Tag Archives: Open Access

Grey Literature Satellite Session Summaries

At the 2019 IFLA WILC satellite meeting on Grey Literature, held in Athens at the SNFCC, on 23 August 2019, the SOCR committee in partnership with the National Libraries Section  hosted numerous speakers that provided insights into grey literature (“greylit”) at their institutions and beyond. Additionally, the committee facilitated two breakout sessions to discuss questions related to greylit. We appreciate the attendees’ enthusiastic response to the breakout sessions and in this post, we share a summary of comments based on those discussion question responses. The two breakout sessions were thematic, attendees considered the topics in their small groups, and then reported out to the larger group. Additionally, written notes captured at each table were collected and those notes form the bulk of this summary.

Breakout Session 1: Defining and Acquiring Grey Literature

The Morning Breakout Session was dedicated to Defining and Acquiring Grey Literature. Questions posed to prompt discussion included:

  1. What is grey literature?
  2. What are your sources – the creators or publishers- of grey literature? (government, independent publishers, other?)
  3. How do you decide what to acquire for your grey literature collection?
  4. Is grey literature mostly print or digital at your library? Do your patrons prefer print or digital items?
  5. How do you assess your grey literature collection?

The question of what is grey literature resonated with attendees and this question received the most attention during the breakout session. We had heard a presentation that suggested electronic theses and dissertations may no longer be greylit due to their ready availability through university repositories, we later heard how emojis may be part social media-generated greylit – needless to say there is a lot of debate over this question. Also: data. Several attendees recommended thinking of greylit differently and specifically as including data sets, or “grey data.”  Traditional definitions of greylit still held true for many of the attendees as well. Characteristics helpful in identifying greylit include: governmental publications, organizations where publishing is not the primary objective, and research output of all types. Some reminded us that format does not matter in identifying greylit. Some wondered if an identifier is assigned to greylit, does that mean it is no longer “grey?” One attendee noted the quality still needs to be assessed.

As noted above, sources include government, intergovernmental organizations, academic institutions, local agency’s or documents of local or national importance.

Collection development policies were mentioned several times as having potential in determining what to acquire in greylit efforts, yet many policies don’t seem to cover greylit well.  Both print and digital formats are important at attendees’ institutions, with some focusing on one or the other, and some on both. Questions asked included: Do permanence, patron perception about the scholarly nature of grey literature, or ease of availability impact collection decisions?

The question of assessing grey literature collections brought up more questions than answers. If greylit isn’t easily identified in our discovery systems, how is it distinguished in statistics showing use separate or along side the whole collections? Also, do efforts to share the value of collections through return on investment (ROI) make sense for greylit? Would metrics from individual collections like repositories help with assessment?

Breakout Session 2: Enhancing Grey Literature Discovery and Promotion

The Afternoon Breakout Session asked attendees to discuss patron discovery and awareness of grey literature.  The prompts were:

  1. What do you do now to ensure discovery of grey literature materials in your library’s catalog, discovery system, or website?
  2. In a perfect world, I would (fill in the blank) ________________ to market or let others know about my library’s grey literature materials.
  3. Is social media a good way to promote the use of grey literature at your library?
    • If you could promote items from your collection, what would you share about them on social media?

Metadata. Overwhelmingly attendees suggested good metadata is the key to ensuring discovery of grey literature. Description and integration into the systems used by patrons to discover other sources is critical, but doesn’t always happen when materials are added to collections. This includes cataloging, inclusion of greylit in integrated library systems, but also linking to related resources such as datasets. Additionally, others suggested that ensuring interlibrary loan staff know how to find greylit, and that producers of greylit have some responsibility for following good practices -so publications are easier to describe and make accessible.

Comments about what could be done to market or let others know about their library’s greylit materials (the fill-in-the-blank question above) included: investing in more resources  in describing greylit, using communication channels where the likely users of grey lit are found, making a case for advocating the use of greylit similarly to how special collections are marketed for research use, and providing specific interfaces in the OPAC/discovery system to search for greylit and related resources such as standards and data.

Finally, not too many attendees commented on using social media to promote the use and/or awareness of greylit but those that did were in favor of doing so. Comments included the need for sufficient staff, selection of the right tool, and ensuring the work was integrated into existing library social media efforts.

In summary, the Grey Literature Satellite breakout sessions were useful to give people a chance to talk about the topics they were hearing and helpful to try and capture the ideas generated at the conference.

Open Access – views from around the globe

In advance of the start of the World Library and Information Congress in Wroclaw, the Serials and Other Continuing Resources Section sponsored, in collaboration with the IFLA Acquisition and Collection Development Section and the European Solidarity Center, a satellite meeting on Open Access: Action Required, which was hosted by the Joseph Conrad-Korzeniowski Voivodeship and City Public Library and held at the European Solidarity Center in Gdansk, Poland on 16-17 August, 2017.  The meeting brought together presenters from around the world who could speak to the issues surrounding Open Access in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.  The presentations there made obvious not merely the strength of support which Open Access has worldwide but the questions Open Access raises and the nuance that can occasionally be forgotten when discussing it.  Open Access encompasses a number of different options, from Green (embargoed) to Gold (author/funding body pays for it to be open) to Diamond (publisher puts online free of cost).  It is easy to talk of Open Access, but this does not mean we are not speaking at cross purposes.  Even when the type of Open Access being discussed is the same, it can have different outcomes and impacts when applied to different types of materials.  The papers presented there, some of which are now in the IFLA Library, are thought provoking examples not only of what Open Access means today, but of where it might lead us in the future.

Open Ambitions: the Dutch National Plan Open Science

On February 9 2017, diverse stakeholders in the Dutch academic circuit presented the National Plan Open Science to the secretary of state of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). In this post Vincent Wintermans (UNESCO) and Astrid van Wesenbeeck (KB – National Library of the Netherlands) focus on the Dutch open science ambitions related to this plan. 

  1. Development of the National Plan

For Sander Dekker, the liberal Dutch State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science in the outgoing Rutte-Asscher cabinet, Open Science is an important theme, in both the national and the international arena. In the first half of 2016, when the Netherlands were chairing the European Union, he organised an Open Science conference that resulted in the Amsterdam Call for Action on Open Science.

A major result of Amsterdam Call for Action was an agreement by EU Member States that publicly funded science should be 100% open access by 2020. The agreement ‘invites the [European] Commission to develop and encourage measures for optimal compliance with the provisions for open access to scientific publications under Horizon 2020, together with the stakeholders and the Member States; encourages Member States to work with stakeholders to do the same at the national level on publicly funded research.’

The Netherlands has responded to this last suggestion by developing a National Plan for Open Science that was undersigned by ten important national stakeholders, including the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library, KB), on February 9, 2017.

  1. National Plan Open Science

The plan focuses on three crucial areas in open science; change towards open in these areas will have a positive effect on the full transition to open science:

  1. Bringing forward open access
  2. Bringing forward reuse of research data
  3. Connecting the research evaluation system to the goals of open science.

To make it happen, the stakeholders committed to collectively work on a set of 15 ambitions/targets for the upcoming years, by forming a National Platform Open Science. All ambitions have an indicative timeline and during platform meetings progress will be monitored and cooperation will be strengthened.

One of the brave elements in the plan is the ambition to do away with non-disclosure agreements between publishers and universities related to the costs of open access publishing (ambition  3.1.4). Another remarkable ambition is number 3.2.1 : to establish a consistent system for findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable (FAIR) access to research data that should also include the thorny problem of privacy issues. The stakeholders engaged in the plan surely have work to do and we look forward to following the future developments in this respect.

The plan also shows awareness of the wider, ‘cultural’ issues that hinder the development of open science: the signatories are aware that the transition to open science cannot succeed without fundamental changes in the research evaluation system, on practical, policy and governing level.

It is interesting to note that the Plan, although developed in response to an EU Conference and an EU Council Decision, shows awareness to the fact that science doesn’t stop at the borders of the Union, but that it has truly global dimensions: it foresees cooperation with European partners to promote Open Science at the United Nations. (para 1.3)

The Plan shows a broad perspective on openness, including both publications and data in the orbit of Open Science. The writers have concentrated on the thorniest problems, hoping that progress on these matters will equally help neighbouring issues, like the opening up of the records of science from the past or the field of open software.  DANS, the Netherlands Institute for Permanent Access to Digital Research Resources, is already warming up to develop a Seal of Approval for software that will support the safeguarding and reuse of software that is developed in science.

  1. Dutch Library sector in the Plan

The Dutch university libraries are heavily involved in the Plan which is logical and to be expected because of their close relationship with the research community and their natural role. Also the KB –the National Library of the Netherlands – is involved in several ambitions. Besides bringing in expertise about data preservation and dissemination, the KB will work on making scholarly outputs more accessible for the lay people – potential users of scholarly output outside academia.

The role of the KB is especially strong in ambition 3.1.6: open access for society at large. This ambition targets to strengthen the access to scientific knowledge for the larger public. The KB has taken up a role in guiding the general public in the complex and diverse scientific information landscape. This is especially important in times when the claims of science are increasingly questioned by a sceptical public. Besides this, teachers, health care professionals and other users need access to scholarly output more and more.

This ambition fits nicely within the new Dutch library law that became effective as of January 2015. Under this law the KB works with the public library sector in diverse areas such as access to information for everybody.

  1. European and worldwide developments

The Dutch situation doesn’t stand on its own; happily more is happening in Europe and beyond. Since an extensive analysis of what is happening in the world goes a bit too far for this blog, we refer to a resource where one can find information about open science uptake and developments in Europe. On the AIMS Open Science Monitor one can see the progress of various open science aspects in European countries, such as funder policies, open access uptake, open data policies and the adoption of altmetrics.

We can clearly see that open science is happening almost everywhere, though not all policy makers intervene in the process to speed up the transition. Hopefully the Dutch situation inspires others to engage more deeply in the transition.


Vincent Wintermans is Policy Officer at the Netherlands national Commission for UNESCO.

[email protected]

Astrid van Wesenbeeck is Open Science Officer at the KB, the National Library of the Netherlands. She also co-authored the National Plan Open Science.