What is Grey Literature?

The Fourth International Conference on Grey Literature (GL '99) in Washington, DC, in October 1999 defined grey literature as follows: "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 general, grey literature publications are non-conventional, fugitive, and sometimes ephemeral publications. They may include, but are not limited to the following types of materials: reports (pre-prints, preliminary progress and advanced reports, technical reports, statistical reports, memoranda, state-of-the art reports, market research reports, etc.), theses, conference proceedings, technical specifications and standards, non-commercial translations, bibliographies, technical and commercial documentation, and official documents not published commercially (primarily government reports and documents) (Alberani, 1990).

Due to the nature of grey literature, librarians have had difficulty acquiring and making accessible grey literature. At The New York Academy of Medicine, there has been a push by public health and health policy researchers for the Academy Library to obtain this type of material and to add it to the catalog (Gray, 1998). As a result, the Library acquires materials from various organizations publishing in these areas and gives them special cataloging treatment. The Grey Literature Report is the first step in this initiative to not only collect these items for the Academy's collection, but to assist other librarians with collections in these fields in developing theirs.

References:

Alberani V, Pietrangeli PDC, Mazza AMR (1990). The use of grey literature in health sciences: a preliminary survey. Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 78(4): 358-363.

GL'99 Conference Program. Fourth International Conference on Grey Literature: New Frontiers in Grey Literature.GreyNet, Grey Literature Network Service. Washington D.C. USA, 4-5 October 1999.

Gray, Bradford H. (1998). Sources used in health policy research and implications for information retrieval systems. Journal of Urban Health 75(4): 842-852.

Related links:

NYAM Center for History blog post on Grey Literature.

AMSER
The Grey Literature Report can now be found through AMSER: Applied Math and Science Education Repository, a webliographical resource funded by the National Science Foundation.

Health Policy Picks
A partnership between KaiserEDU.org and the Grey Literature Collection to bring monthly selections of resources in the areas of health care policy research and analysis. (This site is now a part of KFF.org)

The Scout Report
The Grey Literature Report is featured in the December 11, 2009 issue of the Internet Scout Project's Scout Report.

GreyNet
The Grey Literature Network Service was founded in 1992. The goal of GreyNet is to facilitate dialog, research, and communication between persons and organisations in the field of grey literature. Its main activities include the International Conference Series on Grey Literature, the creation and maintenance of web-based resources, a moderated Listserv, a combined Distribution List, The Grey Journal (TGJ), as well as curriculum development in the field of grey literature.