Grey literature (or gray literature) are materials and research produced by organizations outside of the traditional commercial or academic publishing and distribution channels. Common grey literature publication types include reports (annual, research, technical, project, etc.), working papers, government documents, white papers and evaluations. Organizations that produce grey literature include government departments and agencies, civil society or non-governmental organisations, academic centres and departments, and private companies and consultants.
Grey literature may be made available to the public, or distributed privately within organizations or groups, and may lack a systematic means of distribution and collection. The standard of quality, review and production of grey literature can vary considerably. Grey literature may be difficult to discover, access, and evaluate, but this can be addressed through the formulation of sound search strategies.
While a hazy definition of "grey literature" had existed previously, the term is generally understood to have been coined by the researcher Charles P. Auger, who wrote Use of Reports Literature in 1975. The literature he referred to consisted of intelligence reports and notes on atomic research produced in vast quantities by the Allied Forces during World War II. In a conference held by the British Lending Library Division in 1978, Auger used the term "grey literature" to describe the concept for the first time. His concepts focused upon a "vast body of documents", with "continuing increasing quantity", that were characterized by the "difficulty it presents to the librarian". Auger described the documentation as having great ambiguity between temporary character and durability, and by a growing impact on scientific research. While acknowledging the challenges of reports literature, he recognized that it held a number of advantages "over other means of dissemination, including greater speed, greater flexibility and the opportunity to go into considerable detail if necessary". Auger considered reports a "half-published" communication medium with a "complex interrelationship [to] scientific journals". In 1989 Auger published the second edition of The Documentation of the European Communities: A Guide, which contained the first usage of the term "grey literature" in a published work.
The "Luxembourg definition", discussed and approved at the Third International Conference on Grey Literature in 1997, defined grey literature as "that which is produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats, but which is not controlled by commercial publishers". In 2004, at the Sixth Conference in New York City, a postscript was added to the definition for purposes of clarification: grey literature is "...not controlled by commercial publishers, i.e., where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body". This definition is now widely accepted by the scholarly community.
The U.S. Interagency Gray Literature Working Group (IGLWG), in its "Gray Information Functional Plan" of 1995, defined grey literature as "foreign or domestic open source material that usually is available through specialized channels and may not enter normal channels or systems of publication, distribution, bibliographic control, or acquisition by booksellers or subscription agents". Thus grey literature is usually inaccessible through relevant reference tools such as databases and indexes, which rely upon the reporting of subscription agents.
Other terms used for this material include: report literature, government publications, policy documents, fugitive literature, nonconventional literature, unpublished literature, non-traditional publications, and ephemeral publications. With the introduction of desktop publishing and the Internet, new terms include: electronic publications, online publications, online resources, open-access research, and digital documents.
Though the concept is difficult to define, the term grey literature is an agreed collective term that researchers and information professionals can use to discuss this distinct but disparate group of resources.
In 2010, D.J. Farace and J. Schöpfel pointed out that existing definitions of grey literature were predominantly economic, and argued that in a changing research environment, with new channels of scientific communication, grey literature needed a new conceptual framework. They proposed the "Prague definition" as follows:
Grey literature stands for manifold document types produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats that are protected by intellectual property rights, of sufficient quality to be collected and preserved by library holdings or institutional repositories, but not controlled by commercial publishers i.e., where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body.
The term grey literature acts as a collective noun to refer to a large number of publications types produced by organizations for various reasons. These include: research and project reports, annual or activity reports, theses, conference proceedings, preprints, working papers, newsletters, technical reports, recommendations and technical standards, patents, technical notes, data and statistics, presentations, field notes, laboratory research books, academic courseware, lecture notes, evaluations, and many more. The international network GreyNet maintains an online listing of document types.
Organizations produce grey literature as a means of encapsulating, storing and sharing information for their own use, and for wider distribution. This can take the form of a record of data and information on a site or project (archaeological records, survey data, working papers); sharing information on how and why things occurred (technical reports and specifications, briefings, evaluations, project reports); describing and advocating for changes to public policy, practice or legislation (white papers, discussion papers, submissions); meeting statutory or other requirements for information sharing or management (annual reports, consultation documents); and many other reasons.
Organizations are often looking to create the required output, sharing it with relevant parties quickly and easily, without the delays and restrictions of academic journal and book publishing. Often there is little incentive or justification for organizations or individuals to publish in academic journals and books, and often no need to charge for access to organizational outputs. Indeed, some information organizations may be required to make certain information and documents public. On the other hand, grey literature is not necessarily always free, with some resources, such as market reports, selling for thousands of dollars. However, this is the exception and on the whole grey literature, while costly to produce, is usually made available for free.
While production and research quality may be extremely high (with organizational reputation vested in the end product), the producing body, not being a formal publisher, generally lacks the channels for extensive distribution and bibliographic control.
Information and research professionals generally draw a distinction between ephemera and grey literature. However, there are certain overlaps between the two media and they undoubtedly share common frustrations such as bibliographic control issues. Unique written documents such as manuscripts and archives, and personal communications, are not usually considered to fall under the heading of grey literature, although they again share some of the same problems of control and access.
The relative importance of grey literature is largely dependent on research disciplines and subjects, on methodological approaches, and on the sources they use. In some fields, especially in the life sciences and medical sciences, there has been a traditional preference for only using peer-reviewed academic journals while in others, such as agriculture, aeronautics and the engineering sciences in general, grey literature resources tend to predominate.
In the last few decades, systematic literature reviews in health and medicine have established the importance of discovering and analyzing grey literature as part of the evidence-base and in order to avoid publication bias.
Grey literature is particularly important as a means of distributing scientific and technical and public policy and practice information. Professionals insist on its importance for two main reasons: research results are often more detailed in reports, doctoral theses and conference proceedings than in journals, and they are distributed in these forms up to 12 or even 18 months before being published elsewhere. Some results simply are not published anywhere else.
In particular, public administrations and public and industrial research laboratories produce a great deal of “grey” material, often for internal and in some cases “restricted” dissemination. The notion of evidence-based policy has also seen some recognition of the importance of grey literature as part of the evidence-base; however, the term is not yet widely used in public policy and the social sciences more broadly.
For a number of reasons, discovery, access, evaluation and curation of grey literature pose a number of difficulties.
Generally, grey literature lacks any strict or meaningful bibliographic control. Basic information such as authors, publication dates and publishing or corporate bodies may not be easily identified. Similarly, the nonprofessional layouts and formats, low print runs and non-conventional channels of distribution make the organized collection of grey literature a challenge compared to journals and books.
Although grey literature is often discussed with reference to scientific research, it is by no means restricted to any one field: outside the hard sciences, it presents significant challenges in archaeology where site surveys and excavation reports, containing unique data, have frequently been produced and circulated in informal "grey" formats.
Some of the problems of accessing grey literature have decreased since the late 1990s as government, professional, business and university bodies have increasingly published their reports and other official or review documents online. The informal nature of grey literature has meant that it has become more numerous as the technology that allows people to create documentation has improved. Less expensive and more sophisticated printers increased the ease of creating grey literature. And the ability to post documents on the internet has resulted in a tremendous boom. The impact of this trend has been greatly boosted since the early 2000s, as the growth of major search engines has made retrieving grey literature simultaneously easier and more cluttered. Grey reports are thus far more easily found online than they were, often at no cost to access. Most users of reports and other grey documents have migrated to using online copies, and efforts by libraries to collect hard-copy versions have generally declined in consequence.
However, many problems remain because originators often fail to produce online reports or publications to an adequate bibliographic standard (often omitting a publication date, for instance). Documents are often not assigned permanent URLs or DOI numbers, or stored in electronic depositories, so that link rot can develop within citations, reference lists, databases and websites. Copyright law and the copyrighted status of many reports inhibits their downloading and electronic storage and there is a lack of large scale collecting of digital grey literature. Securing long-term access to and management of grey literature in the digital era thus remains a considerable problem.
The amount of digital grey literature now available also poses a problem for finding relevant resources and to be able to assess their credibility and quality given the number of resources now available. At the same time a great deal of grey literature remains hidden, either not made public or not made discoverable via search engines.
Various databases and libraries collect and make available print and digital grey literature; however, the cost and difficulty of finding and cataloguing grey literature mean that it is still difficult to find large collections. The British Library began collecting print grey literature in the post WWII period and now has an extensive collection of print resources. Australian and New Zealand Policy Online has an extensive collection of grey literature on a wide range of public policy issues, Arxiv is a collection of preprints on physics and other sciences, RePEc is a collection of economics working papers.
Many university libraries provide subject guides that give information on grey literature and suggestions for databases. ROAR and OpenDOAR are directories of Open Access (OA) Institutional Repositories (IR) and subject repositories many of which contain some grey literature.
The annual International grey literature conference series has been organised since 1993 by the Europe-based organisation GreyNet Research in this field of information has been systematically documented and archived via the International Conference Series on Grey Literature (1993, Vol.1)...(2014, Vol.16)
Greynet also produces a journal on grey literature and has been a key advocate for the recognition and study of grey literature, particularly in library and information sciences. The Grey Journal (2005, Vol.1)...(2014, Vol.10). (print: ISSN 1574-1796, online: ISSN 1574-180X). The Grey Journal appears three times a year—in spring, summer, and autumn. Each issue in a volume is thematic and deals with one or more related topics in the field of grey literature. The Grey Journal appears both in print and electronic formats. The electronic version on article level is available via EBSCO's LISTA-FT Database (EBSCO Publishing). The Grey Journal is indexed by Scopus and others.
On 16 May 2014, the Pisa Declaration on Policy Development for Grey Literature Resources was ratified and published.
An annual report is a comprehensive report on a company's activities throughout the preceding year. Annual reports are intended to give shareholders and other interested people information about the company's activities and financial performance. They may be considered as grey literature. Most jurisdictions require companies to prepare and disclose annual reports, and many require the annual report to be filed at the company's registry. Companies listed on a stock exchange are also required to report at more frequent intervals (depending upon the rules of the stock exchange involved).Blue book
Blue book or bluebook is a term often referring to an almanac, buyer's guide or other compilation of statistics and information. The term dates back to the 15th century, when large blue velvet-covered books were used for record-keeping by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The OED first records such a usage in 1633. The term has a variety of other meanings.Brochure
A brochure is an informative paper document (often also used for advertising) that can be folded into a template, pamphlet or leaflet. A brochure can also be a set of related unfolded papers put into a pocket folder or packet. Brochures are promotional documents, primarily used to introduce a company, organization, products or services and inform prospective customers or members of the public of the benefits.
Brochures are distributed in many different ways: as newspaper inserts, handed out personally, by mail or placed in brochure racks in high traffic locations especially in tourist precincts. They may be considered as grey literature.European Association for Grey Literature Exploitation
The “European Association for Grey Literature Exploitation” (EAGLE) was created in 1985 by European scientific and technical information centres and libraries in order to produce the bibliographic database “System for Information on Grey Literature in Europe” (SIGLE).
The objective was to improve information transfer, ensure availability of research results and increase international awareness of European grey literature by making the bibliographic records as widely available as possible.
The role of the members was to identify and collect documents, to prepare associated bibliographic and subject descriptions, to provide information services and products to users, and to archive and deliver copies of the grey literature documents.Green paper
In the European Union, the Commonwealth countries, Hong Kong and the United States, a green paper is a tentative government report and consultation document of policy proposals for debate and discussion. A green paper represents the best that the government can propose on the given issue, but, remaining uncommitted, it is able without loss of face to leave its final decision open until it has been able to consider the public reaction to it. Green papers may result in the production of a white paper. They may be considered as grey literature.Grey Literature Network Service
GreyNet International, the Grey Literature Network Service is an independent organization founded in 1992, which is dedicated to research, publication, open access, education, and public awareness to grey literature. Grey literature is often defined as "information produced and distributed on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing i.e. where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body.".GreyNet is corporate author of the Proceedings issuing from the International Conference Series on Grey Literature, The Grey Journal, An International Journal on Grey Literature, as well as other types of publications such as reports, program books, and newsletters. GreyNet also maintains a Listserv and a presence on a number of social media including LinkedIn, Netvibes, Twitter, and Facebook.
GreyNet is a not for profit organisation fostering the production and dissemination of scientific literature. It is also engaged in the open source movement and was invited to the 10th Libre Software Meeting 2009 in Nantes, France, with a communication on knowledge sharing in the field of grey literature.During the 11th International Conference on Grey Literature December 2009, GreyNet signed a Partnership Agreement with ICSTI, International Council for Scientific and Technical Information. This newly established partnership lends to GreyNet a multilateral base, elevating it from a bilateral one that it already shares with a number of ICSTI Members. GreyNet seeks to provide ICSTI with an opportunity to further broaden its information activities to the social sciences and humanities.ICMJE recommendations
The ICMJE recommendations (full title, Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals) are a set of guidelines produced by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors for standardising the ethics, preparation and formatting of manuscripts submitted for publication by biomedical journals. Compliance with the ICMJE Recommendations is required by most leading biomedical journals. As of 2017, over ~3274 journals worldwide followed the Uniform Requirements.The recommendations were formerly called the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals (abbreviated URMs and often shortened to Uniform Requirements).Lecture
A lecture (from the French lecture, meaning reading) is an oral presentation intended to present information or teach people about a particular subject, for example by a university or college teacher. Lectures are used to convey critical information, history, background, theories, and equations. A politician's speech, a minister's sermon, or even a businessman's sales presentation may be similar in form to a lecture. Usually the lecturer will stand at the front of the room and recite information relevant to the lecture's content.
Though lectures are much criticised as a teaching method, universities have not yet found practical alternative teaching methods for the large majority of their courses. Critics point out that lecturing is mainly a one-way method of communication that does not involve significant audience participation but relies upon passive learning. Therefore, lecturing is often contrasted to active learning. Lectures delivered by talented speakers can be highly stimulating; at the very least, lectures have survived in academia as a quick, cheap, and efficient way of introducing large numbers of students to a particular field of study.
Lectures have a significant role outside the classroom, as well. Academic and scientific awards routinely include a lecture as part of the honor, and academic conferences often center on "keynote addresses", i.e., lectures. The public lecture has a long history in the sciences and in social movements. Union halls, for instance, historically have hosted numerous free and public lectures on a wide variety of matters. Similarly, churches, community centers, libraries, museums, and other organizations have hosted lectures in furtherance of their missions or their constituents' interests. Lectures represent a continuation of oral tradition in contrast to textual communication in books and other media. Lectures may be considered a type of grey literature.Manuscript (publishing)
"Manuscript" is a broad concept in publishing, that can refer to one or both of the following:
the formatting of a short story manuscript,
an accepted manuscript (by its merit, not its format), not yet in a final format (but reviewed), published with non-final-format in advance, as preprint.A manuscript is the work that an author submits to a publisher, editor, or producer for publication. Even with the advent of desktop publishing, making it possible for anyone to prepare text that appears professionally typeset, many publishers still require authors to submit manuscripts within their respective guidelines.Memorandum
A memorandum (abbrev.: memo; from Latin memorandum est, "It must be remembered") is a written message that may be used in a business office. The plural form of the Latin noun memorandum so derived is properly memoranda, but if the word is deemed to have become a word of the English language, the plural memorandums, abbreviated to memos, may be used. (See also Agenda, Corrigenda, Addenda).
A memorandum can have only a certain number of formats; it may have a format specific to an office or institution. In law specifically, a memorandum is a record of the terms of a transaction or contract, such as a policy memo, memorandum of understanding, memorandum of agreement, or memorandum of association. Alternative formats include memos, briefing notes, reports, letters, binders, etc. They could be one page long or many. They may be considered as grey literature. If the user is a cabinet minister or a senior executive, the format might be rigidly defined and limited to one or two pages. If the user is a colleague, the format is usually much more flexible. At its most basic level a memorandum can be a handwritten note to one's supervisor. In business, a memo is typically used by firms for internal communication, as opposed to letters which are typically for external communication. Hence, we can consider memoranda as an upward communication process through which any complaint, issues, opinion, views and suggestion are put forward to theauthorized level.Newsletter
A newsletter is a printed report containing news (information) of the activities of a business (legal name; subscription business model) or an organization (institutions, societies, associations) that is sent by mail regularly to all its members, customers, employees or people, who are interested in. Newsletters generally contain one main topic of interest to its recipients. A newsletter may be considered grey literature. E-newsletters are delivered electronically via e-mail and can be viewed as spamming if e-mail marketing is sent unsolicited.Poster
A poster is any piece of printed paper designed to be attached to a wall or vertical surface. Typically posters include both textual and graphic elements, although a poster may be either wholly graphical or wholly text. Posters are designed to be both eye-catching and informative. Posters may be used for many purposes. They are a frequent tool of advertisers (particularly of events, musicians, and films), propagandists, protestors, and other groups trying to communicate a message. Posters are also used for reproductions of artwork, particularly famous works, and are generally low-cost compared to the original artwork. The modern poster, as we know it, however, dates back to the 1840s and 1850s when the printing industry perfected colour lithography and made mass production possible.Preprint
In academic publishing, a preprint is a version of a scholarly or scientific paper that precedes formal peer review and publication in a peer-reviewed scholarly or scientific journal. The preprint may be available, often as a non-typeset version available free, before and/or after a paper is published in a journal.Proceedings
In academia and librarianship, proceedings are the acts and happenings of an academic field, a learned society, or an academic conference. For example, the title of the Acta Crystallographica journals is New Latin for "Proceedings in Crystallography"; the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America is the main journal of that academy; and conference proceedings are a collection of academic papers published in the context of an academic conference or workshop. Conference proceedings typically contain the contributions made by researchers at the conference. They are the written record of the work that is presented to fellow researchers. In many fields, they are published as supplements to academic journals; in others they may be considered grey literature. They are usually distributed in printed or electronic volumes, either before the conference opens or after it has closed. Scientific journals whose ISO 4 title abbreviations start with Proc, Acta, or Trans are journals of the proceedings (transactions) of a field or of an organization concerned with it.System for Information on Grey Literature in Europe
The “System for Information on Grey Literature in Europe” (SIGLE) was established in 1980, two years after a seminar on grey literature organised by the European Commission in York (UK). Operated by a network of national information or document supply centres active in collecting and promoting grey literature, SIGLE was an on line, pan-European electronic bibliographic database and document delivery system.
The objective was to provide access to European grey literature and to improve bibliographic coverage.
From 1980 to 1985, SIGLE was funded by the Commission of the European Communities (CEC). When CEC financial support ended in 1985, the national centres formed a network for the acquisition, identification and dissemination of grey literature called “European Association for Grey Literature Exploitation” or EAGLE, who became the producer of the SIGLE database.
Input to the database ended in 2005 when the EAGLE General Assembly decided the liquidation of the network.
In 2007, together with the last EAGLE operating agent, FIZ Karlsruhe, the French STI centre INIST-CNRS integrated the SIGLE records into a new open access database called OpenSIGLE hosted by INIST-CNRS.Technical report
A technical report (also scientific report) is a document that describes the process, progress, or results of technical or scientific research or the state of a technical or scientific research problem. It might also include recommendations and conclusions of the research. Unlike other scientific literature, such as scientific journals and the proceedings of some academic conferences, technical reports rarely undergo comprehensive independent peer review before publication. They may be considered as grey literature. Where there is a review process, it is often limited to within the originating organization. Similarly, there are no formal publishing procedures for such reports, except where established locally.Thesis
A thesis or dissertation is a document submitted in support of candidature for an academic degree or professional qualification presenting the author's research and findings. In some contexts, the word "thesis" or a cognate is used for part of a bachelor's or master's course, while "dissertation" is normally applied to a doctorate, while in other contexts, the reverse is true. The term graduate thesis is sometimes used to refer to both master's theses and doctoral dissertations.The required complexity or quality of research of a thesis or dissertation can vary by country, university, or program, and the required minimum study period may thus vary significantly in duration.
The word "dissertation" can at times be used to describe a treatise without relation to obtaining an academic degree. The term "thesis" is also used to refer to the general claim of an essay or similar work.White paper
A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body's philosophy on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.
The initial British term concerning a type of government-issued document has proliferated, taking a somewhat new meaning in business. In business, a white paper is closer to a form of marketing presentation, a tool meant to persuade customers and partners and promote a product or viewpoint. White papers may be considered grey literature.Working paper
A working paper or work paper may be:
A preliminary scientific or technical paper. Often, authors will release working papers to share ideas about a topic or to elicit feedback before submitting to a peer reviewed conference or academic journal. Working papers are often the basis for related works, and may in themselves be cited by peer-review papers. They may be considered as grey literature.
Sometimes the term working paper is used synonymously as technical report. Working papers are typically hosted on websites, belonging either to the author or the author's affiliated institution. The United Nations uses the term "working paper" in approximately this sense for the draft of a resolution.
Documents required for a minor to get a job in certain states within the United States. Such papers usually require the employer, parent/guardian, school, and a physician to agree to the terms of work laid out by the employer.
Audit working papers: Documents required on an audit of a company's financial statements. The working papers are the property of the accounting firm conducting the audit. These papers are formally referred to as Audit Documentation or sometimes as the audit file. The documents serve as proof of audit procedures performed, evidence obtained and the conclusion or opinion the auditor reached (AU 339.05). For more information, see AS 3 and AU 339 or www.aicpa.org.
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