I'm wondering what was the reason for the moderator Asaf Karagila deleted this question: https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/4088822

I know the question is a problem in the last AMM issue for the simple reason that I was the one who found this out few hours after posting the answer. But AMM's questions are not part of a contest, so they are public and can be solved by anyone, I guess. Is there a rule for not posting AMM's problems until they are solved in the journal?

As the moderator closed the question without any explanation I'm wondering about the reasons.

Edit. Martin Sleziak reformulated my question in a better way: if a question is a problem in a journal does it fall under contest problem policy?

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    $\begingroup$ Btw, if the OP wants to send my solution to AMM as his, now he can do this without any problem, cause no one can see that solution and accuse him of cheating. $\endgroup$ – user26857 Apr 9 at 6:36
  • $\begingroup$ I have added (specific-question), but perhaps you intend this as a general question about AMM problems - if that's the case, feel free to remove that tag. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Apr 9 at 7:22
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    $\begingroup$ The question lacks context, and situations like this is one of the reasons that questions should have context! So surely it is better to first engage with the asker and get them to provide context or similar (so the community will be satisfied with the question) before answering, and so stopping this situation from occurring? (Or just direct them to this chat room which is meant to give constructive feedback on questions and answers, but nobody asks anything there so I'm trying to advertise it more...) $\endgroup$ – user1729 Apr 9 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ What's wrong with asking about the reasons of closing a question to deserve a downvote? Moreover, this question could clarify a policy of M.SE with respect to proposed problems in some journals that provide solutions after a while and where the solvers are mentioned explicitely. $\endgroup$ – user26857 Apr 9 at 10:08
  • $\begingroup$ @user1729 I'm pretty sure that not lacking of context was the reason of closing this question. Btw, the OP has offered 350 rep points as a bounty. As a matter of fact I never seen a bountied question deleted so far. $\endgroup$ – user26857 Apr 9 at 10:11
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    $\begingroup$ If you were omnipresent you'd have seen bountied questions deleted before. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 9 at 10:13
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    $\begingroup$ @user26857 Don't take the downvotes the "wrong way", usually they just mean that the user does not agree with your proposal in the post (or in this case, perhaps the post itself), but not much more than that. $\endgroup$ – Pedro Tamaroff Apr 9 at 10:16
  • $\begingroup$ @user26857 My comment was not meant to say this was the reason, but instead to say this is why we ask for context. $\endgroup$ – user1729 Apr 9 at 10:30
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    $\begingroup$ Re: I never seen a bountied question deleted. You can find deleted questions which had bounties using this SEDE query. Or maybe you meant that the bounty was still active at the time of deletion? $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Apr 9 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak Good to know. In fact, I've thought that a question which has a bounty can't be closed/deleted/... $\endgroup$ – user26857 Apr 9 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ @user26857 In the SEDE query I linked, it seems that most (maybe all) results are questions which were deleted after the bounty ended. I do not have some quick way how to find the posts deleted before the bounty ended. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Apr 9 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ @user26857 mods can return the bounty if it's necessary to close and/or delete a question with active bounty. $\endgroup$ – Andrew T. Apr 10 at 4:44

Let's see what are the options:

  1. Delete the answer, leave the question open.
  2. Delete the answer, lock the question.
  3. Don't delete the answer, lock the question.
  4. Don't delete anything, just let it be.
  5. Delete everything.

Clearly (4) and (3) are opening the door for further cheating by anyone who sees the solution. And clearly (1) may very well attract more answers.

So we are left with either (2) or (5). Why would we have a locked question, whose unlock deadline is somewhere in a few months on display? It's not even an exemplary question of such pristine quality that can be used as "Look how great this question is written, context, formatting, etc. Just ignore the fact it's a contest question".

So we're left with (5).

As for the claims that the user can now submit the solution undetected? Since the username is a seemingly random string of letters and characters, how would you be able to detect them in the first place, unless you leave your answer up, in which case everyone can cheat, and people who come up with similar solutions will be falsely accused of cheating as well? So that doesn't track either.

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    $\begingroup$ Do AMM problems fall under “Contest problem” policy? (It seems that the approach described in that FAQ post is closed to (2) than to (5).) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Apr 9 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Martin: That's a good question. If we get three or four flags alerting us to that, it seems that there is some support for treating AMM questions as contest questions. But this is a topic worth raising separately and see how people feel about it. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 9 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ @user26857: "Why a moderator deleted a question?" with a specific link to a question that you answered doesn't really qualify as a general policy-discussing question. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Apr 9 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila Well, not at first sight, but it is definitely about this. Btw, meanwhile I changed the title. $\endgroup$ – user26857 Apr 9 at 13:44

To answer the reformulated question, I think that problems proposed in a journal do not fall under the contest problem policy. The point of those problems is not to rank solvers, it is to share interesting problems and promote discussion, which posting on MSE only helps with.

Added later: I think the biggest supporting reason for my position is that, while contest writers specifically ask participants not to discuss the problem with anyone else, journals like this usually do not. Why should we police journal problems when no one is asking us to?

If the reward for submitting a correct solution to the journal were anything more than getting the solution published and credited to your name, then I would side with treating these as contest problems, but this is not the case. I think the number of times people would plagiarize MSE solutions and submit them to journals would be negligible.

  • $\begingroup$ This is an interesting and valid point of view. $\endgroup$ – user26857 Apr 9 at 15:13
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    $\begingroup$ The contest problem policy has several requirements for its application, but I don't see that having a prize of value is one of them. The contest problems must be available to the on-line public, and there must be a terminal date for the competition. Math Monthly problems seem to me to fit those characteristics. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Apr 9 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ @hardmath I think we should add a fourth condition to the What is a contest problem? requirement list; the third party has requested that participants do not share the problem/seek help from others. This seems like a reasonable addition to the policy that would make most journal problems would be fair game on MSE. $\endgroup$ – Mike Earnest Apr 9 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeEarnest your proposal in the comments would seem to shift the burden of ensuring that contestants don't use outside resources to the contest organisers, those with the least resources to manage this. As a community, it would be helpful of us to not make such a distinction but rather to only help out on problems where the asker has shown that it's not a (current) contest problem, thereby shifting the effort on to the individual who probably should be making it $\endgroup$ – postmortes Apr 9 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ @postmortes I think it is reasonable to expect contest organizers who do not want participants to seek outside help to include a couple sentences to this effect; this is the only burden I am placing on them. I agree we should still VTC questions without context, so the burden is on the asker, but we should not prohibit such questions outright. $\endgroup$ – Mike Earnest Apr 9 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeEarnest I've missed something then: where do the organisers get the list of sites like from so that they can contact them all? Or is the job of constructing such a list their's also, and you don't think that's any work for them? $\endgroup$ – postmortes Apr 9 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ @postmortes I am not saying organizers need to contact MSE directly; I am saying if the poster requests that its participants do not discuss the problem/seek help, then the problem falls under the contest policy. $\endgroup$ – Mike Earnest Apr 9 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ Mike Ernest It is plagiarism to submit a solution or proof that is not ones own. Period. Doing so is academic dishonesty, and I have no problem with deleting questions which seek answers for the asker as their own. Please due not try to blur the lines of what's ethical. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Apr 9 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ I say it is blatant plagiarism sealed when the publication prints the "non-author" of the submitted solution, and attributes the solution to that plagiarizer. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Apr 9 at 21:07
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    $\begingroup$ Asserting that the organizer needs to explicitly say something like "do not seek help from others" otherwise it is okay to submit another's work as one's own is the same as asserting that every shop must put out a signboard saying "do not steal anything from this shop" otherwise it is okay to steal things from that shop. As @amWhy implied, what is unethical remains unethical whether or not you say it. Policies on Math SE should be based on what is ethical, not what is explicitly stated. $\endgroup$ – user21820 Apr 10 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ @user21820 I understand that, so I concede that if something is clearly intended to posted for the sake of competition, then it should fall under the contest policy, even if the organizer did not specifically say so. However, do you really think that it is immoral to discuss ongoing problems posted in a journal, like ones in the AMM? I think that as long as the asker provides context, so it is clear they are being up front and not trying to steal the solution, then this should be allowed. $\endgroup$ – Mike Earnest Apr 10 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeEarnest: If the asker states that it is from an ongoing AMM, I think it meets the ethical standard I have for posting on Math SE. If they later submit a solution obtained from Math SE as their own work without attribution, then they are not only unethical but also violating the CC license of SE itself. But that's irrelevant to the case here, which is posting an ongoing AMM problem without stating its origin clearly. $\endgroup$ – user21820 Apr 10 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeEarnest The asker is not asking for a discussion; they are asking for a solution to the problem to submit to the journal as their own; Explicitly they tell us to Prove the statement that was published for readers to attempt to prove, and if successful, submit it to the journal. $\endgroup$ – amWhy Apr 11 at 0:03

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