# Is "STEM History" a better name for this site?

STEM Fields — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STEM_fields

STEM is an acronym referring to the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

That's interesting — A site about the history of the STEM fields doesn't effectively change the scope of this site, but it sounds like a bit more coherent subject space to wrap a site around.

But how common is the acronym? Using the correct vernacular can really help attract an expert audience, but if the term isn't all that well known by the folks who would frequent here, that would defeat the purpose of the title.

So is this a better title to launch this site under? Or just leave it under the current name?

Site Title: STEM History
URL: stemhistory.stackexchange.com
Description: Proposed Q&A site for the history of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

I kind of like it.

Proposal: History of Science And Mathematics

• Please post the "stemhistory" url on the other question as a separate answer. Otherwise any other improvements could simply be incorporated by changing the site definition that will appear on the tour page. I had never learned the term STEM until last year and I am an engineer/scientist. May 29, 2014 at 17:09
• @kaine But that's not the question I'm asking here. We're talking about picking a (potentially) better name for the site prior to launch. If the name I am suggesting here is acceptable, the URL issue becomes moot. May 29, 2014 at 17:24
• My answer means I don't support the name change but I like the url. May 29, 2014 at 17:26
• I think that STEM carries several negative connotations (due to how politicized the use of the term is) that I rather not see associated with the site. It is also quite US-centric, which again does not seem ideal. May 29, 2014 at 21:42
• I've heard the term "history of science" many times in academia referring to a specific subfield of history. It frequently implicitly includes Mathematics, though I see no problem making this explicit in the name. However, engineering and technology seem somewhat out of place to me. I'd expect that a question on the 15th century scientific interpretation of Ptolemy's geocentric model to be on topic here. In contrast, details of the contemporaneous invention of the printing press (one of the most significant technological advances in history) would be at best borderline in my view. May 29, 2014 at 23:50
• I agree that STEM is very US-centric, and very heavily associated with educational proposals (especially at the national level). I think the original name is better. May 30, 2014 at 15:52
• I think many people won't even know what STEM is. Jun 1, 2014 at 16:10
• The voting response to this answer might beg to differ. discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/a/14653/99212 Jun 5, 2014 at 4:55
• @dwjohnston Pretty sure people were downvoting that mostly because of the "nerdyhistory" suggestion. Jun 5, 2014 at 13:24
• I'd like to explicitly voice support for the "nobody knows what STEM is outside the US and even then not necessarily" argument. Aside from the scope expansion that it brings, I think that's the real deal-breaker here.
Jun 10, 2014 at 22:56

For what it's worth: I considered stemhistory. when I was thinking of potential URLs for this site, but decided against using it. There are a few potential issues.

Most obviously, it's adding technology and engineering to the scope, which weren't explicitly there before. They may have been in the spirit of the proposal, but putting them in the title makes them a bigger deal.

From personal experience, I feel like I've always seen STEM used in educational contexts (i.e. "we need to get more students interested in the STEM fields") rather than scientific ones.

And finally, I'm not sure how well-known STEM is, nor am I convinced that knowledge of the acronym correlates well with subject matter expertise in this particular case.

I know these are all pretty fuzzy reasons. The best alternative I could come up with was historyofscimath. which isn't much better (and arguably worse). Anyhow, just my two cents on the STEM thing.

Of the questions with 10+ votes in definition:

• Mathematics => 20
• Science => 15
• Technology => 5

I tried to err on the side of counting potential technology questions as such rather than as science. Just one question that could potentially count as engineering:

The Manhattan project involved 130.000 people. Why so many?

As a rule, I found the math questions more interesting and promising than the rest. Many of the science questions seem on-topic on History.SE, the history tag on Physics, or the philosophy-of-science tag on Philosophy. History of math questions, by the way, seem perfectly ontopic in the math-history tag on Math or philosophy-of-mathematics on Philosophy. What I'm trying to say is this proposal's subject matter focuses on the history of math and science, with few (if any) example questions about technology or engineering.

Given the genesis of the the proposal, it makes sense to concentrate on areas where special expertise might not be present on a general history Q&A site. That certainly seems a possible opening for the histories of math and science. But it becomes more and more of a stretch for engineering and technology, which tends to be relatively accessible. Our history site already attempts to cover technology and much of history that's not focused on politics touches on engineering instead.

Finally, the STEM algorithm seems of recent coinage, which seems at odds with a site about its history. On Wikipedia, the History of science page suggest that mathematics and technology are part of the topic space.

I don't think that embedding an acronym such as STEM in the site name is a good idea. The proposed name of "History of Science and Mathematics" is clear and descriptive, while "STEM History" leaves the door open to misinterpretation, particularly for non-native English speakers.

I strongly dislike the name “History of Science And Mathematics”. It has many points against it:

• It invites a debate as to what is and isn't a science.
• It suggests that computer science is excluded, since CS is neither mathematics nor a run-of-the-mill empirical science.
• It says right in the title “we're going to nitpick about terminology”.
• It's very long.

“STEM history” doesn't have any of these downsides:

• “STEM” is an established phrase, not an ad hoc creation.
• The acronym expands to an abbreviation, but its accepted meaning has an implied “and related fields”, so this makes it an inclusive name.
• It's nice and short.

It does however have the disadvantage of not being well-known, especially internationally.

However, STEM is only applicable if this site includes history of technology, and not just history of science. I think that the two are sufficiently interlinked that they should be tackled together, but there is no consensus one way or another at this point.

• For the record, I don't think anyone else is claiming or implying that computer science is not science. The only advantag can find of this change is that it makes this largely unanswer question moot discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/questions/14524/… Jun 5, 2014 at 17:54
• "established phrase" I'd never heard of it until I read this discussion. Jun 16, 2014 at 23:04
• I'd take issue with it being an "established phrase" outside of the US. Jun 17, 2014 at 21:58
• @ClickRick I don't understand your comment — STEM is primarily used in the US, I think. Are you objecting to it because it isn't well-known internationally? At least it's better than “science and mathematics”, which is absurd internationally! Jun 17, 2014 at 22:02
• I can't speak for the world of academics, but I (in the UK) had never heard of the term before today. However, I left that world some decades ago and things may well have changed since then such that it might be a common term now. It certainly hasn't made its way into common parlance, though, so it would immediately fail the test of "does this site's name tell me what to expect here?" Jun 17, 2014 at 22:07
• In what sense is computer science not mathematics? I'd appreciate if you could point me to some definition-phase questions which you claim are CS but neither math nor empirical science. My (naive) understanding is that computer science is the sub-branch of discrete mathematics which deals with the study of computation. The application of CS to real physical machines is split into the separate disciplines of computer- and software-engineering. These latter two, being engineering and technology related, would be a bit questionable on this site, but CS would not be in my understanding. Jun 18, 2014 at 5:25
• @LoganM CS is no more mathematics than physics is. The Wikipedia article explains it more clearly than I can. The sub-branch of discrete mathematics that deals with the study of computation is only a part of CS, and it is doubtful whether this is a branch or an application of mathematics (is theoretical physics a branch of mathematics?). Application to physical machines spans several disciplines and does not cover all of CS. Jun 18, 2014 at 9:13
• @Gilles My own views on the relationship between mathematics and physics aside (suffice it to say that I'm in the camp of Vladimir Arnold), I've read the wikipedia article, but I was confused as to exactly where the boundaries lie between computer science (the sort of stuff you get on CS.SE) and programming (the sort of stuff on SO, which IMO seems like it should be off-topic here). The only viewpoint I know on this is Dijkstra's, which no longer seems to be mainstream. In any case, I trust that other users are more qualified to make this judgement than me, and I'll bow to them on this matter. Jun 18, 2014 at 22:31