There has been an apparent case where the question poster asked a question that had been answered in their own paper from about 10 years before the question. This would not be a problem if the question poster had answered the question themself; however, they did not. The fact that the question poster had a paper with the solution before the question was discovered recently. The discoverer brought up the topic of "reputation farming"; however, I personally think the more relevant concern was brought up in another comment: that posing a question with a known answer without posting that answer abuses the time of the answerer (and as such, might be considered rep farming because it gains reputation in a dubious manner).

Is there a policy on this, and should there be one? This seems like a circumstance that would happen very rarely - even more so because many posters don't associate their name with their MO account, and so uncovering it would be difficult.

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    $\begingroup$ Regardless of the general problem, I find the discussion of this particular question rather ... curious. The OP has published more than 30 articles in this 10-year period. It would not surprise me at all if he simply forgot about this one specific integral he could compute 10 years ago. I certainly have forgotten lemmas I could once prove, and once or twiced even asked other people for a proof (and I don't have 10 years of publication history). $\endgroup$
    – MaoWao
    Aug 10, 2021 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ @MaoWao I don't know why, but one of the major issues with this particular question is being completely ignored. That question is not the only one where the "question poster" asked a question for which he knew the answer. For example this question mathoverflow.net/questions/272381/a-curious-sin-integral was a rip off from a problem from the same year's issue of American Mathematical Monthly. I can continue such examples, and in fact I did, but my post was removed by mods. $\endgroup$ Aug 10, 2021 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ At any rate, I would not condemn people without hearing their voice. We are not a tribunal, after all. Pointing out that the proof of the identity was already contained in one of OP's papers is ok, assuming that there is a deliberate "reputation farming" seems to me unappropriate. $\endgroup$ Aug 11, 2021 at 11:03
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if this is an actual MO policy, but "assume good faith" or at a very minimum "do not presume bad faith" is to me a very important guiding principle (in academics and life). $\endgroup$ Aug 11, 2021 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ This is a quarrel in which I have no axe to grind either way. But I think that it is important to point out that there were certain preliminary goings on (which I read but unfortunately didn`t screenshot) which were deleted (presumably by moderators) which shed a completely different light on this topic. They (and preceding comments) are gone. I really think that that moderators should restore them (and yes, asaf karagila and todd trimble I am thinking of you) since they contained relevant information. Then the audience here can get a more balanced picture of what is going on. $\endgroup$
    – memorial
    Aug 11, 2021 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, but I do not think that making a public trial here or on the Main Site could be useful or constructive at all. We are not on Twitter, please let us leave online shaming out of here. I am sure that the moderators have all the elements to judge the OP's case, and they will contact them privately if necessary. $\endgroup$ Aug 11, 2021 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Nemo you seem to be making a lot of assumptions about the inner workings of someone else's thought processes or ways of doing mathematics. While I have found some of TA's posting habits or questions a bit odd over the years, I think that you should not make such strong accusations based merely on extrapolation and divination. $\endgroup$
    – Yemon Choi
    Aug 11, 2021 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ @YemonChoi There is a difference between two cases 1) when a motivation for a question is real, follows from actual work, and 2) when the reason is fantasized, that is a person makes up a story to make it believable. I can see the difference, at least in the area of mathematics where I have some degree of expertise. If you have seen my deleted post on meta, I did not comment on combinatorics and number theory posts. Because I have very little knowledge in these areas. $\endgroup$ Aug 11, 2021 at 17:13
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    $\begingroup$ I guess it is hard for MO community to accept that they have been fooled. Thus, instead of accepting this, they hide behind such words as "do not presume bad faith". I see where this is going... I'm going to be banned instead of the real culprit. $\endgroup$ Aug 11, 2021 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Nemo, using words like culprit and cheater to describe another user might well get you banned. Please, stick to the facts, and leave the characterizations to each of us to consider on our own. $\endgroup$ Aug 11, 2021 at 23:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Nemo If the moderators do determine that TA has breached the etiquette of the site, then they may take action. But flinging public accusations around is not the way to help your cause. $\endgroup$
    – Yemon Choi
    Aug 11, 2021 at 23:58
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    $\begingroup$ While this is indeed a curiously odd case, but AFAIK the person of interest is a well known and respected mathematician. I would be cautious to throw outrageous accusations like cheating or rep-farming. It's also heartwarming to see that the majority of the community -at least under this discussion- do not side with this behavior. God forbid if it was twitter... $\endgroup$
    – polfosol
    Aug 13, 2021 at 11:13
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    $\begingroup$ In my opinion the silence of the moderators on the matter is striking. Several people here are saying not to make accusations in public and let the moderators deal with it discreetly. But Nemo has already written that he did contact the moderators privately first and was ignored. And after the accusation was made public the moderators have had multiple days to make any kind of response - even just "Thanks, we're looking into it and we'll take it from here". But their only visible reaction has been to delete evidence that this was part of a systematic pattern. $\endgroup$ Aug 14, 2021 at 22:40
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    $\begingroup$ So I can understand why Nemo would not be satisfied to just let the moderators deal with it, and I think part of the responsibility is on them that this ended up being an ugly public affair. $\endgroup$ Aug 14, 2021 at 22:40
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    $\begingroup$ @DanPetersen I know what you mean and don't necessarily disagree, but my guess is that the moderators really are trying to resolve this delicate situation behind the scenes. E.g. presumably they've contacted TA privately, and I see that mathoverflow.net/questions/272381/a-curious-sin-integral has now been deleted by "community" (i.e. moderators?). It's true that a "we're on it" message would do no harm. But I can't help thinking that the mods are volunteers with who knows what else going on in their lives, and especially at this time of year, resolving this could take a little while. $\endgroup$ Aug 15, 2021 at 13:32

2 Answers 2


This is just to say that the case is under investigation. As usual with cases under investigation, details need to be confidential. As to the mentioned two deleted questions -- they were deleted by moderator "rude or abusive" flags. Besides that, let me kindly ask for some patience.

Update: The case appears to be closed, unless additional rule violations from whichever side are committed / reported / discovered.

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    $\begingroup$ It might be worth recording now that the user in question appears to have been suspended: mathoverflow.net/users/66131/t-amdeberhan. $\endgroup$ Sep 8, 2021 at 12:48
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    $\begingroup$ No, he is not suspended. Moreover, his two posts that had been deleted by community are now restored: mathoverflow.net/questions/272381/a-curious-sin-integral mathoverflow.net/questions/271078/… $\endgroup$ Sep 9, 2021 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Nemo: that is strange; certainly when I checked yesterday it said he was suspended (for one year, I believe). $\endgroup$ Sep 9, 2021 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ Has there been any update, or any conclusions reached by the investigation? $\endgroup$ Sep 25, 2021 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ Stefan Kohl, is there even any point in reporting any further violations? It seems like any violation can be dismissed by saying "Sorry, I forgot." or "I was careless. I'm sorry, this won't happen again." Your answer seems to be giving a green light for further violations of this kind. $\endgroup$ Sep 25, 2021 at 17:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Negan Yes, it is always advised to report further violations if there are any. -- Every case will be carefully investigated. This however is no promise that the result of the investigation will always be what the person reporting the violation is aiming for. For example, sometimes rule violations may seem more severe on a first glance than they turn out to be in the end. $\endgroup$
    – Stefan Kohl Mod
    Sep 25, 2021 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ @StefanKohl Thank you for the update! $\endgroup$ Sep 25, 2021 at 20:11

To avoid this kind of hassle in the future, I shall do (1) more preliminary checking about the originality of my questions before posting on MO; (2) avoid forgetfulness and dig up my own papers for self-referencing; (3) self-referencing my papers in case I'm looking for a more clever or succinct proof.

One thing is for sure: I don't want to give oxygen by responding to abusive/insulting comments such as what happened recently ("culprit", "cheater", "troll", etc). Let's take emotions out of our mathematics that we all cherish.

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    $\begingroup$ please, Nemo, let's let this matter rest now, it's not worth further heat. $\endgroup$ Sep 9, 2021 at 20:21
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    $\begingroup$ I second Carlo's comment: the moderators are clearly aware of the situation. Nothing positive will be achieved by intemperate comments. $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Sep 9, 2021 at 20:52

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