Defining the sleeping beauties

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"Defining and identifying Sleeping Beauties in science"

Qing Ke, Emilio Ferrara, Filippo Radicchi, and Alessandro Flammini

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Scientific papers typically have a finite lifetime: their rate to attract citations achieves its maximum a few years after publication, and then steadily declines. Previous studies pointed out the existence of a few blatant exceptions: papers whose relevance has not been recognized for decades, but then suddenly become highly influential and cited. The Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen “paradox” paper is an exemplar Sleeping Beauty. In this paper authors study how common Sleeping Beauties are in science. They introduce a quantity that captures both the recognition intensity and the duration of the “sleeping” period, and show that Sleeping Beauties are far from exceptional. The distribution of such quantity is continuous and has power-law behavior, suggesting a common mechanism behind delayed but intense recognition at all scales.