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There have been a number of examples, (Why does evolution not make our life longer?, Is evolution a fact?, If evolution is not about increased complexity, why does so much complexity evolve?), where questions that were either considered to be on-topic for the site and were not closed or were closed after several answers had been posted generated many answers that were either unreferenced or were purely based on opinion.

Users who come to this site to look up answers who are unfamiliar with the Stack Exchange model and how the Biology SE community work, may not be aware that there could be problems with an answer that has been upvoted but is not properly referenced. The community needs to have a way to address these types of answers and at the very least be able to add a warning that the answer may lack the necessary facts to be considered a quality answer.

Also, unreferenced answers provide no opportunity for either the OP or someone reading the answer to research deeper, as they would be able to do by reading the source material provided in a properly referenced answer.

Given that we only have two non-moderator users who are active daily that have the 20,000 Reputation needed to propose answer deletions, the community has very little recourse to address poor answers other than with comments or downvotes. The issues are that comments can often be ignored or deleted, and in some cases, an answer may receive a significant number of upvotes, even if it lacks quality, which negates the effect that downvotes should carry.

Currently the only recourse that carries any weight is to raise a moderator flag, which on a mostly good answer that is missing citations is a waste of the moderators' time. Also, unless the question and answers are contentious, people may not think to flag an answer that doesn't provide references, even though it would improve the quality of the answer provided.

At present, moderators have the option of adding the following banner to answers that they feel need to have references and citations.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

I think that it would be worthwhile to add voting functionality similar to the close vote function for answers, so that the community could put to a vote whether or not an answer is lacking because it has not been properly referenced.

A successful vote would add the banner to the answer, and it could follow the same guidelines for a successful vote as are in place for a close vote.

If an edit is raised to the question, then it would go into a "Remove Banner" queue, similar to the reopen queue, so that if the poster makes an effort to add sufficient references, then the banner can be removed.

If the answer is not fixed after a certain period of time, then it may be worthwhile to move it to a delete queue, or have some form of penalty for not complying with the banner request to add references, such as loss of reputation from all upvotes on the unreferenced answer.

I would also suggest that a disclaimer to the effect of "Unreferenced answers may not be reliable and should be read with caution," should be added to the banner so that those coming to the answer at a later time understands that they need to do more than just read the answer, even if accepted or upvoted, to determine if it is factually correct.

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  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps we should also add that the reasons users have voted in favour of a citation banner "can include potential flaws in information" or something to that effect - generally I think these flags will be used to request citations for claims that are controversial, when something is wrongly/poorly stated, or opinions stated as if fact. This would make it clear that the specific answer may have real problems in its content and should be interpretted with caution. $\endgroup$ – rg255 Jan 15 '16 at 6:52
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps we can post some texts as answers and vote up and down on possible wording $\endgroup$ – rg255 Jan 15 '16 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ Sorely needed. Done on Health. Beware explosives. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Jan 15 '16 at 7:21
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    $\begingroup$ What do they use as text on Health? @anongoodnurse $\endgroup$ – rg255 Jan 15 '16 at 7:24
  • $\begingroup$ @rg255 - The standard one you quoted in your second answer. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Jan 15 '16 at 7:28
  • $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse Are you saying that it's possible to vote to close answers at Health-SE? I thought that this would have to go through, and been included in, SE as a whole. $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Jan 15 '16 at 11:46
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    $\begingroup$ @fileunderwater - Not close, but delete. Place a post notice and if they don't add support for the answer, simply delete. If it's a good answer, we give more time; if it's bad, less. The site is slow enough that flagging for lack of sources is not a burden, and we're committed to sources for all answers, so it works. A lot of people find it offensive, though. How dare you not believe me and all that. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Jan 15 '16 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse I think on a Beta stack, the vote to delete comes at a much lower reputation level. Once the site "graduates" the vote to delete is reserved for 20K rep and above. Also unless they are Mods there are a lot of restrictions, such as the answer must be down voted, etc. $\endgroup$ – AMR Jan 15 '16 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ Privileges for Trusted users on Bio at 20K biology.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/trusted-user and for Health at 4K health.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/trusted-user $\endgroup$ – AMR Jan 15 '16 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ @AMR The mods delete. Because there's consensus, it gets done. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Jan 15 '16 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse on Health, you are basically a de facto moderator, and you are the only user that has that privilege. Right now only Christiaan and Remi of the active users and Shigeta have that privilege here. This request is more along the lines of the privilege that you get at 3k with the vote to close. It gives us more opportunity to catch problems without bogging down the moderators. We can leave them to deal with the things that need to be deleted right off the bat. $\endgroup$ – AMR Jan 15 '16 at 18:21
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    $\begingroup$ @AMR - I understand this. If the site is commtted to doing this, the mods can do it. But for regular users to do it, SO would need to change your site's privileges. Will it be done? I don't think so, but maybe. It's worth a try. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Jan 15 '16 at 18:27
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I think the current banner is too ineffectual, and should

i) Be more strongly worded

ii) Answers with the banner should be faded out (the same as highly downvoted answers) to highlight to other users that there are issues with the answer before they read it.

iii) Anyone who (up)votes on a banner-marked answer should get a pop-up notification that they should reconsider voting given that the answer falls short on some of the standards set by Biology SE.


Current Banner:

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.


Proposed text:

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unreferenced answers may not be reliable, and are often highlited because they present opinions as fact, make disputed claims, or contain information that may be incorrect, and should be read with caution as a result.

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Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unreferenced answers may not be reliable, and are often highlited because they present opinions as fact, make disputed claims, or contain information that may be incorrect, and should be read with caution as a result.

I include the detail about answer quality (false facts and strong opinions) to highlight that most questions with this banner are highlighted for such reasons - uncited claims are often fine if they are generally accepted truths in the biologically community. For example, I could write that "Sharks are a fish" - no one will dispute that.

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Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

This is the text as it currently is when mods add the banner.

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