couse, this applies to scipy more than to notepad.) – RQM Sep 13 '17 at 9:02
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    It's weird if you spell it without a "w". ;-) – David Ketcheson Sep 14 '17 at 10:04
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    since you specified physics: one of the cern experiments has an acknowledgement to open source in the template acknowledgements lhcbproject.web.cern.ch/lhcbproject/Publications/… so there are literally hundreds of papers which already do that. – pseyfert Sep 14 '17 at 15:39
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I also mentioned technical forums and Q&A sites (about GAMS, C++, the GNU Scientific Library, LaTeX, Maths, Statistics..., in my case) in the acknowledgement section of my PhD memoir.

I do not really think that doing the same in the acknowledgement section of a paper is inappropriate. As long as it is expressed in the same terms as other acknowledgements, I actually think it is a good and revolutionary idea.

Of course, all the coauthors of the paper should agree in including that kind of acknowledgement, just as it would/should be regarding other acknowledgements.


UPDATE

To expand and complete my answer, I should say that, in my humble opinion,

  • the 'Acknowledgements' section of a paper is not usually mandatory;
  • in case there is one, it should be kept not too long;
  • you can mention anyone or any 'entity' you are thankful to;
  • if there are too many people or 'entities' to mention, try to select the most relevant ones;
  • you may consider to keep some place for sort of formulaic or routine acknowledgements such as thanking anonymous reviewers, etc.

But, of course, there should definitely be a place for the 'real' acknowledgements. If you are really thankful for the help from online communities, or you just want to highlight it, I think there is no problem. For me, it makes no difference with other 'personal' acknowledgements, such as thanking some concrete colleagues for reviewing a draft of your paper, for instance.

  • [...] technical forums and Q&A sites [...] now that's another great idea, and, of course, you are completely right on the co-authors' agreements! – Alf Sep 13 '17 at 8:49
  • Indeed, the idea of acknowledging 'the open-source community' or something similar sounds nice to me. – Vicent Sep 13 '17 at 8:52
  • Nice update with a few good points (also, I do not thank the referees by default). – Alf Sep 14 '17 at 9:18
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People have thanked thrash metal bands, porn actors, and transportation authorities in their acknowledgments; some have written "unacknowledgements".

There is much more leeway for personal quirks in this section than in any other part of your publication, and it's the least likely to be read.

Thanking someone who actually facilitated your work is not at all weird. It's in fact very appropriate, even if that someone is a collective entity.

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    I even saw someone thank the football world cup for providing some peace in his office during the writing. – Tobias Kildetoft Sep 14 '17 at 9:42

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