‘Sleeping Beauties’ of Geomorphology: a case from the American Journal of Science

Most papers in disciplinary geomorphology journals are cited at some point, but citations to papers do not always accrue immediately upon publication — ideas and papers might take time to be used by researchers and therefore cited. Extreme examples of delayed recognition (‘Sleeping Beauties‘) — where papers recieve no citations for long stretches of time only to recieve a large, late burst in citations — have been identified and investigated previously.

Do geomorphology ‘Sleeping Beauties’ exist? Using the methods of Ke et al. (2015) to find and score ‘Sleeping Beauties’, it turns out that 9 out of the 20 most delayed papers in GSA Bulletin are focused on quantitative geomorphology.

What other papers show this interesting signature of delayed recognition?

I have looked in other journals and found a few neat examples, which I hope to chronicle in a series of posts. Today, I will look at an example from the American Journal of Science (AJS):

The AJS has been published since 1818, and has long been a geology venue. In January 2017  I downloaded the 500 most cited AJS articles from the Web of Science. I used the algorithm presented in Ke et al. (2015) to find the papers with the highest ‘delayed recognition’ score — a ranking of each paper’s citation time series based on the largest, latest peak  (I urge you all to read Ke et al. (2015) which describes the method).

The most delayed paper is about brachiopods, but I want to focus on research related to geomorphology, so let’s look at the 2nd most delayed paper:

W.W.Rubey (1933): Settling velocities of gravel, sand, and silt particles. Am J Sci April 1, 1933 Series 5 Vol. 25:325-338; doi:10.2475/ajs.s5-25.148.325

(n.b., settling velocity has a special place in my heart)

Rubey’s paper has a score that is similar to the papers from GSA Bulletin. Here is the citation time series for the Rubey paper:Rubey CTS.jpg

So the natural quesiton is —  what happened that caused this 2014 burst of citations? As far as I can tell (from looking at the papers that cited Rubey), nothing in particular… Most papers that cite Rubey are focused on typical sediment transport questions. A close read of all the citing papers would be needed to figure out what is going on here, if there is some ‘signal’. Not a satisfying answer, and I apologize —leave a comment if you have an idea and I’ll update the post if I find anything out.


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