A new paper published by members of the Environmental Information: Use and Influence (EIUI) research team emphasizes that simply advocating the use of information without understanding the contexts of its use will likely be ineffective in closing the gap between research and policy-making. As the growing number of studies on the science-policy interface demonstrate, the pathways by which information travels from the outputs of research to policy decisions involve many actors and many factors that can either enable or prevent information from reaching decision makers. In this new paper, Bertrum MacDonald, James Ross, Suzuette Soomai, and Peter Wells draw on case studies completed in the EIUI research program to outline roles for grey literature, in its many diverse formats, at the science-policy interface. The authors underline the importance of understanding the contexts in which information in grey literature is and can be used. Equipped with this understanding, advocates of grey literature will likely be more effective in increasing awareness and appreciation for the value of this vast body of information. The paper – “How Information in Grey Literature Informs Policy and Decision-Making: A Perspective on the Need to Understand the Processes” – has been published in the Spring 2015 issue of The Grey Journal (v. 11, no. 1, pp. 7-16) and is available at this link.
Effective advocacy for grey literature must be based on understanding the environments in which it is used. As advances in communications technologies continue to occur at a breath-taking pace, all forms of information are being affected. Evolving publication practices are presenting new communication opportunities, in addition to disruptions of established patterns, as long-standing genres are being reshaped by powerful technological and societal changes. Disruptions can cause discomfort and anxiety, but opportunities to promote the value of particular information genres also arise. Grey literature, for example, continues to be produced in large quantities, which suggests that its importance in communication may be increasing rather than diminishing. Advocates of grey literature may believe this genre is undervalued or misunderstood, but lobbying for grey literature in the absence of understanding the contexts in which it is or can be used will likely fail unless information activity in those settings is understood. One prominent context encompasses public policy and decision-making where grey literature is often present but typically unnoticed. Policy and decision-making are complex processes and increasing attention is being placed on developing an understanding of the science-policy interface and evidence-based policy making in particular. Conferences (e.g., Science Advice to Governments, Auckland, New Zealand, August 2014), evidence information services (e.g., one launched in the United Kingdom in 2014), research programs and institutes (e.g., Environmental Information: Use and Influence, Dalhousie University), and a considerable body of literature emphasizes the importance of understanding the relationship between research and policy. Drawing on findings from research conducted within the Environmental Information: Use and Influence program, which involves governmental, intergovernmental, and non-governmental organizations, we outline roles for grey literature in policy and decision-making contexts. We describe types of grey literature used in these contexts, identify preferences for specific features of useable information by managers and policy makers, and outline pathways of research evidence, some of which is produced as grey literature.