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PhysicsOverflow Logo.svg
Type of site
Question and answer
Open peer review
OwnerRoger Cattin[1]
Created byAbhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir, Rahel Knoepfel and Roger Cattin
LaunchedApril 2014; 4 years ago (2014-04)[2]
Content license
User contributions under CC BY-SA 3.0[2]

PhysicsOverflow is a physics website that serves as a post-publication open peer review[2] platform for research papers in physics, as well as a collaborative blog and online community of physicists. It allows users to ask, answer and comment on graduate-level physics questions, post and review manuscripts from ArXiv (which lists PhysicsOverflow discussion pages among its trackbacks[3]) and other sources, and vote on both forms of content.

In addition to the two primary forms of content, the PhysicsOverflow community also welcomes discussions on unsolved problems, and hosts a chat section for discussions on topics generally of interest to physicists and students of physics, such as those related to recent events in physics, physics academia, and the publishing process.[2]


PhysicsOverflow was started in April 2014 as a physics-equivalent of MathOverflow by Rahel Knöpfel, a physics PhD at the University of Rostock, high-school student Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir, and Roger Cattin, a retired professor of computer science at the University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland.[2] The site was initially a mere question-and-answer forum, as it was started by users dissatisfied by the policies of the Physics Stack Exchange, but it was eventually expanded to include a Reviews section in October 2014.[4]

Moderation practices[edit]

PhysicsOverflow is well-known for its liberal moderation policy and hesitation to block contributors except for spam, as reflected in the website's bill of "user rights".[5][6] The content is largely community-moderated, much like MathOverflow, although exceptions have been recorded.[7][8]

Although the site's moderation policy is publicly available as part of the moderator manual, the site has been criticised for the excessive dispersion of policy-related material, such as the FAQ, the Bill of Rights, the moderator list and the Community Moderation threads, leading to reduced transparency.[9][10] In response, the site's administrators posted a bulletin of all moderation-related content on the site on the homepage.

Technical details[edit]

The PhysicsOverflow discus as it appears in the PhysicsOverflow logo.

PhysicsOverflow runs Question2Answer, an open-source Q&A software, with a custom theme and several plugins and patches.[2] Some of its plugins have been used by other Question2Answer websites, such as the Open Science Q&A and the Physics Problems Q&A.[11][12]


Quantcast records around 3000 monthly visitors and between 20,000 and 50,000 global page views to PhysicsOverflow every month, over half of whom are located in four countries: the United States (26.8%), India (9.2%), the United Kingdom (8.5%), and Germany (6.4%).[13] However, according to PhysicsOverflow's own data, only around 1500 users actually contribute content to the site, and 440 are active at a given point in time.[14]


The creation of PhysicsOverflow was well-received by the MathOverflow community.[15] PhysicsOverflow was also featured at the 5th Offtopicarium[16] and World Scientific's Asia-Pacific Physics News Letter.[17]

  • John Baez suggested the website as a platform for discussing research-level physics questions.[18]
  • Greg Bernhardt, the founder of PhysicsForums, acknowledged the site as a "very interesting development for the physics discussion communities".[19]
  • Arnold Neumaier, a professor at the University of Vienna, employs PhysicsOverflow as the platform for discussion about his Theoretical Physics FAQ.[20]
  • String theorist Lubos Motl referred to the website as a "very promising competition [to Physics Stack Exchange]".[21]
  • The University of Stavenger's cosmology department commented that PhysicsOverflow "seems to implement some interesting ideas", and that "it makes some sense the [sic] review the reviewing process".[22]
  • Urs Schreiber publicised the site, claiming it could act as a catalyst to make physics academia more open like mathematics.[23][24]

See also[edit]


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