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Section 2: Making Grey Literature Accessible

2.1.1 Grey literature on the World Wide Web

Online bibliographies and databases

One of the most widespread means for raising awareness of available research literature, and for providing pointers to the location of relevant reports is the production of an online bibliography or database. These generally comprise summary details about a project, with a full bibliographic reference to the resulting report. A search interface is generally available, in order to search material in a variety of ways. The largest collection of grey literature in the United Kingdom is held by the British Library, and can be searched via the online Integrated Catalogue. The British Library Document Supply Service provides an electronic remote document delivery and interlibrary loans service for scholars and other libraries. The British Library also acts as the UK supply centre for documents cited by the SIGLE grey literature database, formed in 1978 by the Commission of the European Communities and the British Library Lending Division, combining the resources of leading information and document supply centres in sixteen European countries (Auger 1989).

Other examples include the MAGiC project, which aims to enhance awareness of, access to, and use of key collections of technical reports for the benefit of the UK engineering community (Sidwell et al . 2000). As with SIGLE literature, bibliographic summaries only are available online, and copies of documents may be obtained through the British Library (Needham 2002). AERADE provides free access to aerospace and defence resources on the Internet. Materials can be browsed or searched independently from the partners' home pages, or cross-searched using a portal search facility. The majority of records have been created by harvesting data from other sources, such as the NASA Technical Reports Server, using the Open Archives Initiative Metadata Harvesting Protocol (Cranfield University 2002). It would appear that the UK aerospace industry is in a similar position to the discipline of archaeology in the UK. A study undertaken in 1998 'found compelling evidence of under-utilisation of electronic information resources by aerospace engineers and scientists. This appears to be the result of a widespread lack of awareness of the availability and benefits of electronic resources'. The study report recommended a number of information initiatives designed to raise awareness of, and improve access to, useful resources and to reduce the threat of information overload. The AERADE project was developed accordingly (Harrington et al. 1999).

Digital libraries and full text reports online

A digital library includes reference material and resources accessible through the Web. It offers the functions of a traditional library, plus integrated services for capturing, cataloguing, storing, searching and retrieving information. In a digital library, information from any online source can be managed and shared by information professionals with their users, making more knowledge available than ever before and offering services that are only available in a digital environment. They differ from online bibliographies in that the full report content is directly available online, rather than via a third party, as is the case for those summarised above.

One example is the ERCIM Technical Reference Digital Library that has been developed as a specialised sub-collection of the US Networked Computer Science Technical Reference Library (NCSTRL). The library utilises the Dienst digital library and protocol system developed at Cornell University. Its primary aim is to assist scientists of the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics to access, manage and disseminate technical reports and other reference material related to Information Technology. It also aims to encourage the exchange of ideas and dissemination of results between researchers working on similar problems around the world, but who may speak many different languages (Andreoni et al. 1999). The present system is currently being reviewed and upgraded by the Scholnet Project, which has undertaken a survey of other solutions for digital libraries, including GNU Eprints software and Dspace (Le Dantec and Ronchaud 2003).

E-print archives

Another approach to providing access to grey literature is through e-print archives. E-prints are documents self-archived by the author, defined by Pinfield et al. (2002) as electronic copies of academic research papers. They may be journal articles, conference papers, book chapters, or any other form of research output. The e-print archive is an online repository of these materials, normally made freely available on the Web with the aim of ensuring the widest possible dissemination of the contents. Harnad (2001) is a key proponent of freeing research literature by making it available in this manner.

Some examples include arXiv, which provides a service for high-energy physics, maths and computer sciences, and CogPrints, for cognitive science. These are centralised, subject-based repositories, based in the universities of Cornell and Southampton respectively (Pinfield et al. 2002). Any author, regardless of institution, can submit a paper to the archive by e-mail, or by using an online self-archiving procedure. Pinfield et al. (2002) observe that although these subject-based archives work, only a limited number of subject communities have taken up the idea; as a result, institutional e-print archives are emerging among those institutions wishing to promote their standing in the research community by making their research output available to others. Examples of this include archives set up by the universities of Edinburgh and Nottingham. One of the factors in their success is the Open Archives Initiative.

The ePrints UK Project led by UKOLN is developing a series of national, discipline-focused services through which the higher and further education community can access the collective output of e-print papers available from compliant Open Archive repositories in the UK and abroad, particularly those provided by UK universities and colleges. Services have been tailored to particular subject audiences and the existing user base (Martin 2003). The project is utilising a variety of technologies to achieve its aims, including a Z39.50 target, a Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) interface, Javascript and HTTP. It will work in collaboration with other e-prints projects, such as DAEDALUS, which aims to build a network of open-access collections at the University of Glasgow, to include published and peer-reviewed papers, administrative documents, research finding aids, pre-prints and theses (Nixon 2003a; 2003b). The related ERPAePRINTS Service is an Open Archive for the Electronic Resource Preservation and Access Network (ERPANET) that works in conjunction with DAEDALUS to provide an e-prints preservation and access facility for the cultural and scientific heritage community.

The development of such services brings a number of benefits to the institution, both internally and externally. Researchers will benefit through wider and more rapid dissemination of their work, resulting in more research impact. Postgraduate and undergraduate students will benefit as research publications will be readily accessible via their institution's library system and institutional portal. The institution will benefit from a higher profile by making all research material publicly and freely available and also by having a comprehensive, managed and preserved record of its research output, instantly available for research assessment or related exercises.

On-demand publishing

With the advent of new technologies in the early years of the World Wide Web, one of the methods devised for distribution of grey literature and other documents was print on demand. Few such facilities could be found online by the author; however, a key example is the Phoenix Project, that aimed to research and integrate technologies to enable course support materials to be delivered to students on demand. A comparative evaluation of a range of document encoding formats suited to transferring printed text to an electronic format for screen or coursepack delivery was undertaken, and standards for document transmission were assessed. The options ultimately chosen comprised PDF format for on-screen delivery and Xerox Document on Demand (XDOD) for the coursepack publishing system (South Bank University 1996).

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