When being considered for a position at a university as a post doc or phd or professor, does your MathOverflow account mean anything. Are there any universities that take this seriously when looking at your application?

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe not one's raw score, but if one is quite active then one's reputation (irl) can be bolstered. It is also an example of service to the community when answering a lot of questions. There may indeed be curmudgeonly type who think being on MO is a waste of time, but I have no explicit examples. $\endgroup$
    – David Roberts Mod
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 7:17
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    $\begingroup$ A quite reputable user of this site mentioned in this discussion that his MO involvement was mentioned in his tenure dossier. (But I assume that it's mentioned in the category of other activities, other stuff is probably more important.) Maybe he will comment also here - since he has personal experience with this. Possibility of relevance of MO score was also mentioned in this discussion: What is the Real Use of Reputation? (Again, you should recognize username if you visit this site often.) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 8:42
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    $\begingroup$ And also some comments on the question on the main site - where this was posted originally, but was quickly closed - are interesting. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 9:31
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    $\begingroup$ Do we want users coming here, not because they are interested in participating, but as a chore they have to do in order to get a good university position? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 11:59
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    $\begingroup$ @GeraldEdgar: No, we don't, any more than we want people writing research papers as a chore they have to do in order to get a good position. But we do want people who contribute to mathematics research to be rewarded, whether through papers or in this way. I do see your concern: If MO reputation becomes another "box" people have to check for tenure, people will start doing more MO for the wrong reason. But how different would it be? The allure of "reputation points" in social media is already strong, and maybe that is already a motivation beyond the pure love of mathematics. :) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 13:57

1 Answer 1


I have taken note of the Mathoverflow contributions of a few people who applied for PhD places. However, in every case where there was evidence from Mathoverflow, there was also good evidence from the applicant's track record and recommendations and interview, so Mathoverflow never made a crucial difference.

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    $\begingroup$ Exactly so. One's MO score is never going to substitute for these other more standard metrics, but it's nice when putting forth a candidate to also be able to say "...and as further evidence of their willing service to the community and ability to elucidate mathematics, check out this amazing MO score". $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ We do get some PhD applicants from e.g. Kurdistan whose grades and recommendations are very hard to calibrate. For such a candidate, a rich Mathoverflow record might be informative. But I have not yet seen a case of that type. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that it is unlikely to be the main factor, I think it can make a difference in getting your application noticed if someone knows you on MO, in the same way that knowing people from conferences, etc can make a difference. $\endgroup$
    – Kimball
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 0:29

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