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What happens to my question after I submit it to this service?

Questions are received and filtered by the two system operators of NEWTON. Acceptable questions are assigned an appropriate category and are forwarded to the scientists that have volunteered to consider questions from that particular category. If one or more scientists address the question, it is returned to a system operator. The question and answers are returned to the person making the request and a copy is placed into an appropriate web page and posted.

When may I expect an answer to my request?

Our volunteer scientists respond to acceptable questions usually within a week after it is submitted; most within two days or less.

Why have I not heard "anything" about the question I submitted?

There may be several reasons. First, many email addresses submitted are incorrect or do not exist. Second, about 10-15% of the questions that are sent to our scientist corps are not answered. In either case, the requester will not receive a response.

How many volunteer scientists are answering questions?

Our total scientist corps involves 82 scientists (Summer 2009), but each category may have from 5 to 25 scientists receiving questions.

Which types of questions are generally not addressed by this service?

We do not send out questions to our scientist corps that are already addressed in our 20,000+ article archives. Questions that are looking for simple factual answers, homework questions or questions that are better served with the student using a library are rejected. We do not answer medical related questions, non-science questions, topics outside of our domain, requests that extend beyond the K-12 environment, commercial inquiries, and items that may cause some safety hazard. Other reasons are found by visiting this link: Hints and Tips

Why am I unable to submit questions during certain periods of time to this site?

NEWTON Ask A Scientist service receives in excess of 10 -12 million hits a month and between 200 and 500 requests per day. Two system operators volunteer a great deal of time to keep NEWTON operating smoothly, but this service becomes overwhelming at times. Periodically, it is difficult to keep up with demand as this service continues to see growth. Rather than become hopelessly paralyzed, the submission page is closed in order to catch up.

How may I become a scientist volunteer?

NEWTON is willing to accept volunteer scientists who meet our qualifications. Interested scientists should submit a brief description of themselves and their education and we also need a means of verifying your identity. Contact us at :

Read more here!

If I find a mistake on one of the pages, how do I let you know about it?

Many error claims that we receive are actually not errors. We serve the K-12 educational community and often questions are being addressed to very young students who may not be able to understand complex answers so omissions and simplified answers are used. Look at the age of the person making the inquiry on the page in question.

We recognize that some of our older archives are out-dated and may be in need of up-dating. Users are encouraged to alert us of these particular entries.

If you feel there still is an issue, send the page link and any comments to:

Why do you want to know a person's grade level?

Students asking questions may be 5 to 18 years old. We want to try to address their question in a way they may understand.

If this service is for teachers and students, who else might be in the "Other" category?

We accept any question that we feel may benefit individuals within the K-12 community. At our option, we occasionally submit questions because NEWTON may have a scientist that is an expert in that particular subject.

Do you recommend vendors and vendor products?

No. We avoid all commercial endeavors. However, we reserve the right to assist specific requests from teachers for a product or need

How can I interview one of your scientists?

Since our scientists are volunteers and we do not want to burden them, we assured them with an agreement at the time they signed on to answer questions that we would not share email addresses, mailing addresses, telephone numbers, etc or bother them with requests like interviews.

How can I directly contact one of your scientists?

NEWTON will not provide any information to allow you to communicate directly with any member of our scientist corps. Scientist volunteer their time and we wish to keep them happy!

Why are images lacking from most of your pages?

In the past, NEWTON has not been able to incorporate pictures due to the age of our principal hardware. Now, this issue has been fixed. The articles that need illustrations usually provide a link to a site that fills this need. Scientists can submit pictures, but it is few and far between.

Do you answer medical questions?

No. We do not wish to be viewed as an alternative to professional medical care.

What does K-12 mean?

In the United States, students attend public school between the ages of 5 or 6 years of age (Kindergarten) and finish at about the age of 18 in high school grade 12. Grades K-3 (primary school), 4-5 or 6 (intermediate school), 6-8 or 9 (middle school or junior high) and 9 or 10-12 (high school). There are indeed some individual differences between states.

Can I have an animal (insect, bacteria, mold, plant) identified?

Since the World has millions of species of organisms, it is not realistic to address identification requests. A local library has adequate books on particular identifications and this means should be the principal source for this type of request.

Will you help us with our science contest?

In fairness to the purpose and goals of science fairs and other science related contests, NEWTON Ask A Scientist service does not assist in creating ideas, procedures, evaluating results or providing any information that would give an individual student an unfair advantage in these contests.

How is NEWTON funded?

NEWTON's physical site and equipment/maintenance expenses is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and Argonne National Laboratory. NEWTON relies upon volunteers to operate.

Since NEWTON has been in operation for almost since 1991, how can I tell if the article is current or out dated?

Articles have a date posted on the web page if they have been posted during the last five years or so. If the date is not visible, the date can be viewed at the bottom of the html code with a display of the page's source using your browser. Undated articles are usually older than 1999 and may be incorrect or may need up-dating.

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
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