Grey Literature


In archaeological terms ‘grey literature’ means unpublished archaeological fieldwork reports. These are generally produced as a consequence of fieldwork undertaken as part of the mitigation of commercial or public property or infrastructure development. In most cases they are the only record of the results of such fieldwork, and they have become a substitute for conventional publication. However they are strictly speaking unpublished and generally lodged as a single hard copy in the local museum, archive or planning office, with additional copies provided to the client, and retained by those undertaking the fieldwork. Access presents a significant problem in most European countries, and there is a general view that much of this important new data is not being fed back into the research cycle. In the UK, for example, it has been estimated that academic teaching and research is 10 years out of date. Although most reports are generally generated in a digital format their online distribution is patchy and fragmented at best, with one or two notable exceptions (DANS and ADS).

In the UK, the value of free access to this important resource has been demonstrated recently in an impact assessment carried out at the ADS by a group of external economists. The findings of this assessment showed that not only does it provide significant economic benefit to the commercial sector; reliance on the resource has begun to change the how the sector operates. The ability to see the value of access to grey literature also motivates further deposition, and fuels a cycle of good practice which is also becoming more apparent. Bringing grey literature together with the fruits of academic research in one place also sends a message that this work is important and valued by the sector.

Digital dissemination has the potential to unlock these research resources and to make them far more accessible than the conventional journal literature, particularly to those working outside a university environment. With the introduction of DOIs the grey literature also becomes as citable as conventional publications. Grey literature was specifically mentioned in the ARIADNE proposal as an area of focus.

Contact Information

Chair: Julian Richards Email
Secretary: Holly Wright Email


The full scope and objectives of the Grey Literature SIG can be downloaded here.

SIG members continue to work on the four challenges set out at the meeting in York on 20th February, 2014, primarily challenge 1 (Collection) looking at how grey literature should be included within the infrastructure, and challenge 4 (Indexing and Interoperability) looking at how Natural Language Processing (NLP) might be used to extract richer information from grey literature. This is informed the work of Task 16.2 and was reported in D16.2 First Report on Natural Language Processing.

The ARIADNE Grey Literature SIG met on 12 December, 2015 (via Skype) to discuss the newly published article *A Reassessment of Archaeological Grey Literature: semantics and paradoxes* <> by Tim Evans. This article represents a synthesis of many years of research on the history, meaning and issues surrounding the role of Grey Literature in archaeology in the UK, and was taken as a point of departure to explore perceptions of Grey Literature in other countries.

Tim Evans joined the meeting and helped facilitate an excellent and useful discussion. The points were wide-ranging, with differing ideas on how to facilitate better use of Grey Literature between the different countries. There was consensus around the need to both educate and facilitate greater communication with the various stakeholders involved, including commercial and academic archaeologists, political and institutional authorities and the public. There was also agreement that more formal discussion in person under the auspices of ARIADNE would be of great use, and that members should explore ways to further open the discussion and move it forward. As such, an ARIADNE Grey Literature workshop was proposed (to be hosted by ADS in York), along with possible papers for the ARIADNE open data and re-use session at EAA in Vilnius (if accepted), and/or a session or round-table at CHNT in Vienna.