GL'99 Explores 'New Frontiers in Grey Literature'

Library Hi Tech News

ISSN: 0741-9058

Article publication date: 1 May 2000



Luther, J. (2000), "GL'99 Explores 'New Frontiers in Grey Literature'", Library Hi Tech News, Vol. 17 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

GL'99 Explores 'New Frontiers in Grey Literature'

Judy Luther


The Fourth International Conference on Grey Literature was held in the USA for the first time on October 4-5, 1999 at the Kellogg Conference Center on the campus of Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. Grey literature has been redefined as information produced at all levels of government, academia, business and industry, in print and electronic formats which is not controlled by commercial publishers.

Created and organized by Dominic Farace, the theme for GL'99, "New Frontiers," attracted 105 participants from 22 countries. Farace opened the conference by welcoming the group saying, "We come together not as one but as many" who are interested in this topic of grey literature, which is seen as an extension of the process of communication.

Five companies were conference sponsors and had exhibits available: BIOSIS, Japan Science & Technology, MCB University Press, NASA, and National Library of Education. Product reviews were scheduled between the sessions. The two-day program was organized around three general sessions:

  1. 1.

    value of grey literature;

  2. 2.

    publishing and archiving; and

  3. 3.

    copyright and ownership.

In addition, two tracks of breakout sessions focused on additional topics of global interest offering insights into the challenges of managing and using grey literature. Lunches were organized into working groups on topics such as copyright, collection development, archiving, and technology.

Opening Session ­ Value of Grey Literature

Grey Literature: Plausible Applications for Distance EducationJulia Gelfand, University of California, Irvine

From its origins as a correspondence program, distance education has incorporated technology and grown to offer more flexible and individualized instruction that has become an alternative to today's large lecture hall in traditional education.

Computers are the most versatile component of distance education and serve as the backbone for communication and interactive asynchronous learning environments. The virtual classroom today includes e-mail, chat sessions, a whiteboard, shared applications, streaming video, audio, multimedia files, links, and course Websites.

Faculty are stressed today to stay up to date with new technology. New concepts such as "thoughtware" refer to the essential nature of knowledge that threatens to disrupt, provoke, challenge and then eventually become an agent of change in institutions.

Librarians have been challenged to support the information needs of remote learners. ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) created a document in 1998, which defines the players in distance learning and suggests the best combination of support needed for faculty and students.

Gelfand suggested that we think of grey literature as "an adventure" since it uses knowledge to confront problems in real-world situations and complements distance education by offering a wealth of alternative electronic publications.

The rapid growth of grey literature in the public domain supports independent learning. The Report on Copyright and Digital Distance Education interprets how the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 applies to distance education, copyright, an analysis of current law and whether the law should be revised.

Today interactive computer visualization can greatly extend the ability of faculty and students to expand their concepts and evaluate various resources. In the future students will have degrees from institutions they have visited only on the Web. Grey literature can be part of the fabric of a networked environment.

The Internet and the Socio-Structural Change of Informal Scientific CommunicationHelmut Artus, InformationsZentrum Socialwissenschaften

Speaking from a sociological perspective, Artus addressed the changes taking place in informal scientific communication, which he predicts will undergo severe change. Since the Internet facilitates communication, there is a dramatic increase in the number of contributors and contributions, as well as the volume of publications and the speed with which they are being published.

The boundaries between communication and publication are blurring due to the currency factor. There are more electronic publications and information of a trivial nature will continue to proliferate on the Internet.

Distinctions between grey and white literature will be maintained. Artus defined "dirty" grey literature as publications that have no metadata. He recommended that grey literature should be distinguished from the mass of literature on the Internet by a brand or trademark to validate it.

The Web can link database producers and authors together. Commercial publishers, database producers and grey literature producers will also link together.

To be recognized, scientists must be published in prestigious journals. The rewards come from being the first to claim results. Prestige increases with the level of difficulty of being published. Although scientists use the Internet, do not expect them to change their current behavior regarding publication.

Grey Literature and Library and Information Studies (LIS): A Global PerspectiveL. Olatokunbo Aina, University of Botswana

A regular at the four previous conferences on grey literature, Aina noted that the topics typically are on managing grey literature and the shift from ownership to access.

His current paper reviewed the coverage of grey literature in library science over a five year period from 1993-1997 based on an analysis of data in Library and Information Science Abstracts (LISA). He identified 101 publications that focused on grey literature and noted that 63 percent were from proceedings, 30 percent from journals and the remaining 7 percent from books and reports. Over half (57.3 percent) of the total were from Proceedings of the International Conference on Grey Literature ­ a significant resource.

Topics covered focused on collections 46 percent, information technology 18 percent, bibliographic control 17 percent and characteristics of grey literature 14 percent. Aina recommended support of the newly launched International Journal of Grey Literature, more research on grey literature in Asia and the need to explore other topics related to grey literature.

Plenary Session One ­ Global Assessment of Grey Literature

Electronic Theses and Dissertations: The Authors, Librarians, Graduate School PerspectiveGail McMillan, Virginia Polytechnic Institute

At Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI), electronic theses and dissertations (ETD) are a requirement of graduate students. The university supplies Adobe Acrobat to students at computer workstations on campus. The students then supply PDF versions of their work and pay what used to be called a "binding" fee and is now called an "archiving" fee.

The library is pleased to have 800 to1,000 ETDs every year as they are able to offer more timely access, save shelf space and serve the users better. Librarians instruct authors in creating their work electronically and students benefit from learning the technology. There are mirror sites for preservation purposes.

As Director of the Digital Library and Archives, McMillan conducted a survey on the varied perspectives about electronic theses and dissertations from the students (authors), the faculty and librarians. Of the 455 graduate students from Virginia Polytechnic Institute surveyed from February-August 1999, 69.2 percent planned to publish articles from their ETDs. The survey looked at the use of the ETD and how different groups felt about it.

A surprising number of faculty (86.7 percent) recommended limiting access to the materials. Faculty are cautious about protecting graduate students in terms of the time delay in the ETD being available. Half of the authors chose to allow free access, 30 percent chose to allow access to the VPI community and the remaining 20 percent chose to withhold access.

An evaluation of visitors to the Website indicated that almost half, 48 percent, were from educational institutions and 33 percent were from commercial sites. There were more international users from Asia, especially Singapore, and South America than they had expected. Fifty users on the Website chose to complete a voluntary survey and nearly 60 percent indicated they were doing research.

VPI considers the ETDs a success and McMillan noted that 60 other universities are moving in this same direction.

International Transportation LiteratureBonnie Osif, Penn State University

Osif began by raising the question, "Why can't researchers get access to the information they need in the area of transportation?" Transportation represents a major segment of the economy and there is an increased need for access to information on this topic. So a research project on accessibility of transportation information was conducted.

The TRIS database was analyzed and records indexed were coded for language, format, country of origin and whether the item was grey literature. Most of the citations were in English and approximately 80 percent were grey literature.

Given the importance of international materials, 12 European transportation centers were visited and data gathered on researcher demographics, collections, Websites and locally produced reports, and utilization of US materials. Although English is well understood by European researchers, many of the reports are locally focused and written in the language of the country. They are often not available in the USA.

An analysis of locally produced public reports was used to collect and code a sample of bibliographic references. They found that the majority of the materials referenced were either not listed in OCLC or held by less than five libraries, which reduces the likelihood that they will be made available.

Further study is warranted to explore the problems related to accessibility of these documents including areas of: collection development (identifying publishers and sources), technology issues, funding, and people issues (determining who should filter the information).

Transportation information is important for safety, to share innovations, to be efficient and to prevent dead ends. In the USA, the National Transportation Library puts up reports in electronic form, while other countries expect to sell their publications and are reluctant to share information as freely on the Web.

A Profile of GL Producers in the Field of Safety and Health at Workplaces in Italy: Results of a Sample SurveyDaniela Luzi, Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche

Recent European regulations and subsequent Italian legislation on health and safety in the workplace have resulted in the production and distribution of documents by institutions and associations. This paper reports on Phase One of a two-year project aimed at creating a database of grey literature (GL) on health and safety at work.

Phase One was a survey to identify GL producers, types of publications, bibliographic treatment and distribution methods. Approximately 900 questionnaires were sent to research institutions, national and local health care departments and consultancy associations with a 54 percent response rate. The highest response level came from consultancies.

The tasks covered in publications were risk assessment, research of innovative solutions, information and educational efforts. The challenge was to cover both public and private institutions in manufacturing and agriculture and to include the disciplines of health, engineering, chemistry and environmental concerns.

GL types included proceedings, reports, newsletters, course handouts, informational leaflets, preprints, journals, technical evaluations and guidelines. Grey literature often is indicative of a work in progress.

An analysis of distribution methods showed that information flow is circular with the distribution of documents chiefly among the same type of institution. Some organizations were required to distribute the publications internally to all employees or to a predefined list. Many had not identified a group of regular users and 65 percent sent documents only on request.

At most institutions, distribution is handled by the author and at only 18 percent of institutions is it handled by the library. The services provided by the institution include editing, cataloging and distribution.

Plenary Session Two ­ Publishing and Archiving Electronic Grey Literature

Preserving the Pyramid of STI Using BucketsMichael Nelson, NASA Langley

Formal publications cover a decreasing percentage of NASA's scientific and technical information (STI) output. The journal article is the tip of the iceberg ­ an abstract of work based on a much larger body of work, supported by a broad base of less formal STI. The researcher typically wants access to the supporting materials, data and software, even though there is currently no vector for these related sources to appear together.

Most digital libraries are built around formats whereas the informal STI relies on collegial network. The customers should not have to reintegrate the content they need that has been assembled by format in a dis-integrated way.

To address this concern the authors recommend "buckets" which can aggregate all data on a project and offer intelligence in terms of connecting and negotiating with other databases. They provide a mechanism for gathering related information together into a container that is archive and protocol independent.

Buckets represent the Smart Object, Dumb Archive (SODA) model of a digital library (DL). DLs often have a tightly connected relationship between the data object, the archive and the interface. Buckets decouple the archive and the content, so that much of the functionality of an archive is pushed down into the objects, such as enforcing terms, conditions, display and maintenance. The object should be the authority on its contents not an archive.

The bucket architecture packages reports, appendices, contact information, preprints and pointers. There is a default set of public methods defined for communicating with buckets. A set of "bucket tools" enables:

  • publishing to create the bucket;

  • management to handle routing and approval; and

  • administration to handle archives.

Buckets carry codes for metadata and archives and these can be put to work while waiting to be accessed. Buckets can look for similar buckets offline and match on authors or other fields, delivering a greater level of efficient support.

An Architecture for Grey Literature in an R&D Context Keith Jeffrey, Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CLRC-RAL)

Jeffrey is Director of Information Technology at the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CLRC) which is a government Research and Development (R&D) laboratory in the UK with 25 percent commercial funding. Half of the R&D output is considered grey literature: technical papers, theses, dissertations, reports, prototypes, data and their presentation/visualization, reports, procedure instructions, documentation, courses, press releases, product or organizational flyers.

Jeffrey asserted that grey literature is the knowledge resource of an organization and may be the major competitive advantage.

CERIF, the Common European Research Interchange Format, provides a comprehensive data model for R&D information relating to patents, products and publications. However, CERIF has not yet tackled the problem of grey literature.

Grey literature is defined as "documents" that are not formally published which have been refereed or edited. Requirements for a grey literature system include converting documents to a standard format, cataloging, providing copyright protection, arranging for sale and usage statistics and ultimately providing a retrieval mechanism.

Jeffery pointed out that documents are more likely to be whole or "atomic" going into the database but are more likely to be retrieved in "subatomic" fragments. Therefore it is essential to separate elements of the document: the structure (which relates to hyperlinks), the content (language, character set, media), the presentation or layout (for preservation), and the metadata (for cataloging, security, certification).

The Dublin Core is very basic and lacks a unique ID and codes for presentation, security, and privacy access. To accommodate grey literature the author or creator should be designated as the person or organizational unit. Dates should be attached to elements rather than the whole document.

Metadata can be used for a variety of functions if it is expanded. With sufficient architecture and metadata, the user interface can be intuitive offering intelligent assistance with minimal interaction.

Grey Lit in Energy: A Shifting ParadigmDeborah Cutler, Office of Scientific and Technical Information

For 52 years, the US Department of Energy (DOE) has been collecting, generating bibliographic information, preserving and disseminating grey literature for all the DOE labs throughout the country. They have five million bibliographic records now and have won government awards for their work in making this literature accessible.

The DOE Information Bridge ( makes 43,000 R&D reports available online. Usage went from 100 reports/week in print to an average download of 2,200 reports/ week.

They had microfiche before going online and used the GPO to send fiche to depository libraries. Then National Technical Information Service (NTIS) was a source for both the paper and fiche versions. However, in 1985 they experienced extreme budget cuts and in the last five years have lost 47 percent of their budget. Their challenge was how to improve access to information.

They conceived of a Virtual Library which included the Information Bridge and they were involved in numerous detailed decisions as implementation progressed. They chose PDF and TIFF formats and decided to OCR documents but not clean them up. Retrieval would be handled with full-text searching. Documents would be exchanged in TIFF format when they trade data with partners which include other DOE sites, the International Atomic Energy Agency ( and the International Energy Agency (

Although they wanted more PDFs than TIFFs, some organizations internationally will not provide data if they are made available electronically. They added PURLs to bibliographic records for increased access. Archiving is still up in the air and they question keeping TIFF files.

Looking to the future, PubScience is modeled after PubMed and provides a place to search metadata on journal literature which complements their extensive files on grey literature in energy.

European Center for Higher Energy PhysicsJens Vigen, CERN (European Center for High Energy Physics)

Vigen pointed out the need to offer an efficient and effective way to connect directly with full text. Users want direct access to documents. Two scientists who studied Web topology discovered that on average two pages on the Web are 18 clicks apart.

At CERN, they have developed a system called "Go Direct" which links directly to the document. Since URLs are not permanent, but references and documents are, why not use only three criteria ­ journal title, volume and page?

CERN is persuading publishers and converting their data to this system in order to accomplish easy access for 500 journal titles. They get 200 articles each day with 4,000 references.

Vigen implored publishers to keep it simple and enable them to use a standard approach, noting that even digital object identifiers (DOIs) are too long to be practical.

Plenary Session Three ­ Copyright and Grey Literature: Authorship, Ownership And Property Rights

Grey Copyrights for Grey Literature: National Assumptions, International RightsMichael Seadle, Michigan State University

Grey literature is a new term which was coined at the end of the 1960s and conveyed value. Property rights depend in part on the willingness of people to defend them. A few features of US Copyright Law:

  • when the USA joined the Berne Convention in 1989, it meant that work did not need to have © symbol to be protected;

  • the duration of protection is lifetime plus 70 years;

  • the rights of published vs unpublished works varied;

  • moral rights are not part of the US law except for the visual arts;

  • enforcement requires that the owner take a role in defending their rights.

Seadle cited three examples of copyright being ignored:

  1. 1.

    Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton, leaders of the Black Panther Party in the USA, wanted wide distribution and their work went into the public domain in accordance with the 1909 Copyright Law which required registration. They lost the right to withdraw the work later on.

  2. 2.

    Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech was declared protected as King's property; however, infringement never stopped. Belated copyright was awarded but they lost the ability to control distribution.

  3. 3.

    Erica Olsen did not act to protect her e-zine "Es Chica Chica" when it was copied and distributed despite being clearly copyrighted.

Two major changes that affect publishing today are the Berne Convention and commercialization of the Internet. Protection conflicts with the desire to maximize accessibility. Infringement will not diminish until authors choose to defend their rights

Intellectual Property on the Move: Grey Literature and Authors' Rights in an Electronic EnvironmentCees de Blaaij, University of Amsterdam

The electronic format has the "fluency properties of water flowing to the sea from author to reader". This makes the Internet a celestial jukebox and a digital Pandora's box as regards copyright.

The Berne Convention in 1886 is the basis for common national copyright laws. The Trips Agreement in 1994 offered greater return for the producers of information by restricting access to it.

WIPO Copyright Treaty in 1996 awards more rights to the authors. Article 7, the Right of Reproduction, does not allow any electronic copies even for backups. The extension of the Copyright Law benefited publishers by extending the period of copyright to life plus 70 years.

Laws are being affected by publishers' lobbying and the outlook is not bright for authors and readers. Rights should be sufficient to provide an incentive to create works but not so much as to impede access to the work.

Application of Electronic Copyright Management Systems (ECMS) to Grey LiteratureDave Davis, Copyright Clearance Center (CCC)

The US Code states that copyright is designed "To promote the progress of science and the useful arts, by securing for a limited time to authors and investors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

The Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) in FY '99 had receipts totaling $66 million. The bundle of rights covers different formats and geographic distributions.

Technical elements of an Electronic Copyright Management System (ECMS) include granular searching, standard metadata, purls, maintenance of rights management, and real-time access tracking. The transactional elements are a work, a rightsholder, a user, an agreement, and a method for paying. The cycle of publishing has five steps from first publication, to reception, to response, to republication and reuse, and finally to a new work.

Several questions are raised in regards to grey literature. To what extent is grey literature reused in commercial work? What is the impact factor of grey literature? Are there commercial opportunities for custom publishing? Is standardized subject access on a granular level a prerequisite of increasing reuse?

Black and White or Making You See Red: Copyrights and Grey Literature in a Global ContextGraham Cornish, International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)

Rights management is a hot topic and may originate in the basic idea that "what we create, we can control." The Berne Convention confers rights to the author that are absolute and unbeknownst to some authors. The passive acquisition of rights is what causes many to see red.

Authors of grey literature usually have an interest in the copyright of their work as it relates to their careers and affects the accuracy of their work. In most jurisdictions it belongs to the company for whom the person works. Most companies are interested in the content rather than the text of an article unless there are competitive concerns.

Moral rights may be valued and economic rights may have little impact with grey literature. Owners of copyright of grey literature may be more interested in who has access to their work, rather than any economic motive.

It is important to always ask permission and to acknowledge the author. Varying levels beyond that may require that the user also acknowledge the source and may affect copying and distribution in either electronic or paper form, or possibly no restrictions at all.

Product Reviews

MCB UP ­ Caroline Newsome

MCB is replacing its old linear model, with a new customer-oriented circular model with the Author->editor->library->consumer-> with the publisher making contributions at each point in this revised supply chain. It provides an efficient permissions service with a liberal author contract and compensates authors at a rate of 20 percent of revenues. Its new electronic peer review system, PeerNet, opens the review process to include an increased number of subject specialists. These new initiatives are consistent with its mission which is two-pronged:

  1. 1.

    adding value to the body of knowledge; and

  2. 2.

    supporting the creation and dissemination of information.

Research Registers have been created as an online forum for the circulation of prepublications. It is launching the International Journal on Grey Literature (IJGL), which is concerned with distribution channels, access to and control of grey literature. The work it is doing is transforming the journal into an information resource and a gateway to related content.

ERIC and GEM ­ Stephen Hunt

ERIC is a selected database of documents with an unsolicited peer review process. Noting an example whereby a possible participant could not contribute due to lack of online time, Hunt characterized open participation as limited by "issues of high policy camouflaged by issues of low economics".

GEM, Gateway to Educational Materials, is a consortium with members from the private and public sectors focused on standardized metadata and tagging. This will be a virtual library of grey and other types of literature. Going forward full-text information will be mounted on demand.

Director of Japanese Research Information ­ Hiroyuki Sato

They have four directories:

  1. 1.

    research institute directory with 1,100 entries and basic research information;

  2. 2.

    directory of researchers with 35,000 entries of personal information;

  3. 3.

    directory of subjects with 44,000 entries; and

  4. 4.

    directory of research resources with 612 entries on materials available to the public.

ReaD was begun by a private company in Japan in October 1997 and is a single source of scientific and technical information for the country that is available to the general public via the Web. Searches are conducted over categories, full text and links so that researchers can update information themselves by using the Researchers Direct Data Renewal System. or

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) ­ Eric Vogel

The STI goal is to support the mission of NASA, provide desktop access to the aerospace community worldwide, reduce duplication and create a world class database of aerospace information. STI covers a wide range of subjects with the largest being electronics, chemistry, and even social sciences and geosciences. Only 33 percent of the data comes from NASA and the majority from other government databases. Most of the users are expected to access information electronically. There is an alerting service in 150 subject areas where updates can be emailed directly to users. Center for Aerospace Information (CASI) maintains the database, and provides custom searches and access to electronic information.

System for Information on Grey Literature in Europe (SIGLE) ­ Andrew Smith

SIGLE is the premier source for natural science, social science, technology and bio medicine with about half of the resources coming from academic institutions in Europe. EAGLE (European Association for Grey Literature Exploitation) was formed by a cooperative international group of 15 member countries. They identify, describe, service and archive grey literature and have more than 600,000 records with an additional 80,000 each year. Over half are from the UK and a quarter from Germany, followed by France and others.

SIGLE provides a subject classification scheme that covers the range of topics. Searching includes titles, descriptors and abstracts when they are available. The SIGLE bibliographic database is available on CD-ROM from SilverPlatter and online from STN International. Document delivery rests entirely with the member organization and the bibliographic record indicates availability.

GL Compendium ­ Dominic Farace

The challenge with grey literature is to identify what is available. GL Compendium is a multidisciplinary Web-based directory linked to the documents. Participants include MCB, Greynet, EAGLE, GL contributors and GL subscribers. Collections will include conference proceedings, dissertations, preprints and reports in various formats and be coded by subject categories, accessibility, cost and Web address. Another portion of the database is devoted to identifying the contributing body. Farace invited input from the audience on the development of the database.

Judy Luther is President, Informed Strategies, Ardmore Pennsylvania.

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