Monday 30 November 2020

Scientific journal snubs professor for ‘offensive’ Sleeping Beauty metaphor

Disney’s classic image

A prestigious American scientific journal has refused to publish an article by Dutch professor Ton van Raan because his metaphoric use of the story of Sleeping Beauty is offensive to women and other cultures, the AD reports.

Van Raan, who is professor of quantative science studies at Leiden University, first employed the Brothers Grimm fairy tale as a metaphor in 2004. It refers to scientific research that has lain dormant for a long period of time to be suddenly rediscovered as a scientific breakthrough.

‘The article is being kissed awake as it were, just like Sleeping Beauty,’ Van Raan told the AD.

In the email sent to Van Raan, the Journal of the Association for Informational Science and Technology (JASIST) claimed his metaphor, which has been adopted by many other scientists, is ‘too sexualising’. It is also ‘culturally discriminating’ because Sleeping Beauty is not a story that is known to other cultures.’

Van Raan called the move ‘political correctness gone mad’. ‘I have used this metaphor in lectures countless times and everybody knew what I was talking about. Even in Egypt people loved it.’

As far as the sexual nature of the story is concerned Van Raan said he only lets his Sleeping Beauty wake up. ‘What my colleagues who also use the metaphor let their princes get up to is up to them,’ he told the paper.


Leiden university rector Carel Stolker called the journal’s reaction ‘bizarre’. ‘I have always wished I had come up with this great and illuminating metaphor myself’ he said in a Tweet.

In Leiden university’s independent weekly Mare, JASIST editor Julia Khanova said the article is not in accordance with the journal editorial guide lines. ‘If Mr Van Raan has any problems with that he can talk to me or the chief editor.’

Van Raan will not rewrite his article he said. ‘Science is dry and insipid enough as it is,’ he told the paper. ‘I will be sending my article to another journal with an equally good reputation.’

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