1. Introduction

For a term with somewhat underwhelming connotations, grey literature is a common and sometimes controversial topic within archaeological discourse (see Seymour 2010a). In recent years it has become synonymous with the unpublished reports created through development-led fieldwork, and thus the challenges of integrating the results of such fieldwork into curatorial and research practice (Gibbs and Holley 2012; Louwe Kooijmans 2009; Silva 2010). However, perceptions are beginning to change, as outputs that were once considered liminal become an integral part of the research paradigm, their value for use within a new wave of large-scale data analysis and synthesis evident in any country with a history of rescue or planning-led archaeological mitigation (Bradley et al. 2015; Habu 2004; Smyth 2014). With the simultaneous development of digital archives, it is also noticeable that the discipline is moving away from traditional and insular concerns of publication backlog and archive redundancy, towards the pivotal role of grey literature within a new frontier of cross-border and data-intensive research (Ariadne 2014; Kansa et al. 2010; Oikarinen 2014; Vlachidis and Tudhope 2013). It seems that the wheel has turned, and that grey, to stretch the cliché, is the new black.

While the grey revolution gains momentum, this article hopes to offer some fresh perspectives based on recent developments and trends in reporting intrusive investigations in England since the advent of PPG16 (see Fulford 2011). The 'English' experience encapsulates the essence of the grey literature story, wherein a corpus that was once perceived as a pariah of the discipline has begun to move into the academic spotlight (cf. Fulford and Holbrook 2011; Hardman 2010; Lock 2008). However, in the rush to embrace this shadowy corpus of data there has arguably been a degree of naivety as to what is really meant, perceived, and understood about the term itself, and the realities of the dissemination of the results of contemporary fieldwork. Influenced by historic crises within archaeological publication, 'grey' has often become a throwaway yet somewhat restrictive label, as well as an epithet that reflects a lack of academic engagement with the outputs of the professional sector (cf. Bradley 2006; Harlan 2010). Given this history, semantic controversy and increased online dissemination, it is pertinent to redefine what it means to be archaeologically grey or even if the term is still of use. This article also aims to discuss some of the key issues and challenges for the use of reports literature within current archaeological practice. Contrary to popular perception, these are not the often subjective notions of the 'value' of content, but are the geographical and cultural biases in the numbers of reports in existence and an increasing disparity in online access. In addition, as period-based academic syntheses become common, there are also limitations in traditional methods of publication in ensuring that findings are communicated to the community at large. Accessing fieldwork reports is only the beginning, ensuring a reciprocal role within all aspects of archaeology is perhaps the greater challenge.