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Recently the and tags were merged. On the surface this may seem as a good move, however, I think it was quite unfortunate.

First, should be about the process and about the product. This means that both could successfully co-exist if this distinction was made. If the tag wikis are considered less clear in the distinction, I would suggest making this distinction more clear and live with the fact that things have been muddled in the past and think about the future use instead.

Second, now we have (product) swallowing the (process). At the same time we maintain (product) and (product) so that the process of publishing is largely lost. Unless we want and to be seen as a subdivision of and hence have most often accompanied by either or it would seem merging all into would be the next logical step (and I am not sure I would agree with that either.

In other words, losing the was not a good move. So how should this best be resolved? Do we want tags that better reflect different aspects of the core theme in academia of publications and publishing or will lumping them together and in time rendering them so wide that they are essentially meaningless be the way.

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I am the moderator who merged that synonym. The reason I did this was because they had been used without their intended distinction. That is,

  • questions already tagged with were no more likely to be about the process of publishing than questions with , and
  • questions already tagged with were no more likely to be about the output of publishing than questions with .

This made both tags less useful in practice, since you could not go to either one and expect to get all the questions about process or output (either separately or together). Any time you did a search by tag, you had to do two searches, one with and one with .

But, you are right that for such a large tag, I really should have brought it up on meta first, and I'm sorry about that.

Note that intended use is not really relevant in merge actions:

  • Merge is a tool for when Tag B carries no meaning distinct from Tag A in the way it is currently applied, regardless of how they are meant to be used, or how they will be used going forward.
  • Synonyms are a tool to enforce "We've decided to use Tag A for both A and B in the future," regardless of any difference they may have carried in the past.

Merge relates to past use, synonyms relate to future/intended use, and they are independent actions. Tags that are currently not distinct in their usage but will have different future usage should be merged and not made synonyms; tags that currently have different usage but we've decided to combine in the future should be made synonyms but not merged.

Regarding future/intended use, I'm not convinced that making the tag wikis more clear would solve this issue. In practice, tags whose distinction is not obvious (even without the wiki) tend to be abused.

Instead, I would propose to have a series of more specific tags about the publishing process.

We already have a set of tags which (especially when used together with ) discriminate between many parts of the publishing process (from the author's point of view):

  • on writing the content of the publication
  • and on typesetting and formatting a publication
  • on resolving disputes about authorship credit
  • on submitting a paper for review or publication. (Note that currently, this tag includes "The process of preparing a scientific manuscript"; I proposed to narrow its scope here.)
  • on the peer review part of the process
  • on making a paper available online
  • on the process of copyright transfer

Do we have questions about the publishing process that aren't successfully distinguished by these tags?

  • There are obviously two ways to look at the problem. Beneath it all is the problem of tag wikis and the way tags are used. In most cases mergers are non-critical but merging two huge (in terms of use) tags, each with at least distinctly different intended use has in my opinion not been successful. – Peter Jansson Oct 8 '14 at 13:41
  • @Peter intended use is not really relevant in merge actions. Merge is a tool for when Tag B currently carries no meaning distinct from Tag A (regardless of how they are meant to be used, or how they will be used going forward). With our without the merge, to distinguish between 'output' and 'process' in these tags we'd have to retag about 1000 questions. – ff524 Oct 8 '14 at 14:06
  • @Peter (cont.) This is distinct from synonyms that aren't merged, which mean "These tags have been used differently in the past, and we'd lose meaningful information by merging, but we've decided to use Tag A for both meanings in the future." Merge relates to past use, synonyms relate to future/intended use. – ff524 Oct 8 '14 at 14:09
  • Could 'publications' and 'publishing' be made into synonyms for tags with more obvious scope? E.g., have 'publishing' be a synonym for 'publication-process'? – Charles Stewart Dec 9 '14 at 13:53

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