Why and how can “sleeping beauties” be awakened?

Juncheng Wang (Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China, Beijing, People's Republic of China)
Feicheng Ma (Center for Studies of Information Resources, Wuhan University, Wuhan, People's Republic of China)
Minjie Chen (Center for Studies of Information Resources, Wuhan University, Wuhan, People's Republic of China)
Yiqing Rao (Center for Studies of Information Resources, Wuhan University, Wuhan, People's Republic of China)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Publication date: 10 February 2012



“Sleeping beauties” are very common in science, so this paper aims to uncover the reasons and formulation mechanism of information awakening on a more general level. Based on this, the paper will further propose useful strategies to awaken those “sleeping beauties” earlier.


Explanation‐building of case study is used to develop some models of information awakening and also to uncover different types of reasons for triggering academic information to be awakened.


Based on the three basic elements of information utilisation, namely, information value, access channel and user needs, the paper summarises several reasons for information awakening: the information value is re‐mined because of the relevance among various information; different uses of information are discovered; information availability and visibility are improved; information is placed into the appropriate place; and, with time passing by, demands for the information rise.

Practical implications

The presence of excessive “sleeping beauties” is not only a kind of idleness and waste to knowledge, but also may result in aggravation of information redundancy and increasing cost of storage. The revelation of its essence and reasons is not only helpful to establish better management mechanism to awaken “sleeping beauties” and thus to maximise their value, but also helpful to distinguish “sleeping beauties” from “pseudo‐sleeping beauties” as early as possible, so that all that worthless information can be cleared up without hesitation.


Most existing studies remain on the level of collecting instances and interpreting specific cases, but this paper investigates reasons from a more general level. What is more, current understandings are very one‐sided in that they treat information awakening and delayed recognition as the same, so this paper clarifies their differentiation and summarises the reasons comprehensively.



Wang, J., Ma, F., Chen, M. and Rao, Y. (2012), "Why and how can “sleeping beauties” be awakened?", The Electronic Library, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 5-18. https://doi.org/10.1108/02640471211204033

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