, Volume 117, Issue 3, pp 1841–1852 | Cite as

Sleeping beauties with no prince based on the co-citation criterion

  • ZhangJian Zong
  • XuanZhen LiuEmail author
  • Hui Fang


In science, a sleeping beauty (SB) refers to a highly cited paper that initially remains unnoticed for several years after publication. It is generally recognized that each SB is awoken by princes, in the form of other papers that cite the SB. Investigations have shown that one feature of a prince is that it has a considerable number of co-citations with the SB. In the present study, we applied a method to screen for princes from among papers citing the SB based on the number of co-citations in the Web of Science and identified four SBs that were awoken without a prince based on the co-citation criterion. There are two possible explanations for this phenomenon. The first is that some SBs may not need a prince to attract the attention of other academics. The authors of three of the four abovementioned SBs were Nobel laureates, and their work was well known in their respective fields. The papers had slept for a long period because their work was ahead of its time. The long period of sleep is a reflection of the authors’ high academic level and degree of insight. The other potential explanation is that princes do not have to be co-cited with SBs. Our findings demonstrate a significant deficiency in the previous criteria relating to princes based on co-citations. Thus, new criteria are required to identify princes.


Sleeping beauties Princes Co-citation Ahead of time Nobel laureate 


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nanjing Medical UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry for Life Science, School of Electronic Science and EngineeringNanjing UniversityNanjingChina

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