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The impetus for this question was this medical advice question which (as of the time of writing) had 3 votes to close but obviously remained open.

As longtime users of this network know, it takes 5 votes for closure to close a question. However, for a long time, Stack Overflow was the exception, requiring 3 votes to close.

Last year, an initiative happened to test the expansion of this 3 vote requirement across the network. The results were very positive, with few drawbacks noted.

In the second Q&A, Catija notes:

I'll also be using the information I have to start 3-vote close/reopen on the other sites that have requested it.

This suggests other sites can request the requirement be decreased.

While the community moderators here are very active and close most questions quickly, given how many personal medical advice questions we receive, should we request the vote requirement be decreased to 3 for Medical Sciences?

Update 9 March 2022

We appear to have reached consensus in favor of decreasing the vote requirement to 3, with at least net +5 in support (+7/-2 vs +2/-5). With the full support of each of the 3 active moderators, we will move forward with the request to the Stack Exchange team.

Update 26 May 2022

The decrease in close-vote threshold is now live. It should only take 3 votes to close a question. For those users with the privilege, please do not hesitate to make use of your newly concentrated curating ability.

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    The example question is closed now, but the point remains. I wholeheartedly endorse this idea. This site is rarely able to muster 5 close votes even with questions that clearly should be closed simply because we have so few members with sufficient rep to cast close votes. Even blatantly obvious spam often requires a mod vote to close.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Jan 10 at 15:23
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    I personally think that if a huge site like StackOverflow can have just 3 votes to close a question why it shouldn't be applied across the board. Jan 11 at 11:12
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    I'm guessing that votes on this question primarily suggest support for moving to a 3 vote close, but I've added some answers to make voting a bit more clear (and allow people to show support for the status quo even if they don't have downvoting privileges). I'd encourage people to edit or comment if they want to explain their support for either option.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Jan 12 at 20:40
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    I've tried to be fair to the "no" case by summarizing the primary reason offered against entering Biology in the original 3 vote test. I think that reason is a bit less applicable here, but it did attract the most votes over on that site.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Jan 12 at 20:41
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    Excellent news Ian. Thanks for that May 27 at 7:06

3 Answers 3

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It's been a little while since you escalated this request to the Community Team — sorry for the slight delay!

You now officially only need 3 close votes to close a question on Medical Sciences SE!

After looking at the data, I think it's clear that there's no reason for y'all to have this threshold set at 5. Thank you so much for bearing with us while we got to this request.

We'll check back in with you all in a few months to see how things are going in this regard — if things are going great, we may not post an update, but please feel free to leave a comment here if you want us to post something.


Here are some basic stats on how things looked before this change:

Over the last two years, you've had decent numbers when looking into what percentage of questions that received at least one flag or vote to close actually ended up getting closed. While there are some dips here and there (the one in late 2021 is particularly noticeable), things have been generally in the 70-90% range, and the numbers of posts this represents are relatively small.

Graph showing the percentage of handled tasks, as described in the paragraph above

However, the graph below shows that the site moderators, rather than the community, are doing the bulk of the closing:

Graph showing all closed posts, posts closed by the community, and posts closed by the moderation team. The line for moderators closed is almost identical to the line for all closed posts, and is completely identical for the last several months).

The graph above may look a bit confusing, because it has six different possible lines, but only the All_Closed line is visible for most of it. This is because almost all of the questions that have been closed (including all of the questions closed in the last few months) have been closed by mods; very few questions have been closed without mod intervention. (The lines for reopened questions are all near the bottom – not very many closed questions get reopened on this site, which is not particularly uncommon.)

When working on this project, Catija (another CM) had found two primary use cases for this change:

  1. When too many items are going unhandled (not unclosed, just unhandled)
  2. When the moderators are doing the bulk of the closing/reopening

Both of these are valid concerns here, to a degree. The first graph still shows that there are around ~15-20% of tasks aging out of the review queue on any given month.

Likewise, the second graph shows that the site mods here are casting the bulk of the final close votes. However, the mods shouldn't be having to make the vast majority of these decisions – even with other users weighing in. This creates an imbalance between closing and reopening, as the mods have to be really thoughtful about reviewing for reopening.

However, the main reason for the latter seems to be that there are very few non-moderators around who can cast close/reopen votes. Only users with at least 500 rep can cast close/reopen votes on the Medical Sciences site. There are actually a total of 80 users who have enough reputation to have this privilege, but less than 5 have been active on the site in the past week (only a dozen in the past month) – and that's including the site mods!

Basically, there’s no reason not to lower the close vote threshold on this site, which is why we've done so – but mods will still probably have to participate in a lot of the closing because there are so few users that can vote to close. Our hope is that lowering the close vote threshold to 3 for Medical Sciences SE can ease the load on the mods at least a little, but more regular users with the privilege need to participate in closures for that to happen.

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  • Slight correction on the numbers: Apparently I was looking at the numbers of users that had between 500 and 1,000 rep only. In fact, there are actually a total of 147 users on the site with at least 500 rep, but 128 of them have been absent for a week or more, and 109 for a month or more. Still not a great situation, but not quite as bad as I thought.
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    May 27 at 17:57
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Yes, we should. The reasons for this change include:

  • Vanishingly few questions here are closed by the community gathering 5 votes without a moderator being involved, as can be seen in the latest statistics: 2021: a year in moderation
  • Low-quality or off-topic questions will hopefully be closed faster. This will decrease the effort the community spends on such questions or encourage the question author to revise the question while they are most likely to remain invested in it.
  • With 5 votes to close, votes tend to age away (invalidate themselves) making their voting useless, leading to voter apathy. Lowering the vote threshold will reduce the number of votes aging away.
  • Lowering the vote threshold will hopefully encourage more users who have earned the privilege to actually use it. This in turn will show new question authors that their question closure is the product of community consensus rather than the unilateral action of a community ♦️ moderator.
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  • For over a month the score was +1 here and -1 on the alternative answer, then it became +2 on each recently, but now it's +3 here and -2 there. Perhaps someone upvoted who doesn't have enough rep to downvote the alternative? Feb 18 at 20:10
  • Yeah, I think the ideal way these are supposed to work is that people only upvote the one they agree with. But once the downvotes start, all bets are off.
    – Ian Campbell Mod
    Feb 24 at 0:10
  • @IanCampbell In that case, I'd currently count 6 votes for the change (5 plus mine; I authored the wiki answers so cannot vote on them) and 2 against. Not the largest voting block, but perhaps a quorum relative to the number of people active around here.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Feb 24 at 0:15
  • @BryanKrause We could try and get a community moderator to feature it for a bit for more consensus? Although not sure how many more users there are that care.
    – Ian Campbell Mod
    Feb 24 at 0:16
  • @IanCampbell Probably the best way to go about that would be to raise a custom flag on the original question.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Feb 24 at 0:18
  • @BryanKrause Great plan, I was going to @-notify the moderator with the visible comment, but that way sounds much more equitable. I've raised a custom flag on the question.
    – Ian Campbell Mod
    Feb 24 at 0:19
  • The number of votes aren't always the best guide to developing policies. Community consensus is often better established by the quality of the arguments put forward. See for example the part where it says "but we're really looking for a well-thought out discussion here, not just a simple 'yes or no' poll" here. Voters could have come from other SE sites. They could be sockpuppets or meatpuppets. People can vote without reading the post. Feb 24 at 1:20
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No, we shouldn't. The reasons for this include:

  • Carey Gregory has said it himself: "There are barely 5 high-rep users who are active and who can cast these votes". We cannot reduce the number of required close-voters to three, if there's barely more than three people voting in the first place. The bullet point written by Bryan Krause speaks to this:

  • "A reason given by opponents of this change on Biology.SE was concern that a small group of opinionated close voters would have too much control over the questions that are kept open."

  • The reduced number of required close-voters was indeed set on StackOverflow, but StackOverflow has no shortage of close-voters: Their problem is the humungous volume of questions they get (5.4k questions/day at the moment). I don't believe reducing the number of required close-voters should be used as a substitute when high-rep users are not close voting.

  • Catija's post about this topic, linked in the Meta question that we're currently answering, said: "When five people are needed for this process, it puts more weight on more people to do the work and, with a relatively low number of reviews per day per person, the small crew of reviewers can become quickly overwhelmed even if they are actively reviewing posts. Reducing this number to three quickly leaves this group more room to act on more different tasks." But at only 3 questions/day, none of this applies here. As someone who performs reviews and acts on hundreds of questions network-wide per day, I find it hard to imagine that anyone is "burned out" by reviewing on a site with 3 questions/day.

  • Catija's post also says that while reducing the required number of close voters to 3 worked on SO which is pretty much the polar opposite of Medical Sciences in terms of activity, for the smaller sites involved in the experiment: "On Web Applications and Hardware Recommendations much of the closing is still done by moderators, even on Hardware Recs, where they only need one user to vote to close. There still has to be a community willing to do the work for this to help - the site won't need five people but they will still need three or else there will still be low percentage of review completion or moderators will still need to do a lot of the work."

  • Most questions here are hammered closed by a diamond mod unilaterally (or with one other close voter) anyway, so decreasing the number of required close voters down from 5 to 3 will not make much of a difference. Maybe you should ask the company if they are willing to reduce it down to 2, but that I think that would be a bit silly.

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    Hmm I can see the argument, but moderators can step in and reopen unfairly closed questions. Repeated unfair closures could possibly be dealt with through account suspensions? Jan 14 at 19:32
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    @ChrisRogers if diamond mods are to hammer questions re-opened, then they could also hammer questions closed, but based on the discussion on this Meta post so far, that doesn't seem to be the case. Jan 14 at 20:25
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    @user1271772 - mods can and do hammer questions closed, but the aim is for the community as a whole to do it rather than leaving the mods to do it. Jan 14 at 20:54
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    I don't think a diamond mod should be regularly hammering questions opened if the aim is for the community as a whole to vote on closures. I'm saying that questions should for the most part be closed only when the community (at least 5 members) votes on it, and likewise the questions should for the most part be re-opened only when the community (at least 5 members) votes on it. Jan 14 at 20:57
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    @user1271772 - That's all well and good when you have a large regular user base but for a small stack like this, there can be a combination of lack of knowledge that members can be involved (especially with those new to SE), a lack of members wanting to be involved, and the low number of voters leading to some apathy among those who have regularly voted to close as they find their votes on blatantly off topic questions are not leading to any closures as their votes age away. Jan 15 at 8:17
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    @user1271772 The goal as I see it would be to reduce the number of exceptions that need to be handled, to keep the intended purpose of moderators. Right now every question that needs closure is an exception to be handled. It's okay if a moderator needs to vote to reopen a question occasionally if it reduces how many they need to close.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Jan 15 at 18:58
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    That's a silly conclusion to make if there aren't enough high rep community users to even review it.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Jan 15 at 19:11
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    @user1271772 It's not that they didn't care enough about the questions; they didn't cast review votes at all. You'll find the same on big sites like SO, but it's not a problem there because there are thousands of high rep users. Not so here. So feel free to stick with your idealistic opinions. Just know that the irony is that voting to retain the 5-vote requirement will result in more questions being "hammered" closed by mods and almost none by the community. You will get the opposite of what you desire.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Jan 15 at 22:46
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    @user1271772 You're just not going to hear anything that doesn't fit your views, are you? If the close vote requirement remains at 5 votes, more questions are going to be closed by mods than by the community, giving you the opposite of what you (and I) desire. And thank you for confirming what I said; barely half the eligible voters have cast a single close vote.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Jan 15 at 23:21
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    You say you're listening, and yet you don't respond. You simply keep repeating your agenda, ignoring its faults. And yes, you've made it quite clear that you want to magically force high rep users who haven't been active here for years to reappear and become active participants. Got it.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Jan 15 at 23:58
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    There was no sarcasm. What you're saying simply isn't tenable. There are barely 5 high rep users who are active and who can cast these votes you demand. Why do you refuse to understand that simple fact?
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Jan 16 at 0:03
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    It's clear the community does not vote sufficiently; if the community disagreed with the mod closures they could vote to reopen, but they don't. Some people have raised complaints on Meta that certain questions shouldn't have been closed, and the community has responded on Meta that they should.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Jan 16 at 0:59
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    @user1271772 I recommend that you spend some time here, participate in the community, and actually learn what the issues are before lecturing us and belaboring us for our ineptitude. Your attitude, your tone, and your stalking behavior are becoming a concern I'm about ready to send to the CM team.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Jan 16 at 5:06
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    Yes, you've told us numerous times what's wrong with the site. This happens about every month or two. Someone with no history of participation here and no actual knowledge of the site shows up and tells us what's wrong with it and how to fix it. There's almost never any willingness to actually participate in a constructive manner and implement the changes, just criticism of us for not doing the things we should. You noticed the mention of the moderator elections coming up, right? I highly recommend that you nominate yourself. Heck, I might nominate you, and I'll definitely vote for you.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Jan 20 at 5:24
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    @user1271772 Yes, you asked a question in 2019. It was closed as personal medical advice, and it also lacked prior research. Another user edited it for you, and I commented that if you added the missing research I would reopen it. You never touched it again, so it was eventually auto-deleted. Your account has never been deleted or suspended here. But main site participation wasn't what I was talking about. I was talking about meta participation, which you have none at all until a month ago. You've since posted 3 questions. So it's not much of an exaggeration.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Jan 20 at 23:34

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