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Mass Spectrometry has recently been proposed in the Science section on Area 51 by Chris Herold, the president of MSACL (Mass Spectrometry & Advances in the Clinical Lab). I have no affiliation with this association (aside from occasionally listening to their webinars and podcast), but I'd like to inform those who are interested in MS and discuss whether establishing the new dedicated SE site for analytical technique is justified and probably have some barebone ideas how it should be shaped from its main users likely found on Chemistry.SE.

Why am I writing this?

Chemistry.SE definitely has interested and competent users. At the moment of writing (Q1 2022) we have over two hundred questions and only about every fifth of them remains unanswered.

We lack narrowed-down and distinctive tags like electrospray-ionization, orbitrap or even liquid-chromatography — not because we don't want them, but because we target broader audience by design. Having a broader selection of specific tags isn't crucial because of full-text search (duh!), but might help to structure and analyze relevant Q&As faster.

As big Chemistry.SE is (well, not really, but still we are now 4th among Science-oriented SE sites :)), externalizing MS is likely going to attract more specialists from the field, as it happened with Matter Modelling, especially considering the network Chris is likely to bring alongside and, hopefully, maintain.

Are there any further ideas and proposals from the chemistry community?

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    $\begingroup$ As an NMR spectroscopist........................ $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol Mod
    Mar 1 at 12:42
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    $\begingroup$ @orthocresol We love you regardless (LUMO, no HOMO :) ) $\endgroup$
    – andselisk Mod
    Mar 1 at 12:56
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    $\begingroup$ I've seen the proposal about a crystallography site fail unfortunately even though I thought that there is a lot of potential. Hence I want so keen about matter modeling at first. Then again, if you get the right momentum you can succeed. So I can support this proposal, I could even commit to it, but I likely will fail that commitment because I have not enough knowledge about this... $\endgroup$ Mar 1 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin-マーチン That's a bummer. I wasn't aware about the crystallography proposal. Has it been a long time ago, or is it just me living under a rock? Maybe you could share relevant details in an answer — like why you think it failed and what {c|sh}ould be done differently this time? $\endgroup$
    – andselisk Mod
    Mar 1 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ @andselisk I don't remember and all evidence of the proposal is probably gone now. I believe it was about 5ish years ago. So I do not have any details. There isn't - or at least I cannot find it - a discussion here. So we're one step further. I think if you want to know how you can succeed, then look at matter modeling. It takes a lot of effort and a few people constantly pushing for it. Well, remember Nike, how he almost harassed our site to death… $\endgroup$ Mar 2 at 22:17
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    $\begingroup$ I went ahead and did a thing: Would it be okay to use questions from an existing Stack Exchange site as example questions? $\endgroup$ Mar 4 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ It was stalling for some time and now it's closed. Unfortunately. It's simply not enough to have the idea, you actually have to harass about 200+ people to actually get it off the ground within half a year. Nike pretty much proved that this strategy may work with matter modeling. $\endgroup$ Apr 29 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ Why limit it to mass spectrometry rather than, say, analytical chemistry? $\endgroup$
    – theorist
    Jun 13 at 18:38

2 Answers 2

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For what it's worth, my take is that anything that attract more specialists to the SE network is a good thing.

even if it's mass spectrometry

The only question is whether they can reach the "critical mass" needed to get out of Area 51. I'm a bit pessimistic, because this is slightly niche and I've seen more general proposals fail, but honestly: I would love to be proven wrong.

As for further ideas & proposals, I'm not sure. I know that (at least in my field of NMR) there are actually a lot of people who are willing to offer help and answer questions; I've seen this partly on Chem.SE, but also on other social media including Reddit & Twitter. (And these are people who genuinely know stuff, not just randos who talk rubbish.) But the process of starting a new site invariably involves a lot of advertisement, and I'm not sure I'm willing to go all-out for that...

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    $\begingroup$ I must admit Reddit is not that bad when it comes to natural sciences, and it has massive audience, which is also a plus, at least, for the pre-beta Area 51 state. $\endgroup$
    – andselisk Mod
    Mar 1 at 18:56
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One way to give the proposal more "mass" would be to expand the scope and rename it something like Analytical Techniques.

  • sample preparation
  • instrument function and operation
  • data analysis and interpretation
  • databases and reference sources

This way crystallography, NMR, FTIR, MS, XRD, microscopy (electron and otherwise) and other folks could mingle together and learn from each other.

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    $\begingroup$ Or "Chemical Analysis". "Analytical Techniques" is very general and could apply to many fields beyond chemistry (music, mathematics, poetry, …). $\endgroup$ Mar 11 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ @RayButterworth Ya, but that was precisely my intent, to make sure the appeal was broad enough so that it had critical mass and wouldn't fizzle, and provide an opportunity for people in several fields to both answer and ask. See the first half-dozen comments under andselisk's answer. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 11 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ This should probably be a discussion on area 51 itself. It won't reach enough recognition here. In the other hand, I fear this might broaden it way too far and generate too much overlap with this site. It might not be beneficial to the proposal at all. $\endgroup$ Mar 14 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, but I didn't understand your response. I also still think that this is not the right place to have this discussion. $\endgroup$ Mar 15 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin-マーチン my comment may be ambiguous because I was trying to say something without saying it too strongly and it's not a completely formed thought, so I guess it's "thinking out loud" at this point and therefore no longer needed. Probably this comment is no longer needed either. I may some day be able to figure out a good and productive way to as "Can sites ever get too big?" in the main meta, or then again I may not. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 15 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin-マーチン this may not be relevant here, but per my previous ambiguous comment about site scope I wrote this about Physics SE. It does not apply to Chemistry SE, feel free to delete this once read. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Apr 7 at 5:49

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