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Overall conclusions: Summary reports, grey literature and archiving

Publications that carry summary reports on recent or continuing fieldwork in advance (sometimes even instead) of fuller publication exist in all the areas included in the survey. Nevertheless, there is a strong desire for a better, more regular, and possibly more coherent system for such reporting. A majority consider that information of relevance to their work is being produced of which they are unaware. Grey literature which results from developer-funded work is an aspect of this issue, since it may not always be a condition of planning consent that the work should be reported in any gazetteer. Moreover, since most of the gazetteers appear annually, a year or more may elapse before even preliminary information becomes available. Specialist work often goes unreported in gazetteers.

Grey literature is neither being read by many of those who might find some of it germane, nor liked by those who produce or do use it. A fifth of respondents never consult such material, and half consider its ballooning quantity to be a problem. While grey literature is to some extent used across all the major constituencies, consultants, contractors and those working for local government form its principal audience. However, these are also the people who are producing and managing it, and it is clear that those others who might wish to use it are often not doing so, chiefly because they are unaware of its existence or find it difficult to access. Grey literature problems appear to be most acute in England.

Around half of those interviewed had used an archive paper record and/or archived artefacts or ecofacts in the previous year. Survey reports, photographs and drawings and the artefact/ecofact summaries were most often used, and most who consulted them managed to obtain all the information they sought. The impression that access to archives is generally obstructed by insurmountable problems is thus unsupported, although it should equally be recognised that a quarter of all those who wished to consult an archive had at some time or other been prevented from doing so, most often by commercial confidentiality, or ignorance of the archive's whereabouts.

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