Proposal: Materials Modeling

At the time of writing, most of the questions proposed so far fit very well within the scope of existing sites (not only one of them, but two or more). I wonder what makes this proposal unique, so that it will gain enough traction to sustain itself further down the line.

Obviously one would need to attract specialists from these sites (as they know how SE runs), but more importantly people who have never heard of SE. How would that be accomplished, and are there other sources that would be in direct competition?

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    There's a lot of questions here: (1a) how can we be distinguished from ChemistrySE (b) PhysicsSE (c) SciCompSE; (2a) How can we accomplish attracting specialists from other SEs and (2b) from people who have never heard of SE, (3) Are there other sources that would be in direct competition?. I wonder if you would mind if I answer some of these as separate questions, because I worry that my answer will get too long and this can take away from the cogency? Aug 23, 2019 at 20:55
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    I had answered a bit about the Computational Science SE on the Chemistry Meta. I would really like to be able to chat with you for a few minutes if you'd be available some time! Aug 23, 2019 at 23:06
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    Let it be noted that only 6.9% of the 72 followers are active in ChemistrySE (that is only 5 people including you!). For Physics and Computational Science the number of people is 4 or less. 63.9% of the followers are only following Materials Science, so the OP has done a very good job of attracting "more importantly people who have never heard of SE". Materials Engineering and Materials Science is a topic with a community of its own.
    – Conestogo
    Dec 11, 2019 at 1:12
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    Materials is a department of its own at MIT (dmse.mit.edu), Oxford (materials.ox.ac.uk), Cambridge (msm.cam.ac.uk), NTU (mse.ntu.edu.sg), Harvard (seas.harvard.edu/materials-science-mechanical-engineering), UT (mse.utoronto.ca), and probably all major universities. Just like Physics and Chemistry, Materials is usually a department of its own. Materials Science or Materials Engineering are undergraduate degrees of their own, at many of those universities. I don't see why Chemistry should have a stack exchange if Materials doesn't !
    – Conestogo
    Dec 11, 2019 at 1:15
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    @Martin, it's not clear whether or not you are trying to reduce the chances of our proposal to succeed. There's been an answer and several comments on your question, but no reaction from you. I think you will agree now that there is extremely little overlap (if any) with Computational Science. As for Physics and Chemistry, the real experts and deep practitioners of materials science, are not likely to spend lots of hours engaging in a Q/A site where 99.3% of the questions are about chemistry or physics that does not interest them or does not even fall within their expertise. The purpose here i Jan 1, 2020 at 22:33
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    is to have a place specifically for materials modeling. I have attracted several professors at Associate, or Full Professor, or Max Planck Director status during the Definition stage. These people are not interested in spending a lot of time on a Q/A site where there's so many basic chemistry or basic physics questions, or homework questions like "why is this molecule more acidic than this one? I got the question wrong in my homework and don't understand why". Our questions are at the research level. I wonder if we have your support. Because this question might have made our proposal look bad. Jan 1, 2020 at 22:38

1 Answer 1


Nice to meet you Martin! Before making this proposal, I tried to get in touch with you and orthocresol earlier this week on a chat room I made but wasn't able to grab your attention. One year ago we did talk, and you told me that Area51 is deadly. For the last 12 months I've done extensive research before making this proposal. A little bit of that research was revealed in my recent Chemistry Meta post, which I will summarize here:

On Chemistry SE there has been only 296 questions with the materials tag and only one had any of the "computational", or "theory", or "theoretical" tags. This is 0.003% of the questions on Chemistry.

There was also only one question on the Physics SE with both a materials tag and a computational tag. This is 0.0007% of the questions on Physics.

In contrast:
- There has been at least 1007 materials modeling questions about VASP asked on ResearchGate,
- 15,000+ threads on the VASP forum (I can't see them because I haven't bought a VASP license, and you need to pay for this to get an account for the forum) in 14 years,
- 2 questions/week on the VASP facebook group, which over 14 years would be ~1456 questions.

The story is similar for LAMMPS, CPMD, CP2K, ABINT, CASTEP, DFTB+, and QE. Why we should have a unified SE for general questions of interest to each of those (related) communities, rather than signing up separately for 7 different forums and asking the same thing in 7 different places, is something I'd like to save for a separate question, so that this answer doesn't become too long.

If pushed to prove it to you, I'm sure I can find enough evidence to convince you that there's more than 100,000 materials modeling questions on the internet right now, all spread across very disparate forums, Q/A sites, and Facebook pages, where users of one medium may not even know about the existence of some of the others.

100k questions would put this SE in the top 15 out of all SE sites, yet neither ChemistrySE nor PhysicsSE have succeeded in attracting this audience as we seem to constitute < 0.005% of the questions on either of those SEs. This is part of why I think we need a Materials Modeling SE: For most of the proposed questions so far, how do I decide whether to ask it on PhysicsSE or ChemistrySE or on some Facebook group or other non-SE website because of fear that not enough Materials Scientists or Materials Engineers will see it? Do I roll a 6-sided die and 1/6 of the time ask on PhysicsSE, 1/6 of the time ask on ChemistrySE, 1/6 of the time ask on a MaterialsModeling facebook group, 1/6 of the time ask on some forum, etc? A similar dilema came up for Quantum Computing, since questions would be valid on Physics, or CS, or Theoretical CS, or Mathematics, or MathOverFlow, or Engineering, or Electrical Engineering, or Information Security, etc. QCSE ended up becoming one of the fastest growing proposals!

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    I was surprised that there is no general Materials Modeling SE site in spite of the large communities in the field such as those existing in Researchgate, VASP and many such forums. I think this will be a great platform for many people currently working in the field and those interested in the field.
    – rashid
    Oct 2, 2019 at 5:49
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    I fully agree with this.
    – Conestogo
    Dec 11, 2019 at 1:16
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    Sorry for the incredibly late reply. I'm happy to see this proposal going forward. i agree with what you have said. I think in general this question has provided the opportunity for our target audience to see where we are actually heading at. However, you should always keep in mind that you will be competing with the other platforms, too. The next months will determine how well this can do, and if it does well enough, I am quite certain that chemistry.se could send over some traffic and maybe advise new askers to here, just like we did with hsm. Apr 28, 2020 at 11:42

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