The question How do academics with teaching responsibilities, etc. find the time to do research? was originally asked on mathoverflow in the context of the working life of a professional mathematician, and was then migrated to academia.SE. (I am not wholly convinced that this was the right decision, but so be it.)

The question has been edited significantly now, so that it is a generic question. I wondered what the community's feelings are, on whether this was the right move or not. My concern is that there are some features of a mathematician's research life - priorities, opportunities, teaching loads, likely career path - that are not always in line with other STEM subjects, let alone what happens in the humanities.

Is there a case for having a question like this which is specific to math(s), or at least to STEM? There were some initial answers by mathematicians which seemed useful/relevant in the specific context, but are probably less applicable to academia as a whole.

  • PS I will have limited opportunity to respond over the next few days, so I apologize in advance if you offer rebuttals or suggestions and I don't respond
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 14:38
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    Almost anyone thinks that their own field has some specific idiosyncrasies. I'm in a STEM field that I can certainly claim to be different by any other STEM field: should I ask the question: "How do (the 2-3) university metrologists find the time etc."? No, better keep the question general. Commented May 12, 2017 at 16:44

2 Answers 2


I edited the question to its more "generic," current form. Full disclosure: I am an engineer, not a mathematician.

My main motivation to edit the question was that the answers in place prior to my edit seemed to apply perfectly well to me, too, and the question in its original form only mentioned mathematics as a bit of extraneous information; all of the other details in the original question seemed to apply to a wide range of academics, not just mathematicians.

If my edits are way out of line, feel free to rollback the question to its previous version. Then we can have a meta discussion about why we need a version of this question for every discipline :-/

  • fair enough - thanks for expanding on your reasoning. It seems there is no desire from the community as a whole to revert the question, so I will not press for a rollback :)
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 23:13
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    @YemonChoi Upon further reflection of your meta post above, I think there may be some benefit in restricting the focus of the question to STEM fields (but not sure if there is any momentum on that front to justify making the edit now).
    – Mad Jack
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 23:22

If the answers to the edited question turn out to miss something fundamental to mathematics, then I guess you could ask a new question specifically about mathematics.

If you do so, you should

  1. link to the original question
  2. explain why the answers to the more general question are not satisfactory; in other words, what is the peculiarity within mathematics that makes a separate question worth it.

Alternatively, if the answers simply miss something important that is present more widely, than adding a bounty is one way of emphasising the missing thing.

Editing the scope of a question with plenty of answers is probably not ideal.

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    @YemonChoi If you look at time stamps, you'll see that the question was migrated at 16:22 and the first answer was posted at 17:08. Thus, none of the answers originated from MO. I also clearly recall no previous answer when the question arrived here. Commented May 29, 2017 at 6:27
  • @MassimoOrtolano Thank you for the correction - I have deleted my erroneous comment. However, is it not that the case that many of the answers predated the edit which removed specificity?
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 6:41
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    @YemonChoi Yes, but, really, none of those answers have anything specific to mathematics. The most upvoted one starts with "How does anyone "find the time" to do anything?" (emphasis mine) and then continues with "The answer is that mathematicians don't "find the time", the time is already there and they make use of it", which is something that could be said of mathematicians as well as of engineers or of philosophers. Commented May 29, 2017 at 6:48

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