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Acknowledgement (Xia, X. 2013. Comparative genomics. Springer)

An experienced publisher once pointed me to a few examples of “effective use” of acknowledgment, each with an impressive list of well-known scientists, tactfully acknowledged to boost the reputation of the book author. The practice reminded me of some recent scientific conferences each with a list of 8–11 Nobel laureates as session chairs or keynote speakers. A journal would not have legitimacy if it does not have a list of silverbacks in the editorial board, even though some of the silverbacks are never involved in the manuscript-screening process. A person’s worth is often evaluated by the number of “like” in social networks. We are entering a world in which a masterpiece in art is no longer evaluated on its own merit, but on whether it features gold-plated frame or displayed in a prominent location in a museum or gallery!

Should I mould a few famous names into a gold-plated frame for my limited painting of comparative genomics? I did have the good fortune of being associated with a number of silverbacks. Some helped me to switch to molecular evolution and phylogenetics when I was forced to switch fields because of severe allergies toward rodents that I used to study. Some offered me their books as gifts that inspired me and cultivated in my mind a strong desire to produce something similar. Some donated their previous field data or bacterial strains that led to results included in this book. Some have commented much of the book and corrected errors in the second chapter of this book. However, there are also little known people, but much greater in number, who have helped me and supported me in various ways during the writing process. If the “effective use” of Acknowledgement implies the exclusion of little known names, then let me engrave all these names in my heart without mentioning any here. I think that they would all like it this way.

But some explicit acknowledgments are absolutely essential—there would be serious repercussions if I did not. Scientists, just as religious monks, need patronage to carry out their daily routines and rituals. Without generous patronage, there would be neither religious freedom nor academic freedom. So here goes my acknowledgment to funding agencies: NSERC (Discovery Grant) and CAS/SAFEA (International Partnership Program for Creative Research Teams). While the money has never been sufficient for research, it is perhaps worth as much as a gold-plated frame for decorating the book.

I should also thank Evelyn Best who encouraged me to write this book as an expansion of a previous book chapter. I was initially reluctant because the word “expansion” reminds me of software bloating. To paraphrase Joe Armstrong (creator of Erlang), when a reader asks for only a banana, should I give him a gorilla holding a banana or even an entire jungle? However, I soon realized that the banana alone does not make a healthy meal. Hence this book, with some additional berries, but no gorilla or jungle in it.

My limited command of the English language becomes particularly acute when I come to express my appreciation for my wife (Zheng) and my children. They are a miracle to me. The arrow of time has brought so much wonderful transformation to our little ones and created so many memorable moments. By just looking at them, I am convinced that the world after me will be much nicer, gentler, and smarter. May they grow up and enjoy reading this book!

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