Sleeping Beauties of Coronavirus Research

IEEE Access. 2021 Jan 19;9:21192-21205. doi: 10.1109/ACCESS.2021.3052918. eCollection 2021.


A "Sleeping Beauty" (SB) in science is a metaphor for a scholarly publication that remains relatively unnoticed by the related communities for a long time; - the publication is "sleeping". However, suddenly due to the appearance of some phenomenon, such a "forgotten" publication may become a center of scientific attention; - the SB is "awakened". Currently, there are specific scientific areas for which sleeping beauties (SBs) are awakened. For example, as the world is experiencing the COVID-19 global pandemic (triggered by SARS-CoV-2), publications on coronaviruses appear to be awakened. Thus, one can raise questions of scientific interest: are these publications coronavirus related SBs? Moreover, while much literature exists on other coronaviruses, there seems to be no comprehensive investigation on COVID-19, - in particular in the context of SBs. Nowadays, such SB papers can be even used for sustaining literature reviews and/or scientific claims about COVID-19. In our study, in order to pinpoint pertinent SBs, we use the "beauty score" (B-score) measure. The Activity Index (AI) and the Relative Specialization Index (RSI) are also calculated to compare countries where such SBs appear. Results show that most of these SBs were published previously to the present epidemic time (triggered by SARS-CoV or SARS-CoV-1), and are awakened in 2020. Besides outlining the most important SBs, we show from what countries and institutions they originate, and the most prolific author(s) of such SBs. The citation trend of SBs that have the highest B-score is also discussed.

Keywords: Beauty score; COVID-19; activity index; bibliometric; coronavirus; relative specialization index; sleeping beauty.

Grants and funding

This work was supported in part by the EC Horizon 2020 Grant LAMBDA under Grant 809965, in part by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF) under Grant VRG18-013, and in part by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) under Grant EP/M025268/1.