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The idea is to have a "database" of open research problems where the answers will be updates or suggested approaches. One research problem per post.

Reasons:

  1. Currently to find research problems one has to dig deep into papers or email the authors for suggestions. But a powerful forum like stack-exchange will be able to serve as a large database for researchers to browse for problems to work on next.
  2. It will be a great place to not only share research problems but also our ideas on attacking these problems. This is the main function of conferences so it would be great to have an online forum that serves this same purpose especially for early researchers who cannot afford going to all the different conferences.
  3. This should be a separate site from MO because many of these posts will not be answerable in the short term. Otherwise, if we start adding such posts in MO (eg. under the tag "open problems"), they will quickly crowd the usual MO posts which can be answered in the short term.
  4. Conversely the answerable MO posts under the tag "open problems" will distract from the database questions. For example, there will be no questions of the form "open problems in random graphs" or "dissertations that solved an open problem". I think each post should be devoted to one open problem only.
  5. By having the wiki-structure users will be able to create updates on the original post.

  6. An alternative is just continue to add content in the Wikipedia article on open problems. However, the site will quickly become crowded as subproblems are being added.

  7. I think it will have a great longevity due to the good robustness of SE sites. Most professors are posting their research problems in their individual websites, which cannot be edited by others and worse might get taken down after the professor retires.
  8. It will complement the OpenGarden and the OpenProblems projects. The SE version will serve as a large database for the research problems out there and their corresponding approaches. The OpenGarden will be the more monitored and formal version to avoid the ambiguities from the SE version. The SE version will serve as the place for the raw input of research problems and approaches.

  9. Every post will contain one research problem and there users will post their suggested approaches and updates on the problem. Therefore, there will be a lot of debate and discussion on the approaches.

We will greatly appreciate any comments. If you are interested follow the proposal to help it pass through phase one: the link is Open research problems in math

We got 5 follows and so it will at least survive as a proposal for a while.

Update

Some responses to the common arguments:

  1. It is just a subset of MO The main issue is that the SE-version of Open Garden will contain many posts that are not answerable immediately. That doesn't mean they are not important to have. There is a clear demand for such a record of research problems, approaches and various discussions on them.
  2. It doesn't fit the SE structure There are already posts of this nature in MO such as "here is an open subproblem in area X; any updates or approaches". In these posts there is no one right answer, but multiple ones since often in math we have multiple right answers.
  • We see a downvote. Is there something we can do to improve this post? We will try to apply it asap. – Thomas Kojar May 20 at 2:27
  • A downvote on Area 51 meta can traditionally mean "I don't think this is a good idea" rather than just a poorly-stated question. – DJClayworth May 23 at 15:37
  • @DJClayworth I would appreciate to know the reasons for this thought so that we can try to redesign the idea. Even if there is no hope of redesign, it would be a good lesson for us to know why exactly the idea fails. – Thomas Kojar May 23 at 17:12
  • Robert Cartaino explained. – DJClayworth May 23 at 17:19
  • @DJClayworth Well, actually the downvotes were here before any explanation was given. But even after it is very difficult to have a discussion over comments. I wish there was an auxiliary chat for users to discuss in-depth. – Thomas Kojar May 24 at 14:50
  • I could argue all I want that the SE-version of Open Garden doesn't fit into the MO structure due to the slow posts, but we won't really know till at least a toy version of it is made. Then we can adjust. So far we are just talking in hypotheticals. So some colleagues and I will create this SE and customize the code to fit it. – Thomas Kojar May 24 at 14:59
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This sounds like an interesting project and perhaps something worth pursuing; unfortunately, Stack Exchange is not a good solution to this type of problem.

Stack Exchange was designed to answer applied, practical problems you might encounter in your day to day work or study. Expedience and completeness of answering those questions are at the core of our design.

Stack Exchange was not designed to serve as a database repository of research problems that cannot (currently) be answered, nor is it a good fit to share ideas or host problems of what to work on next.

Redefining what “question” means (in a way which would be completely inconsistent from any other site in the network) will confound users stumbling into this subject. Describing what an “answer” entails, or what the voting signifies, etc, etc, would not match what the menus, prompts, hints, documentation and other user experiences say anywhere on the site.

Every post will contain one research problem and … there will be a lot of debate and discussion on the approaches.

Where? Stack Exchange does not support debate or discussion in its content. Even if we were able to document this one-off site in detail as a prerequisite of its use, hosting such questions on a platform which discourages ongoing debate and discussion by design would be a frustrating experience for everyone involved.

I can appreciate that folks have other applications they would like to host in our wiki-style format, but at this time, we are not able to build out the support and changes such a site would need… and deserve.

Unfortunately, I have to close this proposal as not viable — it simply needs too many features and behaviors not supported by our Q&A format.

  • The only difference is that there will not be a single answer to a post, but many good ones. Once the conjecture is resolved the post will be closed and checked as answered. – Thomas Kojar May 20 at 3:32
  • Indeed the word "database" is not quite correct. Every post will contain one research problem and there users will post their suggested approaches and updates on the problem. Therefore, there will be a lot of debate and discussion on the approaches. – Thomas Kojar May 20 at 3:34
  • So one of the approaches/answers will be voted on as THE one correct answer, without any further collaboration, debate, or discussion in the process? That is the Stack Exchange design. Stack Exchange is not designed to support the type of thoughtful, ongoing, back and forth discourse this type of subject would need. We are not able to thoughtfully support subjects this far outside our core Q&A design at this time. – Robert Cartaino May 20 at 3:39
  • Please at least give us a chance to discuss it. SE's robustness will be able to support thousands of research posts. – Thomas Kojar May 20 at 3:39
  • We are not currently considering proposals which try to repupose the Q&A in a way not well supported by our format. We talk more about why here: area51.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/24050/…. Sorry about the confusion. It sounds like and interesting project, but in our experience, Stack Exchange simply has not been a good solution to these types of problems and we no longer wish to compound the lack of support our Q&A provides for those needs. – Robert Cartaino May 20 at 3:41
  • Eventually the problem will be solved and so the approach that did it will be marked as the "answer". We really need this type online forum in the math community because problems and approaches are hard to find and formulate. – Thomas Kojar May 20 at 3:45
  • Please at least give us a chance to at least formulate a version that better fits the SE design by opening the proposal. It hasn't even passed the definition stage yet, so let us have more discussions in MO and here so that we find something that fits the existing SE design. – Thomas Kojar May 20 at 3:48
  • @Cartaino You can always close it later. – Thomas Kojar May 20 at 3:49
  • Questions in this math space that would fit our Q&A format would be on topic on math SE or Math Overflow. Thank you for the suggestion, but we are unable to build and support this site. – Robert Cartaino May 20 at 3:52
  • The main issue with using MO or math SE is that they are focused on short-term responses. This SE will be more about long term development of each post. 1)So now if we go make posts on research problems and their updates on MO and mathSE, these posts will be lost in a sea of unanswerable questions. 2)Also, they will crowd over the posts that can be answered in the short term. – Thomas Kojar May 20 at 4:13
  • Since it has gathered some support, doesn't it at least deserve some discussion. We can be flexible in our proposal. Can you at least lift it off temporarily? – Thomas Kojar May 20 at 4:18
  • In MO and math SE, we can have multiple good answers but only one answer is selected. So the same will happen with this SE, where one of the successful approaches is selected. – Thomas Kojar May 20 at 4:23
  • @Cartaino Am I wrong about the above points? – Thomas Kojar May 20 at 4:39
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    After 10,000+ proposals with hundreds trying these types of applications, I don’t how how else to covey that we are not currently pursuing these off-format subjects – Robert Cartaino May 20 at 4:49
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    Thomas, just to point out that there exists open-source software that does the same job as SE, and nobody is stopping you setting up a site that does this yourself. – DJClayworth May 24 at 15:03

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