This question about representation of experimental data was migrated to CrossValidated, the SE site for “statisticians, data miners and data analysis”. Below, I make the case that this question is actually a pretty good fit for our site, too, and that it should be reöpened. I welcome comments on this position, and would like to know the feeling of the community at large.

First, let me state that there is no doubt that the question is on-topic on CrossValidated. However, I think it is not off-topic for Academia.SE. That case (a question on topic on two or more sites) happens from time to time (for example between Physics and Chemistry), and the SE policy for such a case is clear: the first step for migrating a question is “is it off-topic?”. If it's not, it stays, even if it might be a “better fit” for the other SE site.

Now, is that specific question on-topic at Academia? Our FAQ says on-topic categories of questions include:

  • Requirements and expectations of academicians

The question is exactly about the requirements and expectations of plotting data in an academic context. It's a common question for people to ask, an usually a topic about which people have not received formal training, even if great books exist (see: Tufte, E.R.). So, in my opinion, it is both on-topic and of great interest. It's not a specialized data-analysis question (which would probably be off-topic), but rather a common question.

I welcome other people's comments, in particular those of people who voted to close and migrate. I genuinely don't understand how this question was judged off-topic, so I'd be happy if you could explain it to me. In particular, if it is judged off-topic, how can it be modified to be on-topic? (I know it cannot be edited now that it's migrated, but it can be reäsked.)

3 Answers 3


As the one who prompted the migration, I believe that the question was purely statistics. The only element that made it "academia"-specific was the issue that it was a disagreement between a student and a professor. If you change the people making the argument from student and professor to co-workers in a lab, or an employee in a factory and his boss, the "academic" aspect of the question goes away.

A good question for Academia.SE (or any other board) should be one where changing some of the details does not change the relevancy to the board.

  • 2
    I don't agree. Data is not presented the same way in an academic context and for other purposes. Otherwise, we should close many many questions on the site, because they can be asked in other situations. Context is important, whether it's for writing style, or data visualization.
    – F'x
    Feb 6, 2013 at 16:36
  • Example of great questions that could be asked the same, in a different context, yet are perfectly on-topic: academia.stackexchange.com/q/2541/2700, academia.stackexchange.com/q/1095/2700, academia.stackexchange.com/q/3608/2700, academia.stackexchange.com/q/3501/2700, etc.
    – F'x
    Feb 6, 2013 at 16:37
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    And to be fair, you were not the only one to believe it was off-topic, since 3 other users voted to close it.
    – user102
    Feb 6, 2013 at 17:42
  • While I didn't vote for it, I support the migration - just like a programming question a professor asks me belongs on StackOverflow, not here, despite being asked in an academic context.
    – Fomite
    Feb 18, 2013 at 9:43

I'm not sure I agree with your argument that this is an Academic topic. The question being asked here could have been asked in an aeronautical engineering forum, or a financial engineering forum, or a jelly bean sales forum. Simply replace the work "professor" with "boss" and it's completely generic. The fact that it occurred in an Academic setting does not automatically make it an Academic question. Personally, I support the migration.

  • Okay. My point is that the question is specific to presenting data in an academic venue (paper, conference, whatever). Which makes it specific to academia. We'll have to agree to disagree, but I think this makes many questions off topic that were not closed, such as writing questions. See the list of questions in my comment on aeismail's answer. For one specific example, see this one: it could clearly be asked by replacing "professor" with boss, and should thus be closed according to this standard. I'm fine if that's the community's consensus…
    – F'x
    Feb 7, 2013 at 18:14
  • 1
    … but I am worried it makes use adopt a very very narrow scope. Also, the question fits the list of topics of the FAQ, which suggest that the FAQ should be rewritten, for example into “Requirements and expectations of academicians that do not apply outside of academia”
    – F'x
    Feb 7, 2013 at 18:15
  • @F'x - I agree with you, we want to avoid a very narrow scope. To me it's just a question of degree; the questions you linked to above all relate to academia, whereas this question (to me) seems to relate not at all to academia, but rather entirely to statistics. This is really just a judgement call, and I guess we'll agree to disagree about this particular case. For what it's worth, I would not support closing any of the questions you linked to above, as they relate more to academia than this one does (IMHO).
    – eykanal
    Feb 7, 2013 at 18:55
  • @eykabal okay, then I'd welcome some suggestions on how to improve it… I think it's a great question, and I will reäsk it
    – F'x
    Feb 7, 2013 at 19:37

I'm not sure about the exact policy for migration, since at the same time, I think cross posting is frowned up. So if the question could be a better fit, it might be better to migrate the question rather than posting it twice.

I also agree with you, from a personal point of view, that the question is not strictly off-topic, in the sense that presenting data can be an academic problem. However, in that case, where do we draw the line? For instance, you voted to close https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/7706/should-i-italicize-sans-in-a-paper-especially-math-cs-econ (although it's more used in academic papers, than, say, in recipes), or https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/7607/who-is-the-author (authorship is a big problem in academia).

I would say that in the end, the community should decide. The examples you gave of other questions do not have any close vote, why the original question you mention had already three close votes, before the migration.

In conclusion, I don't have any strong feeling either way, but based on the community reaction, I don't think it was wrong to migrate it. The detailed answer obtained after migration seems also to be consistent with the migration.

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