Sleeping Beauties in the Journal Literature

In 1865, Gregor Mendel published groundbreaking findings on plant genetics, which went largely unnoticed for 34 years. With Mendel as his poster child, Anthony Van Raan repurposed the term “Sleeping Beauty” (SB) for work that lies dormant for years before being “awakened” to scholarly attention.1 He defined three SB variables: depth of sleep (maximum of two citations per year); length of sleep (duration of limited citation period); and awake intensity (annual number of citations during the four years following awakening).

sleeping beautiesNo Sleeping Beauty itself, Van Raan’s 2004 paper has been cited in bibliometric analyses of everything from ophthalmology to Italian economists. Some equate SBs with classic or highly-cited papers. Others examine the dynamics of the fairy tale relationship, revealing that the impact factor of the prince’s journal averages twice that of the SB. In the ideal couple, the awakening kiss is followed by a robust citation career for both parties. In unhappier cases, one lover dominates, sometimes to the point where the other party receives only co-citations.2

SBs in physics, chemistry, and other sciences receive particular attention, but SBs occur across the sciences and social sciences. Take statistics. A 1901 article by Karl Pearson slept for over 100 years. Statistical techniques such as the Wilson score interval, Fisher’s exact test, Metropolis-Hastings algorithm, and Kendall rank correlation coefficient all originated in SBs.3

What attracts the kiss? Einstein et al.’s so-called paradox paper received an initial burst of attention, then languished for nearly 60 years. This hypothetical experiment became newly relevant once physicists had the technology and theoretical tools to observe quantum interactions.4

Accessing the journal literature through enormous multidisciplinary databases such as Web of Science may facilitate another scenario: the cross-disciplinary kiss. After 46 years, medical researchers awoke Turkevich et al.’s paper on liquid suspension of gold particles from its slumber in the chemistry literature. Now gold nanoparticles are used to find tumors and deliver drugs.4

According to some measures, SBs are not necessarily rare.3 Given the continuing expansion of the journal literature, there is a wealth of potential SBs and princes out there. Perhaps SB content and characteristics can be mined to identify sleeping innovations.5 And the SB phenomenon adds perspective to our intense interest in citation counts, encouraging us to take the long view.

~Pat Weiss

Real-Time Open Data

Over the past few months, media coverage of the Zika virus has increased the visibility of data sharing as an important step within the research data lifecycle. To speed the research discovery, the global scientific community has committed “to sharing data and results relevant to the current Zika crisis and future public health emergencies as rapidly and openly as possible.”

However, such willingness to share data is far from the norm. Researcher Rachel Harding, a postdoctoral fellow at the Structural Genomics Consortium, University of Toronto, would like this to change and is making a bold statement by opening her research on Huntington’s disease to the world.

On her Web site, Lab Scribbles, she will be “uploading real-time experimental data in its rawest form. This will not be a polished data presentation which scientists normally present in journal publications or conference presentations but a real-life taster into the everyday workings and reality of being a postdoctoral scientist.” Her hopes are to accelerate the pace of discoveries, create collaborations, and make science accessible and interactive.

Her methods and data will be deposited in real-time to Zenodo, a repository operated by the CERN Data Centre. Visit the HSLS Data Repositories page to locate data repositories for your area of interest.

For more information on Harding’s willingness to share her data, see the press release from University of Toronto.

~ Melissa Ratajeski

Nursing Postcard Exhibition at Falk Library

Microsoft Word - Pictures of Nursing Exhibition Guidelines NLM.dNurse Michael Zwerdling has collected over 2,500 nursing related postcards dated between 1893 and 2011. These postcards illustrate a long history of the nursing profession in the U.S. and abroad. Pictures of Nursing is an exhibit developed by the National Library of Medicine to showcase the Zwerdling postcard collection and discuss the themes of nursing history that it depicts.

Falk Library Exhibit

The exhibit features six panels and a video presentation, which are on display on the main floor of Falk Library from April 4 through May 13, 2016. The library is also displaying a set of artifacts on loan from the School of Nursing. The first class of Pitt’s School of Nursing started in 1939 and graduated in 1943, with a rich 76-year history. Some of the artifacts include early handbooks, the lamp and pin received at graduation, and a nurse’s cap from the 1950s. The exhibit and School of Nursing display are open to the public and can be viewed during the library’s open hours. Continue reading

HSLS as Your Travel Companion: Send Us Your Pictures!

Are you traveling in the next few months for a conference or a vacation? If so, have a picture of yourself taken with the HSLS Web site visible on your mobile device in an interesting locale.

All photos submitted to by staff, faculty, or students of one of the University of Pittsburgh schools of the health sciences (Dental Medicine, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health) by August 1, 2016, will be entered into a raffle for the chance to win a $20 Target gift card. Continue reading

Falk Library Exhibit: Interactive Anatomy—Flips, Flaps, and Pop-up Books

A new exhibit explores human anatomy illustrations which feature ingenious paper flaps and pop-ups that essentially transform 2-D diagrams into 3-D interactive objects.

As early as 1538, woodcut illustrators were producing posters to depict anatomy in three-dimensional form through the use of hinged, paper flap overlays. The body’s interior was revealed by lifting subsequent flaps, for example, from the torso inward through muscles, organs, and ending at the spine. The posters, known as anatomical fugitive sheets, were typically produced in pairs to illustrate both male and female figures. Continue reading

Sharing Clinical Trial Data: Your Comments Needed

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) is seeking feedback on its proposed requirements for sharing clinical trial data: “…the ICMJE proposes to require authors to share with others the deidentified individual-patient data underlying the results presented in the article (including tables, figures, and appendices or supplementary material) no later than 6 months after publication.” Read the full proposal: Sharing Clinical Trial Data: A Proposal from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors and submit your comments by April 18, 2016, to have your voice heard.

Note: many journals follow the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals (ICMJE Recommendations), including New England Journal of Medicine, Circulation, and Pain.

~Melissa Ratajeski

Publishers Providing Free Access to Zika Virus Information

Many major journal publishers have opened their Zika virus content collections for free—and the list is growing. Free access has been offered to articles, guidelines, reports, news items, and commentaries. You can find the most current list on NLM’s “Zika Virus Health Information Resource Guide.”

Zika virus info

The guide also provides links to up-to-date authoritative information on pregnancy and the Zika virus; genome, sequences, and virus variation; laboratory detection and diagnosis of the Zika virus; maps; travel, and much more.

~Jill Foust

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: Judged by the Cover

Gruel_2The Parisian bookbinding workshop later known as Gruel & Engelmann was founded in 1811 by Isidore Desforges. Desforges took his son-in-law Paul Gruel into partnership in 1825. After Gruel’s death in 1846, his widow Catherine, successfully continued the business. She had exquisite artistic taste and attracted the best talent to her workshop. It was a meeting place for all important binders of the time, and her salon became a literary club for celebrated collectors of books and bindings. Catherine won the highest prize at the Paris Exhibition in 1849, and repeated this success in 1851 at the Great Exhibition in London where she won the gold medal for excellence of workmanship. Continue reading

HSLS Staff News

The HSLS Staff News section includes recent HSLS presentations, publications, staff changes, staff promotions, degrees earned, etc.


Author names in bold are HSLS-affiliated

Jonathon Erlen, history of medicine librarian, served as a major contributor to ISIS Current Bibliography of the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences 2015. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.

S.T. Stahl, J. Rodakowski, E.M. Saghafi, reference librarian, et al., published “Systematic Review of Dyadic and Family-oriented Interventions for Late-life Depression” in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, January 21, 2016.

Classes April 2016

HSLS offers classes on database searching, software applications such as Prezi, bibliographic management, and molecular biology and genetics. For more information, visit the online course descriptions.

Classes are held on the first floor of Falk Library (200 Scaife Hall) in Classroom 1 and on the upper floor of the library in Classroom 2. All classes are open to faculty, staff, and students of the schools of the health sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, who will need a valid Pitt ID or e-mail account. They are also open to UPMC residents and fellows, who will need to show their UPMC IDs. Continue reading