I was just about to ask a question on math.se when I saw they had a new (I think) tool:

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From what I can tell it allows a quick way to search and include references in questions and answers:

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I think this would be very useful on physics.se - are there any plans for is to get it? if so when and if not why not?

Note this is different from that discussed here: Do we want the citation tool from Math.SE? which allows for easy citation of questions and answers - which we already have.

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    $\begingroup$ It might help to know what citations this thing searches. And perhaps how it sorts them. The example you've chosen here should be providing thousands of possibilities which would be rather overwhelming. $\endgroup$ Apr 4, 2017 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ @dmckee agreed I think the software is made to add citations when you already know the paper and thus can be more specific in the search, e.g. "Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality be Considered Complete?" instead of my example where I assumed (wrongly) it would find it. $\endgroup$ Apr 5, 2017 at 6:22
  • $\begingroup$ Previously on this site: A “cite this paper, will you?” button?, and on Meta Stack Exchange at Add explicit support for citing scientific literature. $\endgroup$ Apr 6, 2017 at 9:19

1 Answer 1


Some history on this feature: it started as a userscript written by Scott Morrison with contributions from Physics moderator Manishearth, proposed and developed on this meta.MO thread, which was then officially integrated by the SE devs into MathOverflow, and subsequently also enabled on math.se.

In principle, if we want this to be implemented on this site, it should just mean flipping a few switches dev-side. However, it's not clear to me what back-end the script is using for the search function, but if it's using things like math ZentralBlatt or MathSciNet then it is entirely plausible that the search will not have fantastic coverage over physics - and indeed it seems that it doesn't; a quick search for this paper on the math.se tool didn't find it by title, which is worrisome.

Luckily, though, if individual users want to have this, it should be plenty easy to just install the userscript (i.e. just copy this javascript file into Tampermonkey/Greasemonkey/your userscript extension of choice). As such, I propose that we gather some reasonably-sized population of users on this site, spanning as wide a range of physics subfields as possible, to take the search back-end for a test drive and see whether it actually works for physics papers in real-world usage.

Edit: as pointed out in the comments, and documented in this meta.MO thread, it appears that the math.se+MO citation search button does use a ZentralBlatt search back end, which will severely hinder its effectiveness for physics papers. The back-end should in principle be relatively independent of the front-end, so in principle it should be possible to rewrite it to use e.g. the Bielefeld Academic Search Engine or some other suitable API (which should be possible since oaDOI use BASE as their back end, and it's open sourced so we can probably learn from their calls), but it will require nontrivial adaptations.

So, if people really want this, the first thing to do is to look for a suitable back end, as proposed in Looking for a back end for a Physics SE literature citation button.

And, while we're here, I would like to propose a change to the citation formatting to make it mesh better with the standards in physics, from

Carb\'o-Dorca, Ramon, On Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox, J. Math. Chem. 41, No. 3, 209-215 (2007). ZBL1119.81009.

to something like

R. Carbó-Dorca. On Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox, J. Math. Chem. 41 no. 3, 209-215 (2007).

where in particular we should ditch the ZentralBlatt references, which are only useful to mathematicians, and add arXiv references whenever possible (which e.g. the second result in your search does not include in the citation output, even though it exists). And, if we can get the accented characters like \'o and \v{c} and the like working, it'd be nice.

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    $\begingroup$ The MathOverflow citation helper currently uses a search back-end supplied by Zentralblatt. (See this meta.MO thread.) $\endgroup$
    – user29205
    Apr 5, 2017 at 10:23
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    $\begingroup$ When I first wrote the client side tool; I think the server only supported MathSciNet. However, since then, it seems to have gained arXiv support? Yes, the backend is relatively detached from the frontend, it just needs a simple JSON API. $\endgroup$ Apr 5, 2017 at 21:46

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