Prompted by seeing References for moving and nested grids in models. The asker is after information on "concepts such as moving grids and nested grids in models", which if asked as such would probably get closed as too broad.

However, what they actually ask for is a reference so that they can go and read about this.

In one respect it's a valid question, and it might be helpful to others. But all that it can attract are something akin to link-only answers[1], and it doesn't feel like it's in the "spirit" of StackExchange.

[1] Note: I don't think that the usual argument against allowing link-only answers (which is that the links may change or disappear) really applies to requesting a reference to academic literature, which should be constant and findable in the future.


4 Answers 4


I think the question could be edited so that an answer could give an overview of the topic combined with references.


Yes, I think this would be a very beneficial feature of this website, especially for people who reach the question and answers from a search engine later on. As Simon points out, the asker does not seek an answer to a specific question about a phenomenon or a process, but for directions for further reading. I think this would work well for processes and phenomena that are very specific and have been described by a handful of scientific articles. Obviously, for general concepts that are described on Wikipedia, reference request would not be very useful. We could follow the math.SE reference request model. As more area-specific experts join the website over time, the reference request feature would become increasingly more useful.

For example, say I just started writing a paper about a process that is remotely related to Langmuir circulations in the upper ocean. I may have some basic knowledge about them, but I want to read further and I want to read from the beginning. Google and Wikipedia will only get me so far, and crawling down the reference-chain is time consuming and tedious, especially once you reach the papers that are several decades old. Having a place to request a list of most relevant peer-reviewed articles on the subject would be of great use. Of course, this assumes that there would be a user on the website that already has more thorough knowledge on the process. Thus I can see this feature working well only later down the road when the user base gets more saturated with experts.


I think the kind of question like the one referred here was too broad - potential (broad) answers will more than likely not be too relevant for the OP and for others after.

I wonder if a 'case by case' approach would be better than a strong 'we allow' VS 'we don't allow' approach. Should be easier to enforce, but I personally prefer an open and less restrictive way to do things - when this is a possibility of course.

Otherwise, for instance I was guessing OP was meaning something about climatic models. But when one have to decrypt a question to know what it is about, and then provide references.. Would the problem be the clarity and precision of the question instead of the question in itself ?


Speaking with experience on other Stack Exchange sites, requests for references tend to be like software recommendations or other shopping recommendations — the answers change enough that the answers become a chore to maintain. They tend to attract a bunch of one-liners, some of which will soon be dead links.

If you have a few people really committed to maintaining the answers to such questions regularly, it could work. But it's kind of a thankless chore with little obvious return.

Maybe it's okay in some cases where the reference is known to be authoritative and stable. But in those cases — is Stack Exchange really even needed?

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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with this answer. References in earth science (or other branches of physics) are very unlike software recommendation links - they are predominantly citations to peer-reviewed scientific articles. These are often authoritative and stable, but can be obscure enough that they are difficult to find unless an expert in the field provides a pointer. Also, hard science evolves very slowly in time. The references provided as answers may need to be revised after periods of time on the order of O(10 years), but not likely every year or so. $\endgroup$ Commented May 7, 2015 at 15:34

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