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What topics can I ask about here?

Computational Science Stack Exchange is for questions and answers about computational methods used in technical disciplines.

First-time posters are strongly advised to read Eric Raymond's How to Ask Questions the Smart Way for advice on how to ask good questions (not for technical answers). Although written for an audience asking questions about open source software, the same advice applies when asking questions about any subject area.

This site is run by volunteers; the best way to get an answer to your question is to ask it in a way that makes it easy for someone with a broad computational science background to answer it with 15 minutes of effort or less.

Topics that are usually a good fit for this site:

  • Questions about software packages or languages used broadly in computational science (e.g., PETSc, MATLAB, Trilinos, LAPACK, SLEPc, R, NumPy, SciPy, Julia, Maple, Octave) except Mathematica (which has its own site now). In general, high-level questions (e.g., about language/package features) are best. Questions that are essentially about debugging a code sample, or about low-level language syntax are a poor fit for this site, and are usually closed; such questions should be asked on language-/package-specific forums. Package developers interested in using this site as a resource should look at this meta question. Package developers answering questions should look at this meta question for guidelines on disclosing project affiliations.
  • Questions about algorithms or methods used to solve problems in applied mathematics (e.g., finding roots of a polynomial, finding the eigenvalues/eigenvectors of a matrix, solving an elliptic/parabolic/hyperbolic PDE)
  • Questions that ask about appropriate methods for a given application area (e.g., what numerical methods would I use when modeling shock waves, what numerical methods would I use when modeling combustion, what graph algorithms would I use if I wanted to understand social networks)

There are certain subjects that will probably get better responses on our sister sites. If your question is about

  • Programming, ask on Stack Overflow, unless it is related to a computational science language (e.g. MATLAB) or requires computational science expertise to understand or answer.
  • Mathematics, ask on if it is oriented towards proofs and analytical calculation not of a numerical or computational character.
  • Physics, ask on if it is about physical theories or closed form solutions rather than computational methods.
  • Statistics, ask on CrossValidated if it is oriented more towards data collection, data mining, probability theory, and statistics, and the question is not primarily of numerical or computational character.
  • Image Processing, ask on DSP Stack Exchange unless it relates to visualizing and processing scientific data, or unless it relates to implementing a specific algorithm for image processing, as long as it is described in terms familiar to general computational scientists (because most of us are unfamiliar with image processing jargon).
  • Mathematica, ask on Mathematica Stack Exchange if it is about using Mathematica to solve problems.
  • Questions about niche software packages and bugs are generally best asked on project e-mail lists rather than on this site. For instance, questions about FEniCS are best asked on the FEniCS e-mail list.

There are certain types of questions that will probably be closed. More complete guidelines can be found in the next section.

Please look around to see if your question has been asked before. It’s also OK to ask and answer your own question.

If your question is not specifically on-topic for Computational Science Stack Exchange, it may be on topic for another Stack Exchange site. If no site currently exists that will accept your question, you may commit to or propose a new site at Area 51, the place where new Stack Exchange communities are democratically created.

For more help, see "What types of questions should I avoid asking?"