Information Sources
Traking Down `Grey Literature'

The wealth of information found in publications such as scientific reports, doctoral dissertations and conference proceedings-known collectively as `grey literature'- is often difficult to identify and obtain. This is usually because the research institutes, universities, authorities and firms which publish them see no need to distribute or publicise their research results widely.

However, ever-increasing global competition is fueling the need to transfer scientific knowledge developed in one country to scientists and industries throughout Europe. Grey literature is often the key to this knowledge transfer. Unfortunatelly, Europe has been weak in database publishing, particularly relating to grey literature, compared with its international competitors. The United States, for example,has long had databases such as those of the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) for technology reports and the UMI for dissertations.

The System for Information on Grey Literature in Europe(SIGLE) was formed to tackle this problem in Europe in 1980, two years after a seminar organised by the European Commission in York(UK). Operated by a network of national information or document supply centres active in collecting and promoting grey literature, SIGLE is an on line, pan-European electronic database and document delivery system. SIGLE was funded by the European Commision until 1985, when the members formed the European Association for Grey Literature Exploitation (EAGLE). EAGLE is now self-supporting and growing fast, with members and national SIGLE centres throughout Europe.

A Growing Network

In October 1993 the SIGLE database contained 336,650 records, with around 40,000 new records being added each year. Pure and applied sciences were the first subjects to be covered, with economics, social sciences and humanities added in 1984.

A typical SIGLE record contains the document's title (with an English translation if necessary),plus information on the author(s), the source,the document's length and where it can be obtained. Subject search is possible through 246 subject category codes. In addition, some 15% of the records contain `added keywords'to clarify the document title, and EAGLE is researching the possibility of adding more.

SIGLE's descriptive cataloguing rules are based on those of the Internationl Nuclear Information System (INIS), and the subject classfication scheme is a modified version of that endorsed by the Committee on Scientific and Technical Information (COSATI) of the US Federal Council for Science and Technology.

All the documents listed in the SIGLE database can be obtained from or through the national centre which originally entered the record. Various ways of receiving copies exist, such as through national and international interlibrary loan networks.

International Links

One of EAGLE'S overarching aims -to foster international cooperation in grey literature distribution - was reflected by their co-sponsorship of the First International Conference on Grey Literature, held last December in Amsterdam. Other sponsors included the Japan Information Centre of Science and Technology and the American NTIS.

The conference reinforced the growing recognition of the importance of the grey literature, as well as underlining the need for more international, even intercontinental, cooperation in the field. However, the conference also raised a number of questions, ranging from the scientific `quality' of grey literature to the way it is used. Further research is necessary, but in the meantime EAGLE will continue to improve SIGLE's comprehensiveness and subject access, as well as develop new products.

EAGLE's members are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.The Czech Republic and Hungary are also planning to join.


Dr. R.H.A. Wessels
Tel : +3170 31 40 281
Fax : + 31 70 31 40 493

- Innovation & Technology Transfer,Vol.3, June 1994