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If you are unfamiliar with the Q&A structure of file on our site,
take a few minutes and browse through the
current listing of posts.
Receiving a question.
The MadSci Moderators
review all questions prior to sending them out. The review is intended
to weed out questions concerning how to locate basic references
(Where can I find information about frogs, e.g.),
obvious "do-my-homework" questions, and questions already answered
by material on our site.
Messages sent to you will be clearly marked as coming
from The MAD Scientist Network. The mail message will contain a copy
of the posted question, the name of the person, their grade/level in school,
and the Message ID Number. This number is a nine-digit number ending
in two letters: 812916414.Me, e.g. The two letters indicate the area of
science. In the above example Me = medicine. When you signed up for
the network you should have specified areas in which you wished to answer
questions. We use this information to match questions with specific members
of the network.
Messages will be signed with the moderator's name and
their mail address, along with a brief note describing how to upload answers.
What if I need more information from the person?
If you require further clarification reply to the moderator for the
area, or send a message to the network account.
How soon do I need to answer it?
We hope for a maximum turn-around time of 5-7 days after you
receive a question. If you are unable to respond within this time,
please notify us so we can send the question to another
person. You may "defer" questions through the
MadSci User's Interface. Enter the MessageID
with your name and password on the WWW form. Alternatively,
respond to the original message stating you do not want to answer it -
make certain the MessageID# appears in the text of your message.
How should I answer it?
In most cases the person will provide their
grade level. We recommend providing background
a little below the grade level stated. Remember, people at
all levels of education may be reading your answer.
You should be certain to answer the question. Many
questions will not have definitive answers (How did the universe start? e.g.)
In such cases, a summation of what is
known/current thoughts on the subject are appropriate.
In addition, most individuals asking questions do not have
extensive training in the sciences so you should provide sufficient
background for a "lay person" to understand the gist of the answer.
A few other suggestions..
- *Be nice!*. Many of our
questions come from very young children. Always take care to
avoid being satirical or patronizing.
- If a name is provided start off by greeting
them personally - "Dear Sally," or "Hi Sally."
- Your name and institution will appear at the top of your answer,
nonetheless, please "sign" your name at the bottom of your answer.
You may include your "sig" file if you wish.
- Please proof-read and spell check your answer. We like to give the
impression that scientists can spell too :).
- Please provide references for information that cannot
be found in a general text on the subject. Books, journal articles and
"scientifically rigorous websites" (info from NASA, NIH, or the
CDC, e.g) may be used.
- Where appropriate, feel free to include
WWW links in your answer to point people to
related sites of interest.
It sounds like this person is trying to get me to do their homework!
For the most part the moderators weed out blatant 'do-my-homework'
posts. Borderline cases will still be posted, in which case we ask that
you answer by going over key points
of "problem solving" in the given instance, and providing "help" to send
the person in the right direction.
Where do I send my answer?
You have two choices. We prefer that you use the online answer interface
(answers arrive ready for presentation on the WWW). This interface should work
with any browser, including Lynx. You will be presented with
a 'Login Box' that asks for your name (First_name Last_name), email address,
password, and the Message ID# of the post to which you are responding.
The subsequent page will show an 'answer form' for entering your answer.
We recommend that you construct your answer in a word processing program
then cut-and-paste it onto the answer form. If something unforseeable happens
then you still retain a copy. The section
on including images describes how you can
upload graphics with your answer. You also have the option of formatting
your answer with HTML, or of using the server's default. Once
submitted, your answer will await review by one of the
moderators before being moved to our webspace.
If you are unable to use the web, answers may be mailed to
Please be certain to include the following information in your message
so we can properly transfer your answer to webspace.
Name: Your Name
Program: Graduate Student, etc.. Program/Major or Department
Subject: Subject of the original post
Message ID: Message ID Number (12345678.Nn)
What do we do with answers?
The MadSci Moderators review all answers.
We consider the review process an important means of "quality control."
If the moderator feels your answer needs more work,
or would like information to be referenced, they will place
your answer "on hold," and notify you with specifics of what needs to be done.
You may then re-enter the answer interface to edit your original text.
The moderators may correct spelling changes, alter the HTML
formatting, or add websites to the text of an answer prior to moving it to our
webspace. In some instances they may also add a note at the bottom to further
clarify or add material. They will not make changes in content without
first contacting you.
Answers are generally posted to the server. They may be saved in a "private
archive" if the person asking the question does not wish to have their question
made public. A copy will be cc: to the person who asked the question.
Files reside in the server's
Current Q for 7 days
before being moved to the
What if I don't want to receive questions for a while?
A WWW interface on our site (available from the answer page) will let you
carry out the following actions:
How can I change the areas in which I receive question.. my address..
research interests, etc.
- Defer a question. You must enter the question ID# on the form.
- Put yourself on hold, or remove a hold. While "on hold" no questions
will be sent to you.
- Alter your information in the databases. You can change
fields such as your name, institution, research
interests, areas in which you wish to receive questions, etc. Please notify
the network account to alter your password or email address.
What is done with the information I supplied when joining your site?
This information is held in a series of databases. We do not sell this
information or make it freely available to the public. People are able to
see your name, institution and position in the headers of answer files. The
"Mad Scientist List" also provides a link to your home page if you entered one.
The moderators make use of the databases to locate individuals to answer
questions by searching research interests, and matching questions with
groups of individuals based on the topic of the question. We also keep
"statistics" as to how many answered and unanswered questions a person has.
Your answers can serve both as scientific resources and as starting points for
finding further information on specific topics. We hope you will take the time
to learn a few Web tricks that will enhance the meaning and content of your
All Web documents are formatted in a language known as HTML, for
Hypertext Markup Language. HTML itself is very simple and easy to
learn. We don't expect or even require that you should know how to
format text with HTML. However, we would like to show you how to
construct hypertext links in your
answer so people reading your post can connect to other sites on the
WWW that may contain useful or relevant information.
Hypertext links generally appear as blue underlined
text. The actual
construction behind the text is:
blue underlined text
Notice the use of the <a href= > and the closing </a> HTML tags.
This text does not appear on the page, only the words between
the two tags, highlighted in blue.
The a href stands for an anchored reference, or link that goes to
another location. The text between the double quotes specifies the exact
location, known as the URL, forUniform Resource
In this case the URL is another file in this directory called text_link.html
Rarely do you have to generate the URL yourself. In most cases you will be able
to copy it directly from your web browser into a text document. However, we
will describe the meaning and parts of a URL so you can understand how
To connect to the "What's new" page at the
National Institutes of Health we write the following anchored link:
<a href="http://www.nih.gov/">National Institutes of Health</a>
This address looks quite different from the first example. The URL is
http://www.nih.gov/nihnew.html which has three distinct parts.
The format for URLs follows the convention: server_type://internet_location/p
ath/to/a/file.html This information
is case sensitive. Entering the same address in capital letters will
produce an error message on your browser for anyone clicking on the link.
- The type of server being accessed: http:// The http stands for 'Hyper
text Transfer Protocol', the language of WWW servers. Other server prefixes coul
d include gopher://, ftp:// or telnet://.
- The address of the site: www.nih.gov which behaves just like
an email address.
- The path to a specific file on that site: /nihnew.html
Running a WWW search takes a matter of minutes, and can provide you with
links to sites containing information beyond the scope of what you discuss in yo
AltaVista are three commonly
used search engines for the WWW. You can follow
the above links to the inital query page for entering search terms.
Incorporating the results into your answer
When researching web sites I use my web browser (Netscape) to access the
URL. I then copy it into the buffer (apple-C on a mac) and paste (apple-V) into the relevant
text document in Teachtext, MSWord or Eudora.
Make sure your browser shows the location: window. In Netscape go
into the Options menu and make sure Show Location is checked.
When you find a useful site, highlight the location box with the mouse and copy
the text there, then paste it into an anchored link:
<a href=" ">descriptive text</a>.
How you choose to incorporate the
links is entirely up to you. You can include them freely within the text or write
a separate 'Further sites of interest' after the body of your answer. Either way
The online answer interface will let you upload a maximum of 5 images
with your answer. Images must be in the GIF or JPEG formats, and
each one may be no greater than 75K in size.
If you other graphics formats (MPEG, quicktime, etc.), more than 5 files,
or ones >75K in size, either send them to us as a mail attachment, or
notify us so we can make an upload site available.
Last modified 8-12-2003.
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