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The site intend to be a Q&A site for astronomers and astrophysicists, even though amateur questions are welcome. It therefore seems to me that, since it is a "science professional" site, we should stick to scientists habits, that require to either source or mathematically demonstrate any statement. It seems to me that there are slightly to many answers that are either "Wikipedia-based" or without any proper reference at all.

Questions:

  • Am I the only one to perceive that as a problem?
  • What could/should we do to encourage members to source their answers? (if we consider that something is to be done)
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    $\begingroup$ It does bother me that there are so many unreferenced answers. Some users who call themselves professional even react with hostility to requests for references. I don't understand this behavior. Wikipedia I think is acceptable as a general reference, but should not usually be the only basis for an answer. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage Mod
    Dec 13 '13 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ Is this a professional site? Says who? Since when? $\endgroup$
    – stevenvh
    Feb 18 '14 at 10:49
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    $\begingroup$ Well, RTFM (other Astro-meta discussions for a start, as well as the definition of this SE site itself). Since the beginning it was stated that is supposed to be an expert site, for astronomers and astrophysicists. However, even though it is not in effect a professional site, it makes sense to prove, one way or another, what you state. It's science in the end, not some lousy barroom philosophy. $\endgroup$
    – MBR
    Feb 18 '14 at 13:13
  • $\begingroup$ @MBR - Well, I guess you'll have to start all over then: 90% of questions I've read are amateur questions. Which doesn't make it less of a science, BTW. $\endgroup$
    – stevenvh
    Feb 23 '14 at 17:17
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    $\begingroup$ Anyway, amateur questions don't imply amateur answers. $\endgroup$
    – MBR
    Feb 25 '14 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ I'd like to present this answer as an example of a fantastic answer that deserves every up-vote it has received. Do we really want to discourage the author of that comment, (and similar people) by placing a weird emphasis on citing sources, as if this were a journal or encyclopedia? Because if we do, we'll loose some of the people that make this place great. $\endgroup$ Apr 12 '14 at 2:15
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    $\begingroup$ @brentonstrine That author explains his answer in sufficient terms to see how he derives them. In this case you could consider the answer "sourced". Note that our help center does not require citations, merely explanations of how the information is derived. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage Mod
    Apr 14 '14 at 15:55
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I totally disagree. Downvoting should be for questions you think are wrong, not for lack of references. Astro.SE is not a peer-reviewed magazine, and I don't know where you get the idea that it is for professionals only. Most questions I've seen here so far (I'm pretty new here) are obviously amateur questions.

I've been active for some time on Electronics.SE, having posted 1800+ answers and gained 100k rep. Not once have I seen the question about references. Yet the quality of the answers is good. I see no reason why you would change the voting rules, which are

  • upvote for an answer which is useful
  • downvote for an answer which is not useful.

If you want to see pages of references then you are probably a professional and then Science or Nature may be more your cup of tea.

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I can say that you're not alone in hoping for more citations. Lately, I've been trying to add in relevant sources I can to my answers, which (hopefully) has the side effect of encouraging others to follow those lines to learn more. So I, too believe that more citations would be a good thing.

But there are a lot of cases where citations might be unnecessary. in cases of "common knowledge" - i.e. where facts are readily available, to the point where the majority of people would know them. Problem is, each person has a different definition of what facts constitute "common knowledge". To a sixth-grader, it is "common knowledge" that the Milky Way is a galaxy, while to me, an astronomy enthusiast, it is "common knowledge" that the Messier designation for the Andromeda galaxy is M31. So answers that contain these types of facts may not need citations. Ultimately, though, if the OP wants more sources, s/he has every right to ask for more.

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I think the best course of action is to downvote unsourced or poorly sourced answers, and make a comment regarding how the answer can be improved.

Of course, for users who are new to the site, you may choose to comment and talk to them before downvoting, but if their question or answer remains unchanged for a while you should either downvote or improve yourself. Otherwise, the Stack Exchange model for quality will fail.

For more information on how this is in line with the Stack Exchange system, see What is the exact meaning of a downvote/upvote?. Relevant portion:

The goal of voting is to help steer people on the site to do the right kind of behavior you think should be on the site by rewarding the user with points and by sorting their content to the top.

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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with this. There are people who are well capable and knowledgeable enough to give good and valid answers out of their head without looking at any source at all, by doing a calculation themself, etc ... It depends on the (type of) question and IMHO one should use a good common sense and discretion to decide if a reference is needed by all means or if an answer is good and can stand as it is. IMHO answers should be judged according their correctnes, instead of sourcedness. This pragmatic approache works on Physics SE (and is not the reason for any problems there ...) $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Dec 13 '13 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ I mean the correctness of an answer, how well and clearly it explains things, etc should be much more important than the sourcedness. An answer where the poster just summarizes what he has read from different sources without really understanding it and therefore messes stuff up can be useless even if it is well sourced (I have observed such answers here), whereas a well explained clear correct answer can be very helpful and valuable even if it is not or badly sourced so to speak. And by no means should IMHO good correct answers be downvotet just because of the sourcedness issue ... $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Dec 13 '13 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilation "unsourced or poorly sourced" I never said you should downvote just because an answer is unsourced. If the person posting is knowledgeable enough and this is verfiable, then sourcing may be omitted and this answer would not be considered poorly sourced. Basically, the person posting the information is the source. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage Mod
    Dec 13 '13 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ Many times, however, it is difficult to determine the correctness of an answer without sources, so unless a user's knowledge is well established it might be better to provide a basis for the information. Downvoting is acceptable if a user has no basis from which to assess the correctness of the answer. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage Mod
    Dec 13 '13 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ ah ok I see, thanks for the clarification. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Dec 13 '13 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ in case I can not evaluate the correctness of an answer myself, I just leave this task for others who can do it and do not vote at all. Downvoting answers because I personally can not assess their correctness but maybe there are other more knowledgeable people who can, in particular about topics I am not knowledgeable enough, would seem a bit unfair to me. But this is just me and probably you did not mean it like this... $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Dec 13 '13 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ I think it is also personal preference - I will not upvote an unreferenced answer and will not accept any Wikipedia based replies. That is just my personal preference, each has their own. $\endgroup$
    – user8
    Dec 14 '13 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton It is indeed a good think to focus on the correctness of an answer more than on a sourcedness, but in most cases, I think it should be not to difficult for the user to source (or justify one way or another) its answer. And even if the others can potentially check the correctness of the answer, it can be sometimes difficult to show how an answer is incorrect (it is in general easier to affirm things than to demonstrate their incorrectness). In the other hand, if it becomes a "bad habit" to answer without sourcing, it can become a huge task to double-check every poorly-sourced answer. $\endgroup$
    – MBR
    Dec 16 '13 at 9:23
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    $\begingroup$ Downvoting answers for being poorly cited completely breaks from the Stack Exchange convention of what up/down votes mean. If I come in from Google to a question and I see an answer voted -5, I assume that it's wrong (not that it's correct but poorly cited). If I see an answer voted +10, I assume it's useful. If I am writing a research paper, I should not be using this site at all, though I may upvote an answer which cites a good resource. $\endgroup$ Apr 11 '14 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ @brentonstrine That's not what Stack Exchange says: meta.gamedev.stackexchange.com/a/497 $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage Mod
    Apr 14 '14 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ That link mentions "research effort" in the rubric for up/down votes on questions. For answers research effort is removed from the meaning. Up means "useful" down means "not useful." Voting up and down for any other reason (e.g. "this is useful, but not well cited, so I will downvote") breaks the convention. $\endgroup$ Apr 14 '14 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ @brentonstrine Please see the relevant portion quoted in my answer above. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage Mod
    Apr 15 '14 at 13:39

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