Related: this Meta question, which has no answers after five years.

There seems to be an issue with the "hard science" tag. First, it should have an automatic banner to remind potential answer authors that it's either a) been applied in error, or b) the questioner should be encouraged to clarify, when it's not really a hard science question, else c) it really does merit equations and references.

Second, there really needs to be a clear policy on when to remove the tag. For instance, this question is tagged "hard science" but isn't asked in a way that can really be answered with equations etc. -- it's not a hard science question at all (I answered based on the question content without noticing the "hard science" tag, and can't even hide my accepted answer now that L.Dutch has added the reminder banner).

Third, there needs to be a way to delay acceptance of answers that don't meet the tag, if it's genuinely warranted. As things stand, a new user can post a question that isn't worded like "hard science" and isn't really answerable with equations and references (perhaps because the answer is such common knowledge that people who know the answer don't recall where or even how many times they've read it), and without a reminder banner an experienced user can answer the question in the spirit it was asked, and be caught out with an unacceptable "may be removed" answer that's been accepted by the new user.

For the reference question, the simple solution is to remove the "hard science" tag -- but the fact this can happen points to flaws related to this tag that really need to be addressed. I can see where it makes sense to have the tag for certain questions -- like ones about stability of multi-body stellar systems with planets, for instance -- but it needs to be better guarded, perhaps even vetted.

Edit to add: this question is a fine example of what I was seeking a solution for: even the asker has admitted they misunderstood the hard-science tag, but the question has been closed because unanswerable with hard-science and one or more answers have been deleted because "not a hard science answer".

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    $\begingroup$ I suppose we could make a new review queue, which allows higher-rep users to examine the Hard Science tag. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 11:33

4 Answers 4


Tag misuse is not limited to the hard science tag. I often see worldbuilding process and other tags just thrown there without any founded reason.

Usually this involves unexperienced users, who do not stop at reading the tag wiki when choosing one, and who often do not react to comments asking for clarification/improvements.

I think in such cases the community can step in and edit the question with better fitting tags, if that is clear enough from the question itself. Other cases instead, like placing both hard science and science based, are a bit more tricky and should at first attempt calling for the OP clarification of intents.

Enforcing an automatic banner is not really feasible, I am afraid, as it would require developer's work to the benefit of only 1 community.

For the question you mentioned, I have just now replaced the tag with science based and removed the banner.

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, what we need and what's practical to get aren't at all the same. Too much like real life... :P $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ +1 "I think in such cases the community can step in and edit the question with better fitting tags" agree, did that a few times in the last weeks.. and I always provide an explanation comment and tell the opener he/she can undo my change. Sometimes I bold the question text. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 15:43

If I am not mistaken, applies to answers and not questions. It is an indicator of the questioner's expectations for the answers.

I believe that it would be more prudent (and constructive) to clarify with the OP what kind of answers they would like to receive instead of relying on subjective interpretations of the answerers and removing tags without the OPs input.

It is also my experience that any question can be answered with references to academic research unless the question asks for personal preferences. (The latter are off-topic on the WB.SE so they are of no concern.) Most of the time people cannot support their answers with references not because there are no references but because their own familiarity with the topic is not deep enough.

Please note that I see as a request for academic papers and equations (when applicable). I also do not think that this tag should be limited to natural sciences since social sciences also have a significant body of research that could (and should) be used to support answers. This point of view was affirmed previously.

  • $\begingroup$ I'll just add that it's harder to find corresponding references to deviating or two-ways topics, so it can requires sometimes even more knowledge than usual to provide them $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 21:17

One step beyond LDutch' remark..

Remove the tag option "hard-science" for the opener

Tags on forums are useful. They help to keep sorted lists on certain subjects.

But hard-science is actually not a subject, it is a criterion mods have put. Why does the opener have to decide about it.. when a science based answer pops up, we can always mark the topic hard-science, honouring the question and the answer. At the same time, the banner is put..

In short: why not take care of the "hard-science" tag as peer-mods, that is 100% ?

.. and assign it afterward

Why does this question not get assigned "science based" or "hard-science" ?

What speed could a Nicoll-Dyson beam propel a solar sail ship to?

The opener did not put any science tag.. but asking for numbers, this would qualify for hard-science. The mods have not changed the question.. it's a good question.. but both answers specified deserve a science tag, science-based at least. !

It could help prevent early closures..

The opener most times does not know about the subtle differences between "reality check", "science based" and "hard-science" tags. A request to the opener, to change a tag, which is then refused or ignored by the opener, can yield endless comment discussions and closure. While the question could be interesting in its own right, without the tag.


I never even notice what tags are on posts, unless they are put in the text and have a little box as in this case. The people asking aren't thinking about tags until the software demands them to. The easiest way to end tag abuse is to stop prompting people to add tags. People who probably think "hard science" is widely applicable because they remember Science class was hard. :) The people who care will continue to add tags, and do it right.


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