Statistical characteristics of breakthrough discoveries in science using the metaphor of black and white swans

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

8 Scopus Citations
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  • Carl J. Zeng
  • Eric P. Qi
  • Simon S. Li
  • H. Eugene Stanley
  • Fred Y. Ye


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-46
Number of pages7
Journal / PublicationPhysica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
Online published12 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


A publication that reports a breakthrough discovery in a particular scientific field is referred to as a “black swan”, and the most highly-cited papers previously published in the same field “white swans”. Important scientific progress occurs when “white swans” meet a “black swan”, and the citation patterns of the “white swans” change. This metaphor combines scientific discoveries and scientometric data and suggests that breakthrough scientific discoveries are either “black swans” or “grey-black swans”.

Research Area(s)

  • Black swan, Breakthrough discovery, Grey swan, Scientific discovery, White swan

Citation Format(s)