This is a question spawned from comments to my overly broad opinion piece on the 90 day review. I started responding there before realizing that this really deserves its own discussion thread.

The relevant bits:

This site will always have trouble with what is or is not on-topic but I don't think the grab bag style is going to work in the long run. If a question is about math, send it over to Math.SE. If the question is about the English language, send it over there. The same goes for Physics, Biology, Cooking, Cycling. Don't try to syphon off topics from other SE sites. But even more than this, don't accept questions just because there isn't an SE for it yet. If an SE did exist and you would migrate it, the question should probably be off-topic. This leaves the question about what is on-topic and I think the answer to that should be Skepticism. You can have questions about all of the above topics that would be on-topic for Skeptics. The point isn't to send everything over to the other SE sites. The point is to ask, "Why does this belong here and not there?"

To form this as a launching point for further discussion, what should our pattern of acceptance be when dealing with questions that other SE sites can handle? At what point does the fine line cross from on-topic here, off-topic there and the opposite?

Presumably there are some examples of on-topic in both places. I am not trying to suggest an assumption across all possible questions. But in general, what should we do? More of my thoughts will be in the answers.

  • 1
    The rule is from all SE sites being viewed as independent from each other, by the people who run SE. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/87739/… The other sites are much more opinion based, so I like the current state of things. :)
    – Kit Sunde
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 9:52
  • @Kit: Thanks for the link. It is most certainly relevant if not a perfect match for the question I am asking here.
    – MrHen
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 13:05
  • For what it's worth I was very surprised when I found it out too. In part I don't feel like all the SE is independent because we can clearly migrate question between them, so they aren't as independent as they would suggest. On the other hand I understand the argument. In some ways other SE sites don't have the burden of proof that we have (nor should they) so they can answer from their own expert viewpoint, while we are denied that privileged and instead have to see out evidence for the opinions we support.
    – Kit Sunde
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 21:15

3 Answers 3


Whether questions on a particular topic belong on Skeptics, even if there is a Stack Exchange site about that topic, has been discussed in the past. The most upvoted answer concludes that:

I think we should cover the basic questions on science that are propagated by non-scientists (Al Gore, Jenny McCarthy, mainstream media, etc.) and hearsay ("you get a cold from being cold" and the like), but we leave the real questions to the real pros (i.e. Physics.SE, Biology.SE, Chemistry.SE, etc.)

By those guidelines, "Is it dangerous to have several vaccines at the same time?" is on-topic, but not all medical questions will be.

On the other hand, question around the lines of "Is there a substantial difference in rehabilitation therapy and expected outcome for a hemorrhagic stroke patient versus an ischemic stroke patient?" would belong elsewhere. They're too technical and thus beyond the scope of this site.

If you disagree with this position, feel free to reopen this discussion in a new meta question.

To answer the question in the title: of course not.

Most Stack Exchange sites are meant to be place where experts can answer to experts' questions. Skeptics is a bit different; its raison d'être is vulgarization Q&A, not from experts-to-experts Q&A. Skeptics is meant to be a place where laymen can get easy and high quality fact-checking to claims they hear or read. Sometimes, our goal will overlap with other SE sites. That's unavoidable, and not the end of the world.

  • I mostly just posted things here to get them out of the comments and searching meta didn't hit the question you linked. (Or maybe I skimmed past it due to the title... who knows.) Feel free to close or merge if necessary.
    – MrHen
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 2:03
  • But in any case, I strongly disagree with the conclusion. I get the point, and don't really disagree with the sentiment, but if Skeptics is just the melting pot for laymen's questions on every topic -- that sucks.
    – MrHen
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 2:03
  • @MrHen: If you disagree, and see a better alternative, start explaining why you disagree and how we could do better. You're not going to help us improve if you remain silent. :)
    – Borror0
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 3:09
  • @Borror: Do you mean like in my answer here? I may be misunderstanding you. ;)
    – MrHen
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 4:07
  • @MrHen: That's too generic. By reading it, I don't know if we generally agree or if we fundamentally disagree. For example, you say "In my opinion, the topical qualifier should be, "'Is this a question for Skeptical experts or topical experts?'" Well, that's pretty much what I explained about, is it not? If not, in what way do our opinions diverge? You're not clear on that. Examples of questions you believe would get the attention of "a professional level Skeptic" would greatly help, for a starter.
    – Borror0
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 5:07
  • Ah, I see. I started typing up details but realized this just really doesn't work in comments. But... my opinion in a nutshell is that if a question is on-topic elsewhere in the SE network it needs a darn good reason to be on-topic here. In any case, I will come back later and try to edit my question with a better... conclusion? I am too tired to think critically now.
    – MrHen
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 5:18

Anything that you can be skeptical about should have a rational answer grounded in a particular field e.g. maths, science, biology etc.

So don't all answers ultimately fit elsewhere?

For example: "Is the 'glycogen restoration window' real?" it could be argued this would be better served on the Fitness & Nutrition SE.

So what is Skeptics SE that makes it worthwhile for people to expect better answers to these sorts of questions?

I think one thing needs to be decided, either we are the melting pot, a "how things work" where there are no specific experts or we are not and then we need to stick to that.

If half of the community wants to close topics as off-topic and then the other half want to reopen then we have an identity crisis.

As per these examples:

Do teddy bears help people go to sleep better? (recently reopened)

https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/4257/are-there-proven-job-search-techniques-for-internationals-within-the-usa-closed (4 reopen votes)

I'm happy either way as long as I know where the site stands. But if we don't know how can we properly moderate? As mentioned previously I'm having to defend each question I post because others are also unsure where is the line in the sand?

What makes a skeptical claim worthy to be on this site? I get 2 close votes and then 8 hours later I have 14 upvotes.

  • 1
    +1; good points. I do actually think there is a window for questions on Skeptics that are actually questions related to Skepticism as mentioned in the FAQ. But really, I'd be happy with any clear directive.
    – MrHen
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 4:09
  • 1
    I asked the glycogen restoration question because I didn't want to know what the common opinion was, instead I wanted to know of any evidence for that.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 14:45
  • I can see a good argument for "If you want consensus go to [specificfield].se. If you want evidence go to Skeptics" ^.^ Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 16:53
  • @ChrisW - If you read my whole answer above you will notice I'm not trying to make your question out as a bad one. I only picked it because it was one I worked on recently and it readily came to mind.
    – going
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 22:48
  • xiaohouzi79 - Don't worry: I didn't think you were.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 3:25

TLDR (with added clarification): My viewpoint can be approached with this summary with regards to Skeptics.SE.

  • Is this question covered by a more specific SE site? If so, migrate it.
  • Would this question be migrated if a more specific SE site existed? If so, close it as off-topic


  • The question would be closed at the sister site for any reason other than being a duplicate.
  • The question explicitly mentions the response from the sister site (or a lack of such a sister site), wants a more Skeptical viewpoint, and formulates the question appropriately for a Skeptical response
  • The question also happens to fit within the realm of Skepticism as a topic — which are the subjects explicitly mentioned in the FAQ (e.g. psuedoscience)
  • Possibly something else reasonable I haven't thought of yet

The point here is that Skeptics experts are interested in Skeptics questions and not a kitchen sink Q&A site where anything goes if worded correctly. The SE network as a whole should receive the brunt of the low-hanging fruit for things such as the Shakespeare example mentioned below. If the SE network fails at providing a satisfactory answer, then Skeptics can absorb questions on those topics.

To further delve into the position I hold on this subject, here are some thoughts.

  • If the top answer to the question is linking to a separate SE, that is a good sign that the two sites are colliding. Borror0 pointed out this example of a question that is on-topic here and at English.SE: Is it true that Shakespeare introduced over 1700 new words to the English language?. The accepted answer is "As answered at English StackExchange" and then quotes the highest voted EL&U answer. If Skeptics is going to make an name for itself and cohabit the SE network, it should not be absorbing questions that are best answered by the experts on sister sites. Trying to lure English experts over here is bad for EL&U and bad for Stack Exchange as a whole.

  • Any question can be phrased to sound Skepticish. "Did Shakespeare really invent 1700 words?" As another meta question asks, Is there really a reason why so many questions really need to include the word 'really'? Other Skepticish sounding questions just include evidence or proof in the title. But if adding a few words to a title is enough to make a question on-topic for Skeptics, than the amount of collision between sites is ridiculous.

  • Instead of a system that requires judging each dually relevant question's on-topicness on its own, you can provide a quick and eas(ier) way to determine if something needs to be migrated. Does nothing rhyme with “Orange”? was closed while the Shakespeare question stayed. (Quite possibly for other reasons but the point stands.) Why bother treading such a line? It makes more work for the moderators, closers and voters while adding no extra value to the SE network.

  • The Shakespeare example is a great precedent to mine the other SE sites for questions. Instead of questionably copying questions from other Q&A sites, now we get to watch people do it in-house? The SE network cannot possibly benefit from this.

  • If the Skeptics question gets closed or migrated, people will still have a path to find the right place to ask questions on that topic. People should not think of Skeptics as the first place to ask questions about Physics or Cycling or English. Skeptics is for questions related to Skepticism, which is given in the FAQ as being relevant for "skeptics, rationalists, free thinkers, or anyone who questions pseudoscience." Let the people looking for questions find the right experts.

  • Low-hanging fruit probably doesn't attract experts. Interesting questions for Skepticism will be questions interesting for expert Skeptics. Closing or migrating barely Skeptics related questions will keep Skeptics clear for questions that attract the experts. If the equivalent of a professional level Skeptic stepped through our active questions, would they stick around? If James Randi took the time to browse our site, would the questions and answers keep him here? The questions that collide with other SE sites are, generally speaking, very much in the uninteresting side of the spectrum. Someone who cares about Shakespeare or word coinage really belongs at EL&U. Getting EL&U questions over here just dilutes the quality of questions that interest Skeptics.

  • Exceptions do abound and a Skeptics-worthy question about a topic that happens to be shared with another SE site isn't ohmigod-forbidden. In my opinion, the topical qualifier should be, "Is this a question for Skeptical experts or topical experts?" Sometimes the answer is yes to both. Usually, it isn't. Adding really doesn't shift it from one type of expert to the other.

  • 3
    "Would this question be migrated if a more specific SE site existed? If so, close it as off-topic" -- I disagree with this. If this were applied originally a HUGE percentage of the questions on the original stackoverflow would have been closed, and arguably the site would never have been the success it was. Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 22:11
  • @Russell: I added a clarification. I am only really considering Skeptics here and most of the other detail is there to help explain why I arrived at that conclusion. But I don't quite understand your point anyway. What do you mean?
    – MrHen
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 22:14

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