10
$\begingroup$

Another time recently, an user has asked a question which is very far from research level, and has been reprimanded for not reading the FAQ. However, I realize that there might be a problem in the formulation in https://mathoverflow.net/help/on-topic:

MathOverflow's primary goal is for users to ask and answer research level math questions, the sorts of questions you come across when you're writing or reading articles or graduate level books.

Let's just put ourselves in the shoes of a researcher in a very applied area of statistics and economics. Matrices aren't really their cup of tea, and reading a paper they have come across a really unusual (for them) manipulation such as the one in my example question. So they google around, and they find this forum and the above help page. Then they think:

  • Is my question a math question? Sure!
  • is my question research-level? Of course, I am doing research. Just not research in maths, but in my own field. It's exactly "the sort of questions you come across when you're writing or reading articles".

So why should it be off-topic?


I am not claiming that this sort of questions should be on-topic here; I am just saying that our help center does not do a good job of explaining to a new user what sorts of questions are welcome here. It seems to me like the rest of the page does not clarify this matter any further than the sentence I have cited.

There might be a subtle point on whether research level math questions here means research level questions about mathematics or questions about research-level mathematics, but we shouldn't expect a non-native English speaker to grasp it.

I think we should change that sentence in the help center, not to mislead new users.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Would it suffice to change "writing or reading articles or graduate level books" to "writing or reading math articles or graduate level math books"? $\endgroup$ – Steven Landsburg Sep 29 '15 at 4:41
  • $\begingroup$ @StevenLandsburg I'd prefer to be more explicit on the fact that the reader (writer) has to be a mathematician. I can easily picture a layman who needs a formula from a graduate math book, asking some triviality. Quid's proposal looks better in my view. $\endgroup$ – Federico Poloni Sep 30 '15 at 0:31
13
$\begingroup$

Here is a proposal:

MathOverflow's primary goal is for users to ask and answer mathematical questions related to current research in mathematics. This can be questions that arose while working on or preparing to work on a mathematical research-problem, yet also questions you come across when you're reading scholarly journals or advanced graduate level books in mathematics. A question does not have to be about new mathematics. A typical example is, "Can this hypothesis in that theorem be relaxed in this way?"

For replacing the old version

MathOverflow's primary goal is for users to ask and answer research level math questions, the sorts of questions you come across when you're writing or reading articles or graduate level books. Of course, individual questions don't have to be worthy of an article, and they don't have to be about new mathematics. A typical example is, "Can this hypothesis in that theorem be relaxed in this way?"

I added an "advanced" for the "graduate level books" as I think without it it is a bit misleading. Possibly there are now too many "math" references.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I like your proposal. What is the proper protocol: should I accept this answer right away, or accepting would mean that the issue is resolved without need for further action? $\endgroup$ – Federico Poloni Sep 30 '15 at 0:28
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ If you want to be formal you could accept and repost a feature-request. But perhaps we should not overdo with bureaucracy. :-) I'd wait for a while to see if somebody still says something. Then; we'd just need a moderator to agree to make the change. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Sep 30 '15 at 10:04

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .