I am having this doubdt in mind (although not of any immediate concern to me), what happens to the proofs/solutions/questions written on math.se or math.overflow. Is their any means that that the OP can produce proof that it was he who written it ?

Edit by Willie Wong: just to show an example.


2 Answers 2


@Rajesh D, your concern about someone claiming to have done work independently has nothing to do with SE, really - what is to stop someone from claiming to have found Wiles' solution of the Fermat problem independently? Once something is out in the open, whether it is on this website or in Inventiones Mathematicae, anyone can come along and write up the same thing and say he/she did it independently. What the person can't do is claim priority, because the time of the previous publication will be publicly available; the other thing the person may not be able to do is convince anyone that the work was independent.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for the answer. I really didn't know about these things and i had some misconceptions. $\endgroup$
    – Rajesh D
    Apr 16, 2011 at 8:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ They can certainly claim priority, whether or not they can prove it. But it would be rare for that to be an issue for material at this site. $\endgroup$ Apr 16, 2011 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Bill Dubuque : how are you certain that they can claim priority ? $\endgroup$
    – Rajesh D
    Apr 17, 2011 at 3:33

Insofar as someone using the account with the name of the OP doing the writing, yes. All edits are saved and tracked. If any post was edited, next to the author attribution at the bottom right of the post, there will show a link saying "edited (X time) ago". Click on it and you can see the complete history of revisions.

The actual physical association of an account to a person is, of course, outside the purview of StackExchange.

To show you an example. I just edited the question text that you posted. Now there is a tag next to the author attribution tag displaying your name, that states that this question has been edited. Clicking on the "time" (not my name!) will bring up the revision history for this question.

  • $\begingroup$ my question is in this scenario. Supposes X poses a question or gives an answer on math.SE. Y (need not be a member) reads it on math.se and publishes it in a journal/book without citing any reference to X or math.se. In this case does math.se interfere ?? $\endgroup$
    – Rajesh D
    Apr 15, 2011 at 16:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Rajesh: Dear Rajesh, the questions and answers posted on math.SE are generally not research level. But plagiarizing material from this site in a journal or book is likely to be a bad idea, since it is publicly visible to anyone (and has a high google rank, for instance). $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2011 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Akhil Mathew : Y can always claim to have done it independently and can get away with a benefit of doubdt ? After all only Y knows that he had indeed lifted from SE. $\endgroup$
    – Rajesh D
    Apr 15, 2011 at 16:24
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    $\begingroup$ There are two issues at work here. The first is issue of copyright. The second is the issue of academic plagiarism. The first is addressed by the CC license underwhich content on this website is distributed. The second doesn't concern StackExchange. $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2011 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Rajesh D, I think you can check MO's policy on this. They have had a number of meta discussion on academic plagiarism and more generally academic honesty and integrity (including not presenting a work which is not yours). $\endgroup$
    – Kaveh
    Apr 15, 2011 at 20:59

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