Amazing Acknowledgements in Academic Papers

Almost every academic paper in any discipline will feature some variation on the following in a footnote:

I gratefully acknowledge [so and so] for their assistance/comments/support.

Yawn. But hang on, very occasionally these rarely-read footnotes contain something a little more interesting.

Perhaps the boldest of all comes from a group of French researchers, who “do not gratefully thank” a reviewer of their paper for his “useless and very mean comments”.

Don't sleep in late.

Don’t sleep in late.

Academics are not generally an aggressive bunch, and many of these hidden acknowledgments are a little more light-hearted. One Kara Miller at Oxford is called out for sleeping in late, selfishly leaving a couple of the authors bored. Biyu J., a Chinese researcher based in the US thanked:

the U.S. Immigration Service under the Bush administration, whose visa background security check forced her to spend two months (followi
ng an international conference) in a third country, free of routine obligations—it was during this time that the hypothesis presented herein was initially conjectured.


Tut tut Ministry of University and Research

Understandably, the subject of research funding often raises the ire of academics. An Italian researcher gave the Italian Ministry of University and Research its own ‘Unacknowledgements’ section to call them out on their failure to hand over the cash they promised. One British author took it even further, wishing the British Arts and Humanities Research Board “a plague on their house”.

Presumable Slayer is good writing music.

Presumably Slayer is good writing music.

Some researchers claim divine inspiration for their work, such as in this paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, where the authors thank John Frum, while others get their inspiration from the heavy metal band Slayer and Italian pornstar R. Siffredi.

American evolutionary biologist Leigh Van Valen, who was “considered unconventional even by eccentrics”,1 thanked the National Science Foundation for “regularly rejecting my (honest) grant applications for work on real organisms, thus forcing me into theoretical work”.

unacknowledgements10 theoretical

Thanks guys!

Meanwhile a couple of Barcelona fans working in the US managed to sneak a football chant into their paper:

Are there any that I’ve missed?

  1. ‘Leigh Van Valen, evolutionary theorist and paleobiology pioneer, 1935-2010’
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6 thoughts on “Amazing Acknowledgements in Academic Papers

  1. If you are planning to update it, you should certainly have a look to the paper about pseudoreplication of Stuart Hulbert. It is notonly unconventional in the acknowledge, but also in the main text, for example… in the table of different sources of confusion, appart of classics like temporal changes, procedures effects or experimenter bias, it includes “demonic instrusion”, sugesting eternal vigilance, exorcism or human sacrifices.
    In the acknowledges, he acknowledge several people for suggestion and advice regarding the manuscript. After this, he state” Any error that remains are their responsibilities and theirs alone”.
    this paper has been cited over 7600 times. I wonder if any of the people citing it ever came across that, or even readed the paper…

  2. In a pair of papers, we thanked H. Simpson and N. Flanders for invaluable advice in the field (usually dispensed at the end of each day, around 18:30 on FOX TV if I recall correctly).

    Madden, J. R., Kilner, R. M., & Davies, N. B. (2005). Nestling responses to adult food and alarm calls: 1. Species-specific responses in two cowbird hosts. Animal Behaviour, 70(3), 619-627.
    Madden, J. R., Kilner, R. M., & Davies, N. B. (2005). Nestling responses to adult food and alarm calls: 2. Cowbirds and red-winged blackbirds reared by eastern phoebe hosts. Animal Behaviour, 70(3), 629-637.

  3. This paper (Measurement 58 (2014) 468–475) has a very interesting “acknowledgement” that correctly describes the feeling of tons of Spanish young researchers about the performance of our government in science and research in our country…

  4. Once in a conference book I was the first co-editor on, I thanked my first child for kindly deciding to be born earlier, so that I could happily participate to the conference. I would not have left her mother alone in another town for the task.

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