There's been a rash of very specific questions about how to use the interface for a computational neuroscience software program. I know we have discussed this to a certain extent here, but I am wondering how the community feels about a pile of very interface-related questions without any relevance to cog/neurosci itself. It seems to me that they don't make the site stronger, and they don't relate to cognition in any way but are purely about the use of that program--which is, however, a program specific to computational neuroscience.

I would rather see one more general question about help/FAQs/resources for using this program that several very specific questions about using the interface, but that's my own opinion. What's the community view on this? Yea? Nay?

  • Great question. The topic has been buzzing around at Bio Meta too.
    – AliceD Mod
    Aug 13, 2015 at 14:30

3 Answers 3


Another reason to keep these questions on-topic is that it fills a need. Scientific software is often poorly documented, and community-created software doesn't usually provide a support team for basic questions. There are sometimes support forums available, but the StackExchange model is usually a superior way of organizing questions and answers. If this site became a place where researchers could ask questions about discipline-specific software it would be more broadly useful to the kinds of people who we ultimately want to attract to the site.


I think such questions should stay on CogSci, because:

  1. Relevant audience. Computational neuroscientists would be more likely to visit CogSci, and be able to answer such questions at CogSci than at other sites.
  2. They would be less relevant at StackOverflow. Few people there would be interested in using comp neuro software, and even fewer would have the knowledge to help users use it.
  3. Precedent. CogSci has the "Software" tag, which specifically references questions regarding the use of software. In addition, it has been voted to add tags for more specific neuroscience software. CrossValidated faces a similar issue, and unless the question is closer to general programming, the consensus appears to allow it.

For the above three reasons, I argue that unless the questions are closer to general programming, questions regarding the use of computational neuroscience software should be on-topic at CogSci.

  • All three are great points, but I find #1 especially compelling.
    – Josh
    Jul 17, 2015 at 21:04

I think they are on-topic barred that the answer should contain something related to Cognitive Sciences. For example take this question:

Python MNE - reading EEG data from array

The only reference to CogSci is that the input variable is obtained via an EEG DAQ system. No more, no less. The question can be answered by anyone proficient in Python. Stripping the question to its core, it simply boils down to "why does variable X not fit in matrix Y?". That is a typical question for Stack Overflow.

I advocate questions to be on-topic only if the answer needs knowledge about Cognitive Sciences. For example, questions on setting parameters for EEG systems, noise-reduction methods in Matlab, setting software filters in C++ etc. are all on topic, because they have direct relation to signal analysis, which is a fundamental aspect of CogSci.

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