Making visible the invisible through the analysis of acknowledgements in the humanities

Author : Adrian A. Diaz-Faes, Maria Bordons


Science is subject to a normative structure that includes how the contributions and interactions between scientists are rewarded. Authorship and citations have been the key elements within the reward system of science, whereas acknowledgements, despite being a well-established element in scholarly communication, have not received the same attention.

This paper aims to put forward the bearing of acknowledgements in the humanities to bring to the foreground contributions and interactions that, otherwise, would remain invisible through traditional indicators of research performance.


The study provides a comprehensive framework to understanding acknowledgements as part of the reward system with a special focus on its value in the humanities as a reflection of intellectual indebtedness.

The distinctive features of research in the humanities are outlined and the role of acknowledgements as a source of contributorship information is reviewed to support these assumptions.


Peer interactive communication is the prevailing support thanked in the acknowledgements of humanities, so the notion of acknowledgements as super-citations can make special sense in this area.

Since single-authored papers still predominate as publishing pattern in this domain, the study of acknowledgements might help to understand social interactions and intellectual influences that lie behind a piece of research and are not visible through authorship.


Previous works have proposed and explored the prevailing acknowledgement types by domain.

This paper focuses on the humanities to show the role of acknowledgements within the reward system and highlight publication patterns and inherent research features which make acknowledgements particularly interesting in the area as reflection of the socio-cognitive structure of research.


Coauthorship networks: A directed network approach considering the order and number of coauthors

« In many scientific fields, the order of coauthors on a paper conveys information about each individual’s contribution to a piece of joint work. We argue that in prior network analyses of coauthorship networks, the information on ordering has been insufficiently considered because ties between authors are typically symmetrized. This is basically the same as assuming that each co-author has contributed equally to a paper. We introduce a solution to this problem by adopting a coauthorship credit allocation model proposed by Kim and Diesner (2014), which in its core conceptualizes co-authoring as a directed, weighted, and self-looped network. We test and validate our application of the adopted framework based on a sample data of 861 authors who have published in the journal Psychometrika. Results suggest that this novel sociometric approach can complement traditional measures based on undirected networks and expand insights into coauthoring patterns such as the hierarchy of collaboration among scholars. As another form of validation, we also show how our approach accurately detects prominent scholars in the Psychometric Society affiliated with the journal. »