Do we really need a separate astronomy category?

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As discussed here, Astronomy is a pretty arbitrary category to have. It's not like we have a category for fundamental physics, one for mathematical physics, for atmospheric physics, geophysics, fluid dynamics, and s on.

Do we really want to keep this category, or should it be merged into the other sections, as appropriate?

The official  Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme (PACS), in common use for classifying research papers, has both words explicitly in their title. There is no reason that PO should deviate from this practice.

@ArnoldNeumaier Their categorisation for Astronomy is "Astronomy, Astrophysics, and Geophysics". Besides, our categorisation is anyway very different from PACS.

The problem is that there's some blurred area - where would a gr-qc question go?

What I had meant to say with my comment is that already the title of the classification scheme treated physics and astronomy as two subjects. So we shouldn't subsume the latter under the former.

where would a gr-qc question go?

Somewhere in 04.60.-m    Quantum gravity.

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This is basically a reconsideration of my answer to a discussion on Physics SE about the question, if astronomy should be mentioned separately in their logo to make it clear to everybody, that astronomy is on-topic there.

To me personally it always seemed that astronomy is a subfield of physics, so a natural alternative approach to how things are currently implemented would be to put theoretical astronomy questions into the theoretical physics category, expereimental astronomy questions into experimental physics category, and so on.

However, looking at how astronomy is implemented in the academic landscape, it is not the case everywhere that astronomy is treated as a subfield of physics. Here in Germany for example, we have universities with institutes explicitely named "physics and astronomy", sometimes there exist distinct departments for physics and astronomy, or astronomy is listed as a part of the "mathematical and natural sciences" faculty, etc ...

So people from places in the world where astronomy is not treated as a subfield of physics generally might need some encouragement to ask astronomy questions here. Keeping astronomy as a separate top-level category in the Q&A section is a way to try to achieve this.

answered May 27, 2015 by (6,040 points)

There are also degrees offered for things like "physics and geophysics", etc. - admittedly, they are rarer, but that's only because of the terminology (because "astronomy" is different from "astrophysics", and it's not called "astronomical physics" or something).

(Besides, as far as I know, we don't accept questions on astrochemistry, or astrobiology, right?)

So people from places in the world where astronomy is not treated as a subfield of physics generally might need some encouragement to ask astronomy questions here.

I think that the fact that we mention this in our welcome mail, is enough.

@Dimension10 but only the people who register obtain the welcom mail, whereas our astronomy category is visible to everybody. So I personally would leave it as is.

Concerning astrobiology and astrochemistry, there was once a heated dispute on Physics SE, and it seemed that people doing astronomy thought such questions should be on-topic, if astronomy as a whole is on-topic. Anyway, I think we can wait until such a question comes up to see how the community feels about it.

@Dilaton The notice at the top for first-time users says

"PhysicsOverflow is a next-generation academic platform for physicists and astronomers, including a community peer review system and a postgraduate-level discussion forum analogous to MathOverflow".

Is that not enough?

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I'd prefer to have nested categories, somewhat along the lines of the PACS classification (Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme - they keep both words in the title!). After all, the latter is a research classification, and hence adapted to our target audience. Perhaps - @polarkernel? - it is even possible to integrate the latter completely.

Then the problem of weighting fields by promoting or not promoting them to categories will be absent.

answered May 28, 2015 by (15,488 points)
edited May 28, 2015

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