The occurrence of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ publications in medical research: Their scientific impact and technological relevance

Autoři: Anthony F. J. van Raan aff001;  Jos J. Winnink aff001
Působiště autorů: Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands aff001
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(10)
Kategorie: Research Article


We investigate publications in medical research that have gone unnoticed for a number of years after being published and then suddenly become cited to a significant degree. Such publications are called Sleeping Beauties (SBs). This study focuses on SBs that are cited in patents. We find that the increasing trend of the relative number of SBs comes to an end around 1998. However, still a constant fraction of publications becomes an SB. Many SBs become highly cited publications, they even belong to the top-10 to 20% most cited publications in their field. We measured the scaling of the number of SBs in relation to the sleeping period length, during-sleep citation-intensity, and with awakening citation-intensity. We determined the Grand Sleeping Beauty Equation for these medical SBs which shows that the probability of awakening after a period of deep sleep is becoming rapidly smaller for longer sleeping periods and that the probability for higher awakening intensities decreases extremely rapidly. The exponents of the scaling functions show a time-dependent behavior which suggests a decreasing occurrence of SBs with longer sleeping periods. We demonstrate that the fraction of SBs cited by patents before scientific awakening exponentially increases. This finding shows that the technological time lag is becoming shorter than the sleeping time. Inventor-author self-citations may result in shorter technological time lags, but this effect is small. Finally, we discuss characteristics of an SBs that became one of the highest cited medical papers ever.

Klíčová slova:

Bibliometrics – Citation analysis – Engineering and technology – Medicine and health sciences – Patents – Databases


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2019 Číslo 10
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