There aren't enough experts and expert-level questions on the site.
A long-standing criticism of this site is that there are too many non-expert level questions. This makes the site less appealing towards PhD students, academics, and professionals. There are some high level questions here and there, but you have to sift through a lot of lower quality questions to find them. Some others may not feel the same way, but I suspect that many PhD students and academics who are NOT currently regular users don't participate because of this. I suspect those many of those that are regular users begrudgingly accept it. Here are some previous meta posts that cite this problem:
- I think the problem this site has is a lack of experts
- We need more PHDs/Professionals on this site/why are we not getting them
The anecdote told in the second post is telling:
This week I actively approached a couple of professors and working economists I know and told them about the site. Most of them nodded their heads and said "yeah sure whenever I have time I'll check it out". One of them told me he heard of the site but was not impressed by the content to actively participate.
Past Attempts at a Solution
Here are a few solutions that I believe have been tried or proposed in the past, as indicated by relevant meta posts.
- Simply invite more experts to participate: How many experts did $you$ invite today?
- Start a separate site for experts only, like Math Overflow is to Math StackExchange: Who are PhDs and PhD candidates on this site?
- Create a separate tag for these expert questions (e.g. academic-graduate): Meta filter: Layman/Academic/Real World
I believe that these previous attempt have had a hard time succeeding for the following reasons. Inviting more experts is hard and experts are in relatively short supply relative to, say, undergraduates asking homework-style questions. A separate site for experts would be nice, but seems unlikely unless there is far more participation from experts on the site than there currently is. Maybe this would be viable in the future, but there needs to be a way to attract more experts now. Creating a separate tag for expert-level questions might work, but it takes more buy-in than we currently have. Furthermore, and this brings me to my point, adding a specific tag to these questions puts an additional burden on the person asking the question.
Short description: Require that each question that isn't an "expert-level question" be tagged as a beginner question.
Detailed description: We should continue to strictly enforce the policy of closing off-topic questions, poorly crafted questions, and pure homework questions. We should also continue to invite experts, etc. I propose that we also institute a policy that every question that doesn't meet the standards of being considered an expert-level question MUST be tagged as beginner. We would need to decide on what is considered an expert-level question, which is admittedly subjective. However, as a rule of thumb, I would suggest that if it is the kind of question that a PhD student or higher would ask or encounter in a PhD-level class, then it counts. This includes questions about institutional details that might be important to PhD level research as well. Essentially, I would want to exclude questions that an undergraduate would ask or that a student would encounter in an undergraduate-level class.
Why I think this works:
- The previous solution of giving expert level questions their own tag put the burden of tagging questions on the author of the question. We want to make this site as friendly as possible towards experts, so the burden should be put on the writer of beginner-level questions.
- A question writer only gets 5 tags to apply to their question. This requirement automatically takes away one of them. This burden should be imposed on beginners.
- Furthermore, the site provides the ability to hide or "gray-out" questions that belong to a certain tag. You can also add certain tags to you "Watched Tags" list, but this only sends you notifications or emails. If all beginner-level questions were tagged as beginner questions, then you could hide or gray-out all of these questions on the home page. For example, the image below demonstrates what the home page will look like when I choose to gray out all questions tagged "macroeconomics". If I wanted, I could choose to hide them entirely:
- This is a low-stakes change to the site policy. It doesn't require us to all-of-the-sudden start closing a lot of questions (though we should likely adopt a more strict policy in this regard at some point). For now, all this requires is adding one simple label to each question. This can be done by any user easily by simply suggesting an edit to a question and it can be undone easily if it was mistakenly applied.
Do you agree?
I believe that adding these tags should be relatively easy to do. It's pretty easy to spot a beginner level question and suggest an edit. It's fairly easy to edit a question for the purposes of adding a tag. We don't necessarily need to update old questions to have this tag, as long as we are strict about requiring it on new questions. If we want, we can slowly update older questions over time.
There may be other solutions out there. Please offer solutions if you have any in the answers to this post below. I will post a copy-pasted excerpt from my above proposal as an answer below. Upvote it if you like my proposal. Suggest another solution or vote on other given answers if you like another solution better. Upvote this question if you believe that at least something needs to be done. Thanks!