The Help Center states here that questions about "biological concepts" are allowed. (Also note that the list is non-exhaustive, as it is captioned "..., including:".)

What is the spirit behind allowing questions about a "biological concept"? My understanding of the word "concept" is "things", "idea", "understanding", etc. So my understanding is that "general questions about biological concepts" means something similar to "general questions from the area of biology".

I'm asking because in a comment to an answer to a question of mine on meta (now deleted by a moderator) a 'high-reputation' user wrote "the reason I am against questions on the number of ribosomes in a cell is that they are not generally about biological concepts."

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    $\begingroup$ I have modified this question so that it correctly describes my position in relation to SE Biology and updates the status of the comment this question refers to. (I am the user mentioned.) I do not wish to answer this question. I would suggest that it would be better to wait until there is an actual rejected question to discuss. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Oct 14, 2019 at 9:51

1 Answer 1


Other resources:

In addition to finding a definition for "biological concept" be sure to check other relevant help topics:

"Don't Ask"


"How to Ask"


You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face


Make it relevant to others

The meta of meta:

The opinion of one user about what should and should not be on- and off-topic is not canon. Meta is a good place to share opinions on what should be on- and off-topic, and people can show agreement or disagreement by voting. Please don't target one user or make this about being right and wrong: there's no need to call someone out when you disagree with them, just make your own point known (this is often best done by posting your own answer).

Your specific example:

the reason I am against questions on the number of ribosomes in a cell is that they are not generally about biological concepts.

I personally agree with this sentiment, but I would have phrased it a little differently. In my opinion, there is little value in "trivia-like" questions. This is not a trivia site, and trivia questions tend to take more effort to answer to our standards than they are worth. There tend to be freely available answers all over the poorly-sourced web that are sufficient for the curious, and yet little actually scientific study because these questions tend to not be that biologically important.

To make one of these trivia-like questions on-topic, I would recommend following the two bullets I highlighted above: making questions about actual problems and relevant to others. The key way to do this is to provide context for why the answer is relevant. "I'm curious" by itself isn't a great explanation.

Additionally, I would argue that providing context helps keep a question in the spirit of being about a biological concept, rather than trivia.

Importantly providing additional context helps answers to be more relevant to what the poster is actually asking, avoids XY problems where the asker thinks a piece of information will help them but it really will not, and makes it more likely the question and answer will be useful to future users.

disclaimer: I'm a moderator but I'm not intending this answer to be definitive or to speak for other moderators; I would likely comment on such a question to suggest improvements but would not use my overriding close vote, even though I may have used my close vote when I was a regular user

  • $\begingroup$ Re "no need to call someone out": I agree. However, without stating the reason for this question it would have been at risk of being closed as "not based on an actual problem" because many close-voters wrongly assume that there is no actual problem if they don't see proof of one, and act upon this wrong assumption. $\endgroup$
    – root
    Oct 24, 2019 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ "Make it relevant to others" is listed under "[tips to] improve your chances of getting an answer" and described as a way of getting additional (!) people "interested (!) in the question", i.e. it is optional and thus shouldn't be a reason for closing. If being relevant to others were obligatory, we would need an objective procedure to evaluate such relevance, and it should be listed as a requirement (i.e. here). $\endgroup$
    – root
    Oct 24, 2019 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ Re "biologically important"/"trivia": meta.stackexchange.com/questions/334963/… $\endgroup$
    – root
    Oct 24, 2019 at 18:45

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