31 January 2017
Wake up calls for scientific papers
I once called scientific articles “love letters to the future.” I was making the point that just because a paper doesn’t get cited soon after its publication does not mean that it is useless.
A new article by Ho and Hartley bears out that description. It focuses on three papers that were largely uncited for many years, the, for some reason, it was noticed and became widely cited.
The authors don’t use my romantic term. There is another established term for these papers, also with romantic overtones: “sleeping beauties.” They pick out three, from the field of psychology, which hasn’t been studied before. This one has the most dramatic citation shift, really only picking up steam when it reached retirement age (65 years after publication!)
While it is encouraging to know that these reversals of fortune can happen, Ho and Hartley show that they are extremely rare. They found only three cases out of over 300,000 psychology papers (0.001%).
The duo don’t identify who re-popularized these papers. It’s a little frustrating, because the paper is pretty short.
Hat tip to Remi Gau and Neuroskeptic.
Ho Y-S, Hartley J. 2017. Sleeping beauties in psychology. Scientometrics 110(1): 301-305. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11192-016-2174-0
Better a deluge than a drought
Picture from here.