How should we handle questions that are valid and focussed, but not answerable without large efforts? Many climate-related questions fall in this category. For example, one could consider the question how a closure of the Bering strait and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago would affect the phase of winter precipitation patterns in the British Isles. Probably quite interesting and insightful, but it takes a couple of man-years of modelling and quite a number of months of number crunching on a supercomputer to answer the question. Therefore, nobody is going to answer it except highly speculatively.

How should we handle such questions? Should we close them as not reasonably answerable or similar, should we keep it open and wait until a team of researchers actually has answered the question, or should we keep it open and welcome speculative answers?


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From the perspective of somebody asking this type of question --- if they are not themselves an expert in the area they are asking about --- there is no way for them to know whether they are asking for major primary research (which clearly isn't going to happen for their sole benefit) or whether they are asking experts to explain current results in their field (which is part of the point of this site). As such, it's impossible to set a policy on whether these questions should be asked.

But the meta question was about how they should be answered, if the answer is not currently known to science. My instinct would be to answer it, stating exactly that - that the answer is not currently known to science. If partial answers are available, they could be given. If the research is done later, then this answer will need to change - but that's no different to many other SE answers that become outdated.

Obviously, nobody should write an answer saying "nobody knows" unless they are themselves expert in the field and confident that nobody does know! If it's unclear, better to have an unanswered question.


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