Ton van Raan, a professor emeritus of quantitative science studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, first likened the belated discovery of an academic work to the story of the Brothers Grimm fairytale some 15 years ago.
His colourful explanation was picked up by other leading scientists in the intervening years, making it a mainstay of academic discussion of the how crucial academic papers are often only seized upon decades after publication.That phrase being 'Sleeping Beauty'. But then...
Van Raan said he was amazed when his latest work on medical articles was rejected in an email within hours of submission by the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology on the grounds that the term “sleeping beauties” was “unacceptable”.
The journal’s managing editor referred Van Raan to a lengthy explanation by editors in which it was claimed that the metaphor did not aid explanation and “the use of any such terms, despite connections to historical roots in the literature, should be avoided”.
The journal further argued that the story of Sleeping Beauty, in which a princess is put to sleep for 100 years until woken by a prince’s kiss, would not be immediately recognisable to academics worldwide.Really? Even with the ubiquitous presence of the Disney version?
“The use of metaphors is complicated by socio-cultural factors and may not adequately translate across borders,” the journal explained.I think you meant 'opined'.
Van Raan said he could understand the discomfort with some uses of the metaphor but that the broad-brush ban was an unfortunate act of “political correctness”.Of course it is. And - as David Thompson reminds us - the world of academe is nothing if not prone to kow-towing to such ridiculous concepts:
“I was always sober with the metaphor,” Van Raan said. “There was the sleeping beauty, the prince. And that is it. No fantasies.”
He said he had noted that a Belgian colleague had since used the phrase “hibernator” rather than sleeping princess and “awakener” for the role of the prince.
“I wrote to these authors to tell them, ‘You have capitulated’. Hibernator? It is like something out of Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey,” Van Raan said.
“What is amazing is that they said it was culturally discriminatory because not everyone on this planet knows about this fairytale.”No, what's amazing is that you haven't fallen into line. Yet.