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I saw an increase in the number of closed questions on the main page. From 46 questions I counted, 14 were closed. I understand biology overlaps with many fields so I checked "Computer Science" (14 questions on front page, 0 closed) and Mathematics (96 questions, 4 closed).

Many questions in Biology are marked as off-topic but are actually on topic. Here is a list composed of the off-topic I consider on topic (not all off-topic)

Why can't SCUBA tanks use pure oxygen, but deliver it to you through the regulator at a fifth the normal rate? - is a "general questions about biological concepts"
Do airsacs contract and expand when birds breathe? - is a question about a biological mechanisms
Difference between embryo and stem cells? - is a "general questions about biological concepts"
sequence specific endoribonuclease - full disclosure, I asked it. is a "question about techniques in a biological or biochemical laboratory". It is marked as homework question. I got good possible answers in the comments.
Why doesn't oxygen give us 'the bends' like nitrogen does? - - is a "general questions about biological concepts"

This question was marked as need clarity (not off-topic) but is very clear to me Reviving an animal heart using electrodes

This posts do not have a comment recommending the author to change their question or explaining what is going on. This is NOT USER FRIENDLY, this does not allow the community to grow and is not positive criticism.

Many of these questions are general biology questions, not very sophisticated, but it is written that "Biology Stack Exchange is for people studying biology at any level".

I don't know how the process of closing a post works, I would like to know if this is the accepted policy of the Biology site, to close many questions and without explanation.

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  • $\begingroup$ Just a note on the downvotes this post has received: voting works differently on Meta sites - an upvote means you agree with or are in favor of the thing being discussed, a downvote means you disagree or are not in favor of it. This is why votes on Meta sites don't affect your reputation (except on Meta Stack Exchange, but that's different). $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Feb 1 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ I voted +1 because this question led me to realizing that the "close notice" displayed publicly for our Homework close reason is quite misleading. This is something we can improve as far as clarity, even if I disagree with some of the rest of the post. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Feb 1 at 22:12
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    $\begingroup$ Have after a long time returned to biology exchange to give it another try, and too felt very irritated about above and this site. Additionally, comments often seem to broadly postulate error or misunderstanding on side of OP rather than trying to politely and carefully guiding OP toward resolving uncertainty or addressing the core of their question. $\endgroup$
    – tsttst
    Feb 8 at 7:23
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with @tsttst that comments are often used inappropriately - by the measure of other SE communities, where they are intended to improve the question. Moreover, answers are often posted as comments - apparently out of fear that the actual answer could be downvoted, e.g., for being too brief, do not containing refernces, etc. $\endgroup$ Mar 10 at 12:52
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I think some of this might be confusion due to a change in how SE displays the reasons questions are closed. I think they made this change to simplify things and because they got feedback that the old wording was unfriendly; I don't agree but this isn't the place to rehash that. The area I am talking about looks like this:

enter image description here

You might only be seeing the first part of the banner: "Closed. This question is off-topic. It is not currently accepting answers". However, below this, the post author and users with sufficient rep will also see the specific reason.

These questions have been closed based on the "homework policy" at Biology.SE which requires askers to demonstrate their prior efforts. If you are able to see the full message (the OP always will), you can follow that link to this page: https://biology.stackexchange.com/help/homework It's not an issue of being "off topic" as in "not about biology", it's an issue of being "off topic" as in "not a properly scoped question for Biology.SE".

It's fine if a user comments to explain a close vote, but the information about the close reason is already there even without a comment.

I wish we had more site-specific tools to change how some of this wording displays. For the homework close reason I would prefer if we could display a different base message, but we cannot, and this is the only area that we can customize the close reasons (EDIT: actually I was wrong! it looks like we can do this; I had just remembered that Academia went through and improved all their custom notices recently). This issue has been raised before on the main meta, here: New Post Notices are live network-wide and maybe elsewhere.


In a comment, you ask "What is the benefit of closing a question?" There is a main Meta FAQ addressing this here: What is a "closed" or "duplicate" question?

In my mind, the most important thing about closed questions is that they cannot be answered in their current form. Closing questions that need attention from the OP before they fit site policies prevents people who don't know the policies from answering them, which encourages users not to improve their own posts.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you know why there's a rep threshold for viewing the close reason? I would think that new users perusing the site would benefit by seeing the specific close reason. I'm sure this has been discussed on MSE, I just can't find where... $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Feb 1 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ @MattDMo I'll look for it. It makes no sense to me. I think the idea was that it would hide the "shaming" of having your question closed by not having that text visible to everyone? Except, it's still visible to you and a lot of other people, and it's not super obvious that there are people that can't see it (the notice mentions who can see it, but is a typical user actually paying any attention to that at all??). $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Feb 1 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ @MattDMo stackoverflow.blog/2019/08/20/upcoming-on-stack-overflow is the closest I've found. "feedback that is directed toward you privately is shared publicly with anyone who views your question" (describing the old notices) and "Delivering improved, private feedback to post authors" as a goal for the new are really the closest it gets to justifying the changes. But actually I think I might be wrong and moderators can adjust the public reason... I'll look in to this further $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Feb 1 at 22:06
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Welcome to Meta. I can address the questions here to motivate the mod-team's choices to close these questions. Importantly, you focus solely on the question whether the topic of the question suits this site yes or no, whereas the mod-team and other members of this community are at least as interested in the quality of the question at hand.

  1. First and foremost, questions that are put on hold can always be edited and re-opened. Now on to the example questions you mention;
  2. Reviving an animal heart using electrodes is a one-liner and importantly, it lacks any evidence of prior research and backgrounds (how long is the heart extracted from its host, what sort of electrodes, how much current, what voltage shape etc), but most importantly, why on earth would you want to do this in the first place? Adding background, motivation, and prior research help to focus questions and attract high quality answers.
  3. Why can't SCUBA tanks use pure oxygen, but deliver it to you through the regulator at a fifth the normal rate? is arguably a better question than the former, but still lacks any prior research. There is no specific point made.
  4. Do airsacs contract and expand when birds breathe? lacks any prior research.
  5. Difference between embryo and stem cells? contains multiple questions, lacks focus and shows no signs of prior research either.
  6. sequence specific endoribonuclease has been edited and re-opened in the meantime.
  7. Why doesn't oxygen give us 'the bends' like nitrogen does?](Why doesn't oxygen give us 'the bends' like nitrogen does?) lacks details; especially when the astronauts experience the bends, as divers only suffer from it while resurfacing. I've placed a comment below the question.

I hope this helps to explain the closed questions.

I used the mod hammer in all these cases. Note that I, and other mods don't prefer to intermingle with community close-voting. However, oftentimes the close vote pile exceeds 50 posts and in general this community doesn't vote and review enough in my opinion. Reviewing and voting is important to keep this site up to standard. To support the small number of active members that do take up their tasks, I feel it my responsibility to now and then run through the review pile. If there are a lot of them to go through, I may now and then become a bit trigger happy. So thanks for this post. But again, after editing posts can always be re-opened and after editing they will automatically show up in the re-open review queue.

Indeed I ran through my close-vote queue recently and that's why the active question pages may show a spike in closed questions. A few days ago the queue exceeded 60 posts.

I always try to follow the community and almost never use the mod-hammer when the question has not received any other close votes and/or downvotes.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why don't you (general, not specifically your) comment before closing? What is the benefit of closing a question? If this is open to all levels than one can not expect every question to have a bibliography of research behind it. At least 1 new user ("Do airsacs") did previous research but failed to show it in the body of the question. My point is that by closing questions this why does not elevate the level of the site and turns away new members $\endgroup$
    – Hachiloni
    Feb 1 at 11:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Hachiloni -- I was just adding additional motivations below my answer, please see the last added paragraph. And yes, commenting is indeed a good thing to do, but the review pile becomes pretty extensive at times. I'll try to comment more, but it would help a great deal if the community would pick up their review tasks more. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD Mod
    Feb 1 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ To vote and review one need reputation. For that one needs to answer and ask questions and get upvotes. Closing a question or down voting without explaining isn't constructive. I'm not saying that we should not be critical but if you want an active community you need to explain before taking a negative action and after, otherwise people will not join and will leave. I had another question to ask but instead I sent emails to professors I know and the answer won't be available. It is better to leave a bad question open than closing a mediocre 1. $\endgroup$
    – Hachiloni
    Feb 1 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ Please note that the question you linked to also states that there are downvotes without reason and no effort to show new comers how to post. $\endgroup$
    – Hachiloni
    Feb 1 at 12:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Hachiloni Not all of this stuff needs to be done by the community towards the newcomers. At least I expect people to inform themselves on a community before they start posting there. We have ressources in the help center as well as the tour for new users, but people simply shoot their questions and tend not to read before. $\endgroup$
    – Chris Mod
    Feb 1 at 12:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Hachiloni I second Chris; we cannot always provide comments. In fact, the mod team has recently received complaints about a user who systematically guided new users to the help center that his guidance was deemed condescending to new users. It's sometimes difficult to find the time and best ways to guide new users. When questions are put on hold there's always an automatic reference to the help center and we expect people to read the close reason and click on the provided links and familiarize themselves with this site's conventions. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD Mod
    Feb 1 at 13:10
  • $\begingroup$ @AliceD — I believe I am the user you refer to and the flood of users who are uninterested in (or vehemently opposed to) learning how this site works has prompted me to cut back on leaving comments. The lesson I've learned is that commenting on poor posts isn't worth the trouble — users who respond constructively to even the most gentle suggestions are extremely rare, so I was just generating pointless extra work for you and the other moderators. $\endgroup$
    – tyersome
    Feb 3 at 2:01

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