Proposal: Geoscience

I believe we need a communal site for all the geoscience proposals. This site would cover multiple areas and multiple proposals into a larger site. The following existing proposals are each potentially a subset of the Geoscience site

Should those proposed sites be merged into one Geoscience site? I believe that this would help improve the viability of the earth science proposals.

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And don't forget Geophysics, Hydrology, Atmospheric Science, etc. (although ... does it have to be 'Geo' ... the planetary folks always seem to get left out, just because they're not on earth, but the American Geophysical Union and the Eurpean Geophysical Union still accepts them. (even space & solar physics) –  Joe Dec 23 '11 at 16:33
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I'd add Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences to the list. –  Ambo100 Jan 20 '12 at 13:04
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merging geology, meteorology/atmosphere and oceanography... doesn't make big sense AFAIK. The followers will add up of course, but there's no big overlap - most people will cover only one of these areas and will know nothing of the other, so there's no real benefit in merging .. that's what I think. –  Tomas Feb 16 '12 at 16:20
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The issue is that all the independent topics are failing to get any traction at all. Astronomy is struggling to get out of beta. If we want something that can get out of beta, then we have to merge them all (just like the AGU merges them all). The main Stackoverflow also has a bunch of unrelated topics, but the use of topic tags helps keep it usable for everyone. –  InquilineKea Feb 23 '12 at 16:05
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Would be good if this discussion could be made into a community wiki. It's out of date (environmental science has been removed, numbers and dates have changed, scopes have probably changed slightly for some proposals...), and it'd be nice if people could add links to more proposals as they come up. –  naught101 Feb 25 '12 at 2:44
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There is now an Oceanography proposal here. –  borticus May 16 '12 at 15:42
    
I would rename it Planetary Science and merge Geology and Geoscience into it. –  Usagi Aug 18 '12 at 21:48
    
@Usagi: Geoscience already encompasses geology. Plantary science is more ambiguous: it sounds like it includes astronomy, which it doesn't. –  naught101 Aug 24 '12 at 1:12
    
@naught101 - That is understandable but is the site being targeted at scientists, who will know what planetary science actually is, or the general public? –  Usagi Aug 24 '12 at 20:29
    
Usagi: questions will be coming mostly from the general public/enthusiasts, and less so from active scientists (as with most other SE sites). So the confusion will be common, and make for a lot of moderation. –  naught101 Aug 26 '12 at 2:07
    
+1 for Earth Sciences. Oceanography may include topics related to biological studies, which would also be "left out" with a name like Geoscience –  shootingstars Nov 23 '12 at 11:53
    
@naught101 i believe planetary science does incorporate spherical astronomy and orbital motion .... because climate of planets are dependent on that .. –  Sean Jan 13 '13 at 20:57
    
I would add Weather Forecasting. @naught just flagged it, hope mods can make it CW. –  Tomas Aug 9 '13 at 12:57
    
Also the restarted Climate change proposal. –  Tomas Aug 9 '13 at 14:28
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A lot of funding in geosciences is due to climate change topics, therefore it definitely makes sense to include that one. –  mace Jan 3 at 17:10

10 Answers 10

Yes, we should merge them all because we simply don't have the numbers to launch the sites individually and to infuse them with the numbers necessary to prevent them from getting closed down in the same way that Astronomy.SE and Economics.SE got closed down due to inactivity - bear in mind that there's also significantly more Economics and Astronomy activity on the Internet than there is activity on all the geoscience subjects combined.

In general, there are not many people who discuss these subjects on the Internet (I know, since I'm quite active on the associated topics on Quora, Reddit, and Physics Forums), so something like this would definitely grow if all merged into such a topic. We can follow the model of the main StackOverflow, where there are a huge number of discrete unrelated topics, and people can subscribe to individual tags.

All of these topics would fit under the geoscience journals like Nature Geoscience, and all of them would fit under an American Geophysical Union meeting. Planetary Science topics should go under this too, but it does seem that most of the Planetary Science activity on the Internet ends up on Astronomy forums. I'd be willing to append the word "Planetary Science" (and/or Oceanography) to the above description if people don't consider it too wordy.

It's not just the AGU either - numerous universities combine them all into one area - there's Caltech (Geological and Planetary Sciences + Environmental Science and Engineering), MIT (Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences), UChicago (Geophysical Sciences), Columbia (Earth and Environmental Science), Yale (Geology & Geophysics), and Brown (Geological Sciences). And even when they are all combined, they still only reach sizes that are similar to the sizes of other departments found on campus. There are only roughly as many geoscientists (of all subdisciplines combined) as there are physicists or chemists in most universities.

Moreover, in many cases, geologists often value the information contained in fields like oceanography. Geologists who want to study the history of the Earth (or stratigraphers), for example, might often talk more with oceanographers and paleontologists than with people who are more into deep-earth processes, even though both stratigraphers and deep-earth people are technically geologists.

Atmospheric Science and Oceanography are quite related to each other (through fluid dynamics), and we must also remember that there are only a handful of strong oceanography departments in the nation. Most schools (especially strong ones like MIT) put their oceanography in their Geoscience departments.

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The University of Michigan has a similar grouping called Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Science, but notably it's part of the college of engineering. I'm not sure that just because these departments are combined in terms of engineering that should lead us to combining them in terms of questions and answers. –  Adam Davis May 15 '12 at 17:53
    
We should combine them since (a) most schools combine them [so the audience will most likely see them as combined] and (b) if we just launch individual SEs, they'll most likely suffer from inactivity and meet the same fate as Astronomy.SE and Economics.SE –  InquilineKea May 15 '12 at 19:07
    
(a)If you visit the departments in the schools, you'll find they are very, very separate in almost every way. The school forces them into one building/category for convenience only - they do not see themselves as a single group. (b) The same thing will happen in an aggregate situation, because they'll still only answer questions in their field, each question will get few to no answers, and they will still languish away. The "critical mass" of users is the number of users needed to make an expert topic viable. Without this critical mass of users questions don't get answered. –  Adam Davis May 15 '12 at 19:26
    
Adding different user groups together doesn't increase the critical mass because each group needs their own critical mass to answer their own questions. It's not an issue of getting enough people in the same building talking about different things - you need enough people in the same building talking about the same thing to achieve a critical reaction that is self sustaining. A geologist visiting the site will find fewer than 20% of the questions pertain to her field, and less than 1% to her specific interest - she's not going to hang around. –  Adam Davis May 15 '12 at 19:28
    
But then why not encourage the geologist to just follow the geology tag? In the same way that we don't have a separate SE site for Javascript, but that we do have a separate tag for Javascript (stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/javascript). Anyone who goes to StackOverflow will find that only a very small minority of the questions there will pertain to their field. It certainly hasn't stopped StackOverflow from being the most active site on the network. –  InquilineKea May 15 '12 at 19:36
    
That doesn't solve the problem of critical mass. If there aren't enough people following the geology tag, posting questions, providing answers, and so forth on a daily basis, then visits will decrease as people notice the inactivity in their tag, and the site will still die. Combining the topics doesn't resolve the issue of critical mass because the different groups don't react to each other as much as they'd need to. –  Adam Davis May 15 '12 at 19:40
    
But not all geologists are going to stick with just following geology topics. Many people in the geosciences are at least somewhat interested with some of the other branches of geoscience too (atmospheric phenomena and biological phenomena are both quite relevant to many geological processes). The site will nonetheless die if it launches as geology alone simply because there are far fewer geologists than astronomers on the Internet. Also, people can request email/RSS notifications to activity in each individual tag. –  InquilineKea May 15 '12 at 19:43
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With Nature Geoscience firmly established in the publishing field and having a much wider scope that Geology/Geophysics I feel that the term "Geoscience" correctly encompasses all of the separate proposals and does so succinctly. –  Gavin Simpson Oct 17 '12 at 10:59

Earth Sciences

This answer is community wiki. Please add to it with additional sites to merge, or additional closed sites to ask for inbox-notification to previous followers.

I suggest merging the following sites into a new single proposal of Earth, Atmospheric, and Environmental Sciences (thanks to InquilineKea for the title)

Sites to merge:

Relevant closed sites:

And ideally, if StackExchange mods / staff could trigger an SE-inbox notifcation to people who'd followed relevant closed proposals too, letting them know about the new proposal, that would be great:

Related sites that shouldn't be merged:

Sites where off-topic questions can be directed, and from which we could pilfer inappropriate questions (that are appropriate here):

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How about just "Earth Sciences"? That's what this department was called at my university, and it rolls off the tongue a lot easier than "Earth, Atmospheric, and Environmental Sciences". –  naught101 Aug 27 '12 at 3:04
    
Followed this comment over at discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/questions/6290/… –  naught101 Aug 27 '12 at 3:16
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I think geosciences is better than earth sciences, because it includes space and planetary sciences. –  gerrit Oct 16 '12 at 21:47
    
Geoscience is the generally accepted collective term for all those things and more. –  Gavin Simpson Oct 17 '12 at 11:00
    
See discuss.area51.stackexchange.com/questions/7922/… for the discussion on gerrit's point. –  naught101 Oct 19 '12 at 23:59
    
Also, the name is more or less a side issue at the moment, because we can change it once in beta. What's important now is defining the scope, which means the identification of edge-cases. –  naught101 Oct 20 '12 at 0:01

I suggested merging Geology and Paleontology but that didn't get anywhere.

If a Geoscience proposal goes ahead, then the Geology proposal should be combined with it.

There's interest in all of these proposals, just not quite enough to push each individual proposal forward.

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That was my thought when I created the proposal. I wanted a place for geology and meteorology questions, but both of those proposals didn't seem to have enough steam to move make it to the commitment phase. –  Richard Nov 8 '11 at 15:45
    
why not wait longer, we waited for much broader biology.SE also very long? –  Werner Schmitt Nov 25 '11 at 14:34
    
Paleontology has a lot of cross over with biology and the study of evolution, perhaps even more than with geology. It's not entirely surprising if people wanted to keep them separate. –  naught101 Feb 6 '12 at 12:37
    
Yeah, the issue of Paleontology is a fuzzy one. It is pretty much in the Geoscience departments at both Yale and Chicago though. –  InquilineKea Feb 23 '12 at 16:06
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...And Cambridge (The Cambridge :-) ) and Durham, and probably most modern geology/earth science departments? –  winwaed Feb 23 '12 at 16:53
    
Science is a continuum, not a series of convenient boxes which you can put each one in. Palaeontology overlaps with both Geology and Biology, and you'll find that both disciplines contribute to the subject. Within Palaeontology, we're talking about the history of life throughout geologic time, and Palaeontology departments are almost invariably associated with Earth Sciences Departments at Universities and larger Museums. –  Ben Brooks Jan 12 at 0:18

I think that's a great idea. It makes sense to start broad with a topic such as Geosciences and then spin off more focused sites down the road. StackOverflow and ServerFault have spawned many child sites based on a specialized topic. Geosciences would be a good umbrella site to start with. Folks can tag specific interests within the larger site.

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it makes only sense to start a broad topic, if you have enough experts on SE for it, thats the whole point of area51 process. Just starting broad proposals without experts may kill the quality for ever like on philosophy.sE –  Werner Schmitt Nov 25 '11 at 14:33
    
@WernerSchmitt: Everyone thinks they are a philosopher. Not everyone things they're a scientist. I think a science Q&A is less likely to suffer from that problem, especially because arguments tend to be more reliant on facts (which require references), than on logic (which sometimes gets a bit subjective, or just goes missing altogether). –  naught101 Aug 27 '12 at 3:19

There is a substantial fragment to the climate change issue that is scientific and belongs under a Geo-Sciences label. However, 'Climate Change' provokes a lot of political, economic, ethical, and cultural (how to live day to day) thought.

For those reasons, I don't think Climate Change can wholly fit under the rubric of Geo-Sciences. Perhaps, though we should avoid the label 'climate change' as well because it the science and practical solutions to it have been buried under a lot of political bullshit. Yes, the climate is changing, but so many interest groups have co-opted the term to their own ends, it may turn the everyday information seeker off as too serious, controversial, not worth their time.

If the Climate Change site is to break up, I don't think the participants here should think of it as subsumed only by Geo-Sciences. Surely, there will be a lot of people who are interested in the physical science aspects of the topic and they can go to Geo-Sciences site.

However, the Sustainable Living site is in beta right now. A good fraction of discussion on climate change may actually be better located there. This would be a good way to generate discussion and thought on the matter for those not interested in the physical sciences and wanting to make a practical contribution towards solving our climate dilemma - a solution not informed by business interests, loud mouthed alarmist evangelicals, or science-phobic conservatives.

Imagine if someone had a question about climate change, typed something up on google, and got answers from a crowd-sourced, debate encouraging Q&A site - much like people find answers to their programming questions on stackoverflow. That'd be exciting.

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Seems to me it depends what people want to do as a priority - get it off the ground or discuss individual topics. Since getting it off the ground would appear to be the priority, why not do that first, see which topic dominates, then splinter later. Those active in the first will probably follow the second and feed that too. And so on. Suck it and see, in other words.

I'm not sure of the value of 'the hump' though if the priority is to get it off the ground. Seems a bit of an obstruction. It's the topics that will determine interest, not whether they have 'qualifed'.

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Interesting, but is merging is the best way to get of the ground. Is there other way ? Maybe it more related at the general visibility of SE forum. –  aberration May 13 '12 at 21:02
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It's difficult to get any proposal off the ground without merging first, due to the activity requirements. Better to merge, start, then split later if necessary. –  naught101 Aug 24 '12 at 1:32
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There is no need to splinter sites etc. SE sites have well-developed tagging system. If you are only interested in oceanography questions and answers, just follow the oceanography tag. Also, I really object to the "silo" approach to science. There is a lot we can all lrean from each other if only were talked to or were exposed to other areas outside our specialisms. –  Gavin Simpson Oct 17 '12 at 11:05

The primary issue here is critical mass. A given topic of discussion has to have enough people asking and answering questions about it to be self-sustaining and grow over time. Without that growth, the site dies. Without a sufficient number of experts on that one topic, you don't get answers. Without answers, questions languish, and people don't return. It's either an upward cycle, or a downward spiral.

Combining groups in the manner suggested by this proposal doesn't fix this problem - the critical mass does not improve, since the experts in each group will not be answering each others questions.

The site might get into beta with this method, but once the insular groups start answering their own questions the site dies more quickly. It would be as if 5 different sites started with 1/5th the normal community required by the area51 process, but sharing the same front page.

The area51 process isn't meant to prevent people from starting sites - it's meant to make sure that sites have a minimum critical mass before they start.

This proposed combination of sites and topics may allow it to do an end-run around the area51 process, but the outcome will be the same - the site will fail since none of the topics have the critical mass required to succeed.

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The thing is, though, that the main StackOverflow has a huge bunch of separate topics, and users just subscribe to the individual tags within the topics. Do people really go to each AGU meeting with lukewarm enthusiasm? The thing is, that if we launch the sites separately, they'll almost certainly meet the same fate as Astronomy.SE or Economics.SE and get closed down for inactivity. –  InquilineKea May 15 '12 at 19:10
    
@InquilineKea Stackoverflow is for expert programmers. I may not program in scala, but when I see a scala question I can understand the underlying principles and issues because it's a programming problem - it may be in a different language, but it's the same issue one might find in any other programming language, merely expressed differently. You can't easily say the same for a geologist and space scientist. New users aren't going to understand tags and tagging. They'll pop in, see that only 20% of the questions are even in their field, and only 1% are interesting to them, and leave. –  Adam Davis May 15 '12 at 19:20
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Maybe, but couldn't we try to make a Tutorial and sticky it or something? Again, I won't object to the creation of separate proposals, but the way things are now, it seems extremely likely that separate proposals will meet the same exact fate as Astronomy.SE or Economics.SE, given the low number of people in each subfield who often post on the Internet (and this problem will only be worse for Atmospheres or Oceanography because there are far fewer Atmosphere/Oceanography people online than Astronomy/Economics people online). Can we really expect enough activity to make it to 5 questions a day? –  InquilineKea May 15 '12 at 19:26
    
I've modified my answer to better describe the real problem with this proposal, which is one of critical mass. Without the critical mass of experts in each area checking the site daily, the site will still languish and die. –  Adam Davis May 15 '12 at 19:38
    
@AdamDavis: it's easier to recognise a lack of experts in a sub-field on a working site than it is to recognise them on 5 disperse proposals on Area 51. The only way to get enough critical mass to start is to merge. Then we see where we are, and try to attract experts from sub-fields that are languishing. –  naught101 Aug 24 '12 at 1:35
    
Each of the sites to merge have some adherents, just below critical mass. One site for all means some inconvenience, but it also means that some (not all) problems can be handled together, and that many (not all) users will be not only experts in one field (one tag subset), but also beginners/learners in other fields. Geosciences are close enough so that interdisciplinary nature of such a site might be a boon. Even if most users focused on their subfield, the site combined would at least survive. And it's much easier to attract experts to living beta site than to an uncertain proposal. –  Pavel V. Jun 25 '13 at 21:08

Geology was closed. Users who need reputation should pick up good questions, and move them here:

http://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/17859/geology?page=1&tab=votes#tab-top

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In my opinion, merging several various proposals that are more or less related to Geoscience topic is a good solution. Especially in commitment and beta stage.

The reason is that we need a lot of support for reaching the goal, which is Geoscience Forum Release (go public).

Later on, when the discussions are alive, we can think to develop new discussion branch. By applying this approach, I hope that Geoscience Forum would be improved and give real contribution to the society.

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I just renamed a proposal (originally Marine Science) to Oceanography. I personally think that Oceanography is distinct enough from the other aspects of geosciences to deserves its own page (but I'm an oceanographer). There are also aspects of oceanography, e.g. marine biology, that do not fit into the geosciences framework at all.

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Totally OK with you marine biology don't fit in geoscience proposal and that a major field of oceanography –  aberration May 13 '12 at 21:10
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The problem is this: is a separate Oceanography proposal going to get enough activity (at least 5 questions a day, etc...) that it won't be closed down the same way that Astronomy and Economics got closed down? There are only a small handful of universities that even have their separate oceanography departments - most of them merge them with their earth science department. –  InquilineKea May 15 '12 at 19:08
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@InquilineKea no, it looks like Oceanography is not going to get enough activity. I'd have thought the existing biology.SE could cover marine biology; and a merged geoscience proposal could cover the rest of oceanography. –  EnergyNumbers Aug 21 '12 at 9:44
    
I totally disagree; why should marine biology not fall under the geoscience umbrella? What is better, to be a part of something that launches or to be something that doesn't? You can have your own Oceanography tag to group Qs under. I'm active on Stack Overflow but only in the R tag; we considered proposing an R SE site on Area 51 but ditched it as things worked OK on the main Stack Overflow site. –  Gavin Simpson Oct 17 '12 at 11:03

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