The question is:

If I write a paper where I am the sole author, and the only person I have discussed the research with before publication is my non-physicist partner, is it appropriate to acknowledge my partner in the same way I would normally acknowledge a colleague? I.e. I thank name for useful discussions. Or similar.

On a related note, if the answer is no to the above question, does it look bad if I have no acknowledgements at all?

It's not a question about actual physics, though it is relevant to physicists. I've asked a few people 'offline' and no-one is sure.

Perhaps I should clarify: If I discuss the physics with a non-physicist, is it OK to acknowledge them? (I don't mean acknowledge them for support or anything like that).

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    $\begingroup$ Calvin: although you are bringing up a very good point that is good to discuss (about what sorts of soft questions this site allows), this particular example seems like it would fit even better on [theoreticalphysics.SE], according to a little talk I had with Moshe in their chat room. So I'd actually suggest that you post it there. $\endgroup$ – David Z Nov 9 '11 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ @David Thanks, I'll do that. $\endgroup$ – Calvin Nov 10 '11 at 21:16

Just to provide an update on this old thread: that type of question is not really on topic on this site any more; instead, those questions should be asked on Academia Stack Exchange, which is a much better home and will tend to produce better answers. (Moreover, the rare cases that Academia SE is not well placed to answer some particular question can easily be handled on a case-by-case basis.)

In fact, the questions mentioned in dmckee's answer may well be due for a historical lock at this point - they used to be OK, but if they were asked today they would be shipped straight to Academia SE.


On the basis of Are collaborations needed to be productive in physics?, Can a web community write papers? and Publication Authorship Credits, I'd say that we have been entertaining such questions.

Certainly this is a matter of culture that is specific to the physics community (other sciences have the same problem, but they (may) have different cultures to some degree, and therefore different answers).

I would suggest that we might want a tag for this. Perhaps .

Another question: as this is a fairly "soft" topic would it be appropriate to suggest that these questions should be Community Wiki? (Compare to book and journal recommendations.)

  • $\begingroup$ I think a question like this, if we allow it, would be a really good candidate for CW, because answering it doesn't require any knowledge of actual physics. But then again, one could make the argument that that is a criterion for an off-topic question... $\endgroup$ – David Z Nov 8 '11 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ I've been thinking... if the community favors keeping this sort of question around, it would represent that we are expanding the scope of the site to include more soft questions. That may or may not be a good thing, I'm not sure... $\endgroup$ – David Z Nov 8 '11 at 22:45

Just to provide an alternative to dmckee's answer, I'll put forth the position that no, this would not be an on-topic question for the main site, since it does not relate to actual physical principles in any way. If this is our position, then the other questions dmckee linked to would probably be off topic under the same criterion.


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