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Section 2: Making Grey Literature Accessible

2.9 Overview

There is a basic assumption that making grey literature available via the World Wide Web is desirable and will increase accessibility. Computer usage and Internet access is continually increasing. However, there are a number of issues to be taken into account in promoting accessibility. It may not be feasible to present some reports online because of considerations of security, confidentiality and copyright. In other cases, there may not be the will among producers or commissioning bodies to achieve this. If reports are made available online, their content, at least in summary form, needs to be made intelligible to a non-specialist reader, whilst still conforming to national, controlled vocabularies to facilitate interoperability and searching.

Online presentation is not, however, the end of the reporting process. Preservation and archiving of digital reports is a key issue, not only for the future, but also for the vast wealth of already written electronic reports currently languishing in a variety of locations, in a variety of formats and media. Urgent action needs to be taken to retrieve, disseminate and preserve existing digital reports and to promote the digital grey literature report as a valid part of a project archive alongside the traditionally produced hard copy version. Once online, an infrastructure needs to be created and maintained to facilitate resource discovery so that users may readily identify report content relevant to their enquiry.

From the examples cited in section 2.1, it can be seen that a variety of the current methods for accessing grey literature are reliant upon a specialist database index. Having found a relevant resource, the user can usually only view summary detail and is directed to another source from which to obtain the full version, usually at a cost. If a report is available electronically, it is provided in a word-processed or PDF format, and sometimes as HTML. Within archaeology in the UK, the closest parallel that can be drawn with other disciplines' approach to grey literature is the OASIS Project. The preferred formats for uploading reports are as PDF files or word-processed documents; there is no fee for access. Whilst such access is to be welcomed, these file formats are not entirely satisfactory as long-term solutions, although recent developments in the Adobe PDF format are gaining increased acceptance. A number of projects have sought new and innovative means of presenting content online and have chosen to use the XML family of technologies. In Section 3, this technology, and examples of its application, will be considered.

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Last updated: Wed Apr 6 2005