In some of my research it is important to have knowledge of mathematics of a specific field beyond that, which I learned in my degree. In such situations it is very helpful to get support from a mathematician with that knowledge.

If we get that help posting questions in this forum, then there are many answers and some being anonymous members (including myself), it becomes impractical to properly acknowledge them all, let alone include them as coauthors, leading to papers where the authors just thank the forum. Also at times it is hard to discuss a research scenario as a question, when there is too much back ground information needed to build the question. Also we can not (or should I say it is highly discouraged to) refer to online forums when publishing a paper (at least in my university and in the journals I read). Furthermore some research questions are confidential and can not be posted online before publishing.

Is it possible to find here, in MSE, a small group of people (1 to 3) willing to coauthor a paper? We could maybe have a special tag and the process can be initialized by a question describing the knowledge area being sought. And after the work is published we can post the results as an answer and refer to the paper published (for instance in arXiv). We can may be have a private space where the group can carry out the discussion and then once the work is done open those in the main forum for everyone to see and comment and modify like the normal process.

My guess is such a system would carry great potential allowing mathematicians in this forum to contribute to many other fields (almost all fields require some math these days) and everyone is properly rewarded when the paper is published including the forum as we can mention in the paper that the team was formed (or partly formed) at MSE. In anyway I do not see how such a process can negatively affect any member of the forum who is involved in the formed group or not.

If we can start the process of seeking coauthors within the current setting of MSE please let me know.

Thanks a lot.


3 Answers 3


Here is something that might be a possibility:

Make a chatroom for this purpose. Then, whenever you see that someone seems to have similar interests (due to their questions, answers or comments), you can ping them and ask if they would like to join that chatroom and you can try to work something out there.

Just do not go overboard with this (ie, don't continuously ping the same person if they do not reply).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Ah yes - use the chat room. I agree with this answer too. $\endgroup$
    – davidlowryduda Mod
    Oct 15, 2013 at 6:52
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Tobias. May I know if all users who are logged in, are available in the chat too please? $\endgroup$
    – triomphe
    Oct 15, 2013 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ @MLT You can't ping them via the chat unless they are there (or have recently been there I think, not sure precisely how it works). You can ping a user anywhere they have asked a question, answered one or left a comment. All users with sufficient reputation (I think 20, or maybe 50?) can chat. $\endgroup$ Oct 15, 2013 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ @triomphe Since you most likely want to ping users due to a question/answer of them, you could simply comment below that same post to ping them. $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2013 at 13:28

Firstly, I'm a bit surprised that no one has commented or answered in the 12 hours since you've asked this, even though you have +14/-1 voting. I think that we can read into this. On the one hand, asking "Is anyone interested in coauthoring a paper on such and such?" is simply not on topic for MSE. On the other hand, there is no place where this can be done in general, and yet might be a good thing to have available. I take the current silence to be evidence of similar disquietude within the community.

One thing merits mentioning again: asking for coauthors on a topic is not an on-topic question for MSE. Neither the question nor the answer are about math. More importantly, it provides no use to later visitors of the forum. It is inherently temporary, or more pertinently to those who remember the previous batch of closing reasons, too local.

It is always okay to ask for references, or for related papers, or for suggested reading, etc. It is also okay to post a conjecture, or a part of a conjecture, as long as it's reasonable and well written. In particular, I agree very much with this answer to the question http://meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/11177/what-is-the-appropriate-way-to-post-conjectures-on-math-se. If someone were to be particularly helpful or provided a good answer, it would not offend me if you were to ask him or her for further help through a comment. But remember, there is no need for anyone else to respond, and please remove off-topic comments quickly.

You say it is frowned-upon to reference online forums. I agree. However, you can ask for sources or references on any answer you find here (in a different question, if necessary). I have a paper in progress right now where we pivotally use a fact answered to us on MathOverflow. For that matter, we followed up on the answer we were given both the source and sufficient information to properly thank and attribute the answerer in our paper.

You might ask how to go about finding coauthors on Academia.SE. But I suspect the gist of the answers you will get would be: ask your advisor; ask your university's math department/any of your math professors or friends; ask your colleagues; ask around at conferences/other meetings; ask in emails to people or professors, but expect an incredibly low response rate. And I write them in rough order, from most recommended to least recommended.

As an aside, if many people had conjectures or ideas for research projects, this seems to me to be a nice potential use of a MSE blog, which we could have if there were sufficient support. This seems sort of polymath project-like.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks a lot for the answer. I don't mean to let MSE be employed in a way that is not useful to later visitors. As I mention in the question, the results of the group work can be opened to the general site after the conclusion. So no work developments that were carried out remain hidden. $\endgroup$
    – triomphe
    Oct 15, 2013 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ "You say it is frowned-upon to reference online forums", just a naive question as i am not aware of it, refering to a forum may be discouraged but, writing down all the details/derivations and then properly acknowledging and thanking the online forum should be prefectly welcome and highly encouraged, Is this the case. $\endgroup$
    – Rajesh D
    Oct 16, 2013 at 2:39

I think that perhaps the reason you've received little response so far is that it's not clear what kind of expertise you're looking for in a coauthor. After all, as an engineer you will probably have a basic mathematical background knowledge which mirrors the basics that most mathematicians tend to share (first year undergrad?). Beyond that though, within a set of mathematicians, knowledge will tend to diverge as we specialise.

Maybe there are specific types of problems you can pinpoint which need the attention of a mathematician? I think there would be a certain amount of interest, given the wide ranging expertise of members on the site.

Perhaps the shared feeling is that one can't really volunteer until it's known if one has the right expertise to help. I know I'd be more than willing to contribute if I thought I could.

Unless of course the problems you're encountering you think can be solved by most mathematicians at the right level, in which case I think you'd get a better response if you made that slightly more explicit.

I think M.SE is certainly a platform that would perform well with supporting the sort of program you're intending. To that end, I wish you all the best with achieving these goals!


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