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In good faith, I posted a question about a paper which was published in an online journal, claiming to have proven a result about a well-known theorem. I naturally linked to the paper in question, which was on a site that I assumed to be peer-reviewed (eventually that assumption proved false).

The post generated a fair bit of discussion (e.g., the principal/accepted answer currently has 29 upvotes), much of which was critical of the paper and its author.

I have recently received an email (privately) from the author, who has asked for the post to be deleted, or the link to his paper removed. I notice that the original post had several recent edit attempts.

QUESTION: Is it appropriate for me to either delete the entire post or remove the external link at this point? I have no interest in contributing to a “public” (i.e., on the wider internet) shaming of the author, which is probably a result of the link-back to the paper. But I also don’t want to eliminate the stated [negative] opinions of experts, if that’s the ultimate effect of deleting the thread.

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    $\begingroup$ 'But I also don’t want to “scrub away the truth”, if that’s the ultimate effect.' Sorry, but that statement annoys me. It's completely irrelevant. There are hundreds of such papers floating around. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 6 '16 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: What I meant was, deleting the post would remove the stated opinions of the experts who indicate that the paper is “rubbish” — thus potentially leading to the original paper having more credence (due to fewer or no negative posts anywhere). I think we're working towards the same cause, though my original wording might have been unclear. $\endgroup$ – Kieren MacMillan Nov 6 '16 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ No, it is a bad idea to give more visibility to such papers. It is in a way an encouragement. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 6 '16 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ @quid: So your recommendation is to delete the thread? $\endgroup$ – Kieren MacMillan Nov 6 '16 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I wish for the thread to be deleted, and for such questions not to be asked in the future. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 6 '16 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ @KierenMacMillan Arguments can be made both ways (as they have here). You don't need to take any special action. Let the community decide. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Nov 6 '16 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ It should be noted that the proposed edit was made by a user, and now the user is appeared to have been deleted. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Nov 6 '16 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with Bill Dubuque. Let the community decide this one. If the thread gets deleted (there are 2 delete votes at this moment), then the link cannot be found by users below 10k. Otherwise, the link will forever be viewable from the edit history, and there is nothing you can do about it. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Nov 7 '16 at 6:58
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    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately it's not "the community" that decides, seeing how there is no way for members of the community to cast a vote in favor of keeping the question. Currently there are 4 votes to delete, and once a 5th shows up, the question will disappear no matter whether those 5 people represent a fair sample of the community's opinions, or just a small minority that happens to number at least 5 people. -- Unless, that is, we all have a serial deletion-and-undeletion war. $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Nov 7 '16 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ I find it rather troubling that the author of a flawed paper is able to silence discussion of its flaws merely by finding five users on the site who will vote for deletion. Granted, such discussion is not the primary (or even secondary) goal of this site, but the idea that someone can publish a paper and afterwards go around squelching attempts to bring its shortcomings to light in this way brings a definite bad taste to my mouth. $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Nov 7 '16 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ @HenningMakholm while I agree that "the community" is overused in such discussions the claim that there is no way to cast a vote in favor of keeping the question is simply false -- should the question be reopened it cannot be deleted by the community anymore. // On the second comment, as said, it is rather irrelevant. Who cares about such papers to begin with? All this is just a waste of time, or in any case has nothing to do with research. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 7 '16 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ @HenningMakholm I sort of doubt anyone is deleting the question because they agree with the author, they want it deleted because the question should have been deleted when it was first asked, it is now given a second chance to be deleted because of this meta question. No one believes the paper, so criticism is not being silenced in a meaningful way (plus this is not really the place to criticize papers even crank papers as you mention). $\endgroup$ – Paul Plummer Nov 7 '16 at 15:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Henning While I agree with you about preserving the question, I disagree with you overriding the author's edit. The author's edit makes it a more generic question - divorced from the specific main question. Such meta questions are usually more constructive when they are posed generically. And genericization often has the side-effect of reducing rubbernecking drive-by damage to the question on main (though maybe that is too late in this case). I think you should respect the author's choice. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Nov 7 '16 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that the author's preference here was stated clearly by the OP when they removed the link in this post. This is precisely an OP's prerogative to do so, and that should be honored (i.e., refrain from trying to transform the question which the OP would like to ask. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Nov 7 '16 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ @BillDubuque: I don't understand your position. You think that Kieren MacMillan should have a right to decide that this meta post must not contain a link to the question, thereby preventing people who might want to vote to undelete from even finding the question so they can vote that way -- yet now you're posting the very same link that you champion MacMillan's right to hide, in a comment instead? $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Nov 10 '16 at 4:04
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Well, since your question has multiple answers (and upvoted answers, and even an accepted answer) you cannot delete it yourself. Since it is closed 10K+ users can vote to delete it, although presently there are no pending delete votes. And I don't really foresee a moderator casting a binding delete vote on it. So deletion of the question would appear to be a pipe dream at present.

If you simply remove the external link, the entire question becomes meaningless and more likely subject to community removal (which was possibly the goal of some of the suggested edits). On the other hand, I suspect that users would simply opt to roll-back to a revision with the link well before this deletion occurs.

Quite honestly, I see nothing wrong with keeping the question largely as it. Questions concerning published mathematical papers are on-topic. (I personally would have much preferred to see a more focused question than it currently stands, but that ship sailed a long time ago.) The author cannot simply wish that paper away: they submitted it, and likely also paid for its publication.

Can some things be cleaned up there, and statements left in a more neutral — and less personally critical — tone? Yeah, probably.

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    $\begingroup$ "Questions concerning published mathematical papers are on-topic. (I personally would have much preferred to see a more focused question than it currently stands, but that ship sailed a long time ago.)" Yes, but as alluded to in your parenthetical remark, this particular one is off-topic as it is a general question about a famous open problem. I see no reason not to delete it. I voted to delete. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 6 '16 at 16:35
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    $\begingroup$ @quid That's understandable, and I won't stand in the way of its eventual deletion. (But neither will I hasten it.) Until such a time I hope that the entire page is put into as good shape as possible, under the circumstances. $\endgroup$ – user642796 Nov 6 '16 at 18:16

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