# How about a voluntary survey of physics education for users of the site.

I'm interested in answers to questions like

Took HS physics? Physics or math major or minor? Last class taken?
Teacher? Researcher? Published papers in Phys? Reads any phys journals? Which? Member APS or equiv. society?

Follows certain topics on arxiv? Which? Occasionally? often?

Last few physics books read? Understood?

Last few (semi)popular math/phys books read.

People could post excerpts on their profile.

• If you say survey, how do you propose we go about collecting data? Does SE have an inherent mechanism for that? Adding data to profile in arbitrary manner definitely doesn't help to collect the data (at least if you don't want to go watching 1000 users' profiles yourself). – Marek Dec 26 '10 at 21:31
• We could start with a survey on education level. This way, we would post a question, and then each answer would be one possible education level (undergraduate, doc, post-doc, etc) and people would up-vote their respective answers. Of course, nothing keeps people from voting for multiple answers, but we could just ask them not to. =) – Malabarba Dec 26 '10 at 21:56
• Or someone could use a dedicated survey site to create the survey and just link to it here. – David Z Dec 27 '10 at 6:39
• @sjgoldberg Could you be more specific about why you want this survey? For example, would it be helpful in figuring out which sorts of questions to close and which to leave open? Or do you just want to know? – Mark Eichenlaub Dec 27 '10 at 7:50
• The idea is more or less obsolete now that the site is becoming successful, with practicing physicists gaining more influence in voting over interested amateurs. – sigoldberg1 Jan 27 '11 at 14:50

Posting questions simply to poll the participants would not be an appropriate use for the site.

E.g. What is the last Physics class you took? [closed as off topic]

Even in the context of Q&A, users sometime post questions that are little more than a survey of the participants. Usually, those questions are (or at least should be) closed as off topic.

E.g. What do you think of this physics book? [closed as off topic]

Stack Exchange sites are to provide canonical answers to specific, answerable questions. Polling might be useful (or even fun, for the curious), but it simply is not what we do here.

• I was not thinking of a question on the site actually, more like a banner or faq suggestion asking people to include a few details in their profiles, like what their highest level of physics education was, so we could guess how to answer questions better. – sigoldberg1 Dec 29 '10 at 7:35
• Polling might be usefull (or even fun, for the curious) another reason to implement The fourth place: Polling, Recommendations and subjective-ish stuff – Tobias Kienzler Jan 4 '11 at 9:00
• @Tobias Nice idea, good to know. – user68 Jan 26 '11 at 21:57

I don't think it is a good idea if the SE system does not have a specific tool for that. The site is optimized for Q&A but not for a poll.

So, despite agreeing that this would be very nice, I don't think that there is a way of implementing in in practice.

• Uh, couldn't we make it entirely informal, using a tool external to the site even? Or is that forbidden? – Carl Brannen Jan 30 '11 at 0:52