Should we blacklist or delete the tag?

This site is about mathematical research, so I don't see how the "research" tag is helpful, any more than a "mathematics" tag would be helpful.

Of the 23 questions with the tag, 7 have been closed, and all 23 have other tags.

Alternatively, someone could add guidance to the tag, which might suggest a way to use or rename the tag more productively.

  • $\begingroup$ I will add that there are 33 deleted questions with this tag. Some other stats (in case some of them are useful): chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/10243/2020/6/13 $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 13, 2020 at 13:16
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I'd support deleting it, it has no coherent or useful use I can think of. It's small enough to be done manually, btw (unfortunately moderators mostly ignore now requests about tags). $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Commented Jun 13, 2020 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ I've set it to status-review so the burnination process can take place soon. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila what is the conclusion now that this is [status-completed]? There are still questions at mathoverflow.net/questions/tagged/research, unless the burninator takes time to work through the questions. $\endgroup$
    – David Roberts Mod
    Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 7:31
  • $\begingroup$ @David: I think that it was blacklisted. I'll see what's next for us on this (without manually editing all of the questions). $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 8:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As it's status-completed it would be useful to have an acceptable answer summarizing the status completion. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 14:46

4 Answers 4


This tag already has 23 questions using it, and from the list it is clear that the usage is essentially random, with no coherent unifying themes.

The only noticeable exception is that a substantial fraction of the questions are about journals and mathematical writing. But there are much more suitable tags for these topics.

I support the deletion of this tag.


Suggestion: Burninate the tag (rather than remove it manually).

Burnination means that the tag is removed from all questions without any bumping. (Pointers to more detailed information about burnination can be found in the tag-info on Meta Stack Exchange. I have also included a short explanation concerning burnination and also some other terminology related to tag management in this post: What to do with the synonyms for the deprecated tags?.)

Some additional remarks:

  • It is true that the tag could be removed manually. It would take approximately one week, if done by one user while respecting the guideline to bump at most three old posts per day. Still, burnination might have some minor advantages.

  • On MathOverflow, the moderators sometimes use merging into , which can be seen as "poor man's burnination". The disadvantage of this approach is that the the tag still remains there as an artifact. (And it is supposed to be removed manually at some point, at least if the questions gets bumped for some other reason. See also: 'Tag-removed' tags where they possibly shouldn't be and Burnination vs. merging into a specific tag.) It would be different if all questions tagged research would fit, for example, the tag. Then the moderators could merge into , and all instances of the tag would be replaced without any bumping. (And without adding an artificial tag which still has to be removed - as in the case of .)

  • One disadvantage is that burnination cannot be done by moderators and requires somebody from Stack Exchange staff. On the other hand, this gives the MO mods an opportunity to test the new escalation process. Of course, it is up to the moderators' judgement to decide whether this post is suitable for escalation. The new tag was recently introduced, it gives moderators of Stack Exchange sites a simple way to get various issues raised local metas to the attention of CMs and Stack Exchange employees. More details about this can be found here: What posts should be escalated to staff using [status-review], and how do I escalate them? (And in the other posts which are linked there.) This new workflow was introduced relatively recently - in March 2020. So far, the tag has been added on this meta only by Stack Exchange employees. But you can see that on Mathematics Meta there are a few instances where it was added by a moderator.

  • If somebody is interested in the list of questions which have (had) the tag , they are listed in this chatroom: https://chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/10243/2020/6/13 https://chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/10243/conversation/removal-of-the-research-tag - so you can get the list even after the removal of the tag. (In case of manual removal, past instances can be still found using SEDE. However, that does not work in the case of burnination, since burnination completely removes the tag, it isn't visible even in the revision history.)

  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps I should stress that I do not object to manual removal - if that's a better option for some reason. I have merely suggested this as a possibility to test the new escalation process. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ I will add a link to a recent conversation in chat. It turns out that I was unaware of the 50+ questions condition for burninating. (Quoted from Meta Stack Exchange in this message.) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 8:03

The tag has been blocked and can no longer be used. I leave removing the 40 tags from the existing questions - "burninating" - to you all. Please do look at the guide to how to burninate. It's important to make certain that all of these questions have been reviewed and retagged as necessary to ensure that they remain properly tagged.

For example, you have these questions -

The tag is what we generally consider a "meta tag" and shouldn't really exist at all. I know that y'all do things a bit differently so if this is a tag you believe is correct for the site, that's fine, but it's not an area of expertise, it's a type of question. If the tag is removed from this question, it no longer has any valuable subject tags.

What I recommend is that you all look through the questions that remain and retag any questions that need other tags, close any questions that shouldn't be open, and - if there's an obvious target for many of the existing questions, merge and synonymize the tag into another tag or create a better tag that covers what people seem to be trying to indicate with the research tag, which will reduce the number of edits needed.

This guidance all follows the guide linked in the first paragraph. As a note, we do not generally remove the tags internally unless there are more than 50 or so tagged questions and, even then, we require that y'all have gone through with reviewing the existing questions for retagging first - it's much easier for y'all to review the questions while they're still tagged than to hunt for questions that lost tags and fix them.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ hmm, if tags should indicate an area of expertise rather than a type of question, I guess many of our tags are deprecated (big-list, reference-request, paper-request, motivation, intuition, alternative-proof, books, software, specific-calculation, advice, bibliography, thesis, reading-list, conferences, ... ) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ I don't necessarily think that all of those are what I'd call "meta tags" - more info in a really early blog. For example, someone could have expertise in preparing for conferences or writing bibliographies or theses - those are fine - they don't have to be areas of Mathematical expertise. :) soft-question, though is a type of question, not a subject of discussion. It'd be the equivalent of "beginner". I would say that "advice" would be a meta tag, as would motivation, and intuition and specific-calculation. $\endgroup$
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ If this is something that y'all want to look into addressing, I'm happy to help but if it feels too ingrained in MO and not something you want to change - that's up to y'all. We recommend avoiding them and working to remove them because we don't generally feel that they fit the platform - but I think that y'all have questions that many other sites wouldn't allow, such as reading-list questions. Questions like this one really don't fit our platform as they're discussions, not objective Q&A. $\endgroup$
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ Y'all also do this odd thing with tags that I've not seen elsewhere - putting a prefix on the tags like ag.algebraic-geometry. $\endgroup$
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ thank you, Catija, for the detailed response; I'm pretty sure the consensus here is to keep the tags we're used to --- they are indeed 'ingrained in MO'. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for having blocked this tag. I've retagged the two linked questions. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 15:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Catija As I have already mentioned in chat, you can find more on those "prefixes" here: Why are MO tags formatted as they are? and Frequently asked questions about tagging on MathOverflow. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 6:13

I think the answer depends on (the perception of) the clientele of the forum.

I use clientele as an abbreviation for class of people to be served. Many of the clientele are professional researchers (or soon to be professional) who have learned enough of the craft of research that most would not think of asking any question about the process itself on this forum. They see MathOverflow as a research tool for their specific focussed question. (They may see MathOverflow in other ways too, but usually research is so core to their existence that the word research itself seems redundant, or like excess baggage; they see no need for the tag.)

Many of the clientele are people who want to move toward research in mathematics. They may not be professional mathematicians, but they have or see the need for mathematics at more depth than appears at an everyday level. Some of these clientele are researchers in a different profession, and may not be familiar with the characteristics involved in conducting and presenting research in mathematics. They may have questions about how to do this. I can think of no other forum (not even Academia.stackexchange) equipped to handle such questions. For example, what is a good way to set up an Atlas of relational structures for use by mathematicians in other fields, especially if (for some unknown reason) one restricts relations to be ternary or of higher arity? Such a query on Academia would quickly be migrated here, or at least the migration would be attempted.

There are (I believe) clientele of this forum outside of those two categories. (I know at least one such member.) They may not be adept at research, or at their field of study, or even at posing well crafted questions for MathOverflow. They still can contribute something, and they may have enlightening questions having to do with the process of research. I think an appropriate question for this forum would be how to determine what work is publishable where. In particular, if you have a result and you are doing a literature search, how do you announce it and get help on the search to determine how novel the result is? Let me ask this general question on MathOverflow. Gee, what tag should I use?

Finally, there is the non posting clientele. They may not ask any questions or make posts of any kind. However, they use this body of knowledge regularly to answer questions. If some of the questions pertain to describing the process, they may deserve a research tag.

If you want to fragment the tag into specific pieces of the process, that might be a good idea. (It might be a bad idea.). If you want to remake the tag to emphasize that this forum is about mathematics, go ahead and call it mathematical-research. I think removing the tag will do a disservice to all but the first set of clientele described above.

Gerhard "In A Class By Himself?" Paseman, 2020.06.13.

  • $\begingroup$ “Process of research” is a reasonable suggestion $\endgroup$
    – user44143
    Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 5:12
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    $\begingroup$ Let me point out that there is already a better tag for such general questions as you describe -- namely, soft-question. As far as finer categorization of a question is appropriate, just add a subject-specific tag like e.g. gr.group-theory, pr.probability or whatever. $\endgroup$
    – Stefan Kohl Mod
    Commented Jun 18, 2020 at 9:28

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