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I recently asked this question about presentation of contents in academic .

I saw that those tags exist on this site and each one has a set of questions. I saw in the on-topic list that "Requirements and expectations of academicians" were explicitly on-topic and I pointed that out in a comment on the question.

Yet the question was still closed (not migrated or anything like that, just closed) on the grounds that "This question does not appear to be about academics within the scope defined in the help center."

Is there a general rule that everything in one or more of those cited tags is off-topic? There seems to be a lot of inconsistency, so I'm hoping a meta discussion can help clear things up. This old meta question failed to fully resolve it (or did so in the opposite way) perhaps because it was more general, while the present meta question focuses on research papers.

Also, is there a general rule that something on Academia.SE which might conceivably also fit on another SE site should be closed here?

  • Re "not migrated, just closed": moderators will not forcibly migrate questions whose on-topic-ness is debatable. Such questions should be closed by the community first, then migrated only if there is no attempt to reopen. See this and this. (I'm not commenting on the on-topic-ness of this question specifically, just pointing out general migration policy.) – ff524 Nov 4 '16 at 6:53
  • @ff524 such questions get closed first, then deleted automatically. – WBT Dec 8 '16 at 20:12
  • If the OP flags the closed question and requests migration, and the question is on topic on the proposed destination site, moderators will migrate it. Otherwise, if nobody asks for it to be migrated and it has no answers, it will be deleted automatically. (The OP can still flag and request migration of a deleted question, as long as it's less than 60 days old.) – ff524 Dec 8 '16 at 20:13
  • I apparently am not supposed to flag, though because I tried pointing out how this same meta result would apply on another question and that was declined. – WBT Dec 8 '16 at 21:23
  • You are free to flag your own question and ask for it to be migrated, as I said in my previous comment. If you flag other questions asking for moderators to close the question, those flags are likely to be declined because the community, not diamond mods, are responsible for closing questions. – ff524 Dec 8 '16 at 21:24
  • I also found that your flag ("Questions about formatting of statistics are off-topic on Academia.SE") misrepresents the answer below and the current status quo, which essentially says "it depends", not that all questions about formatting of statistics are off-topic. – ff524 Dec 8 '16 at 21:30
  • My comment was based on not just that one answer below, but also the observed practice of the community in what actually happens, including the off-topic closure of the question cited above, which is a more specific instance of the question about table cells that don't make sense. – WBT Dec 8 '16 at 21:53
  • As far as I can tell, the observed practice of the community is "it depends". – ff524 Dec 8 '16 at 21:59
  • But "it depends" on WHAT? The standards are so arbitrary and inconsistent as to defy understanding. There's also inconsistency about the idea that "flags should not be used to point out that a question should be closed." For example, diamond mod @StrongBad wrote that "In general, flags about issues like off-topic questions are appreciated." I guess it depends primarily on who happens to be online at any given time and/or what their mood is. – WBT Dec 8 '16 at 22:02
  • I agree with you that the inconsistency in closing questions like this is a bad thing. But, I disagree with you leaving comments and raising flags suggesting that there is either a consensus on meta or a consistent trend in what the community actually does, when neither exists. – ff524 Dec 8 '16 at 22:06
  • That's why I use links to full details, when starting efforts to make more consistency. These efforts are then rejected, with interface warnings that I should not flag and admin notes that I should not be leaving comments. ?!? – WBT Dec 8 '16 at 22:09
  • A more accurate comment might be "There is some debate on whether questions like this are on topic: see this meta post". Not "Questions like this are off topic." – ff524 Dec 8 '16 at 22:10
  • But the consensus from this discussion here was to delete the question about how to present nonsensical cells in statistical tables. That consensus was formed and acted on; it's done and there's nothing more to be done about it, other than perhaps increase consistency. – WBT Dec 8 '16 at 22:13
  • I understand your frustration: the community refuses to clearly delineate what makes questions like this on- or off-topic, and has little consistency in closing such questions, and doesn't seem interested in correcting that. I share that frustration. But I don't think you're accurately representing what happened here. One answer with one vote does not make a "consensus". – ff524 Dec 8 '16 at 22:16
  • It was not just one answer with one vote, it's also all the action on the now-deleted question, including at least five close votes plus comments and upvotes on that plus anything in chat etc., and the action which resulted from the existence of that consensus - or at least what counts for consensus for the purpose of removing material. Being told I should not be flagging after wrongly even just flagging the inconsistency, sends the message that the inconsistencies should be maintained, I should not flag to request any issue or migration be addressed, and makes things even more frustrating. – WBT Dec 8 '16 at 22:24
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Is there a general rule that everything in one or more of those cited tags is off-topic?

No. Neither is everything with those tags in off-topic, nor is everything to which those tags could be applied on-topic.

As a general rule, I suggest that questions on such issues are on-topic, if:

  • They do not primarily pertain to a specific field.
  • It is a question of style (in a broad sense) and not of scientific accuraly. E.g., it is conceivable that a style guide or copy editor without special subject knowledge has an opinion on this question.

My rationale for this is that other questions are best targetted at the respective community of that field and can be best evaluated by it. While we may have some people that can answer such questions and evaluate the answers, an asker is much more likely to find an expert on this in the community belonging to that field, e.g. on the respective Stack Exchange site. Most of us couldn’t tell apart a good from a bad answer to those questions.

Some examples:

  • Conventions of Feynman diagrams or chemical naming conventions are off-topic. While some physics journals or chemistry organisations may have guidelines for these, they pertain only to a specific field.

  • Conventions on denoting measurement errors are on-topic. They pertain to a large number of fields and journals have style guides on this.

In case, of statistics (such as your question), it is somewhat difficult to draw the line, as it is a field of its own but employed by many other fields. But then again, many fields have to deal with chemical substances and their names. The distinction I would make here is that chemical names or statistics are still be considered to fall into the domain of chemists or statisticians, respectively. By contrast, I am not aware of a common agreement of which field is primarily responsible for measurement errors.

Yet the question was still closed (not migrated or anything like that, just closed) on the grounds that "This question does not appear to be about academics within the scope defined in the help center."

Whenever a question is closed with a custom off-topic close reason (such as yours), you see this comment. However, such a closure also comes with a comment that gives you more specific information.

Also, is there a general rule that something on Academia.SE which might conceivably also fit on another SE site should be closed here?

No. However, if a type of question is a much better fit for other sites, I would not consider it beneficial to keep them here.

  • "I am not aware of a common agreement of which field is primarily responsible for measurement errors": One day or another I have to propose Metrology.SE ;-) – Massimo Ortolano Nov 4 '16 at 10:56
  • The question in question satisfies both of your first pair of bullet points, but you still closed it as off-topic. – WBT Nov 4 '16 at 11:22
  • @WBT: The question in question satisfies both of your first pair of bullet points – That’s debatable. In my opinion, it’s specific to the field of statistics and statistics is the field from which conventions on such things are likely arise. The statistics community is much more likely to have an answer to your question. By contrast, a question on dealing with trivial values in tables would be something that I would consider on-topic, as it is more general and does not only pertain to one, field-specific case. – Wrzlprmft Nov 4 '16 at 12:01
  • The papers I was asking about weren't statistics papers, though - it was intended for papers across any field that might simply use statistics in them. – WBT Nov 4 '16 at 19:30
  • @WBT: I assumed as much. But compare this to the example of chemical names. These appear in papers from a variety of fields; yet you would probably not ask about them here but on Chemistry – because that’s where you are more likely to find an expert on this subject. – Wrzlprmft Nov 4 '16 at 19:51
  • So the rule is that any question about presentation of statistics is off-topic here and should be closed? Yet, there are well-received questions even more directly about statistics (e.g. here, here, here, & I'm out of comment characters). – WBT Nov 4 '16 at 21:44

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