What is Grey Literature?

Wikipedia defines grey literature as “the materials and research produced by organizations outside of the traditional commercial or academic publishing and distribution channels. Organizations that produce grey literature include government departments and agencies, civil society or non-governmental organizations, academic centres and departments, and private companies and consultants.”

While this is a great definition and fully describes where grey literature is, there is so much more to it.

We believe that grey literature is actually the bridge between theory and action.

We believe that the information produced “outside the traditional channels” are the keys to changing outcomes, are answers to behaviour change, and could possibly save lives. Those who produce grey literature are working in the front lines, and are very often implementing a theory that was published in an academic journal. Grey literature can offer insights into how research has been implemented in various real-life settings and what, if any, impact there was on the recipients, clients or even patients.

There remains speculation on the validity and value of grey literature.

Many devoted academic publishers continue to “poo poo” the worthiness of non-academic publications – but to what avail? We lobby that grey literature is, in fact, the next step in the evolution of theory. That once a program, a policy or position paper has been birthed and nurtured in the academic environment, it is free to play and inspire in the world as grey literature posing as the muse for others. Without a doubt, there are nefarious authors producing grey literature, and without the rigors of peer review, these disreputable ideas may gain unwise traction or virility. However, as global headlines have pointed out repeatedly, seedy stuff is published in academia, as well.

Like any good researcher, we believe that declaring our conflicts of interest is a good standard of practice. And when interpreting any type of research, sound judgment and review are needed. So, of course, judgment and review are also critical to interpreting all grey literature information. The global access and peer transparency of GreyLit.net will give grey literature a place at the decision-making table.

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