Is the production and use of grey marine literature a model for open science?

MacDonald, B. H., Cadman, R., Martin, C., Ryder-Burbidge, S., Soomai, S. S., Stewart, I., & Wells, P. G. (2020). Is the production and use of grey marine literature a model for open science? The Grey Journal, 16(2), 73–83.


Abstract: Globally, grey literature is common. Large quantities of openly available grey literature have been generated since the latter half of the nineteenth century. It is a primary source of information used in many public policy and decision-making contexts, at all jurisdictional levels. In fact, public decision making and policy development would seriously falter today in the absence of such literature. Moreover, in some jurisdictions, legislation mandates transparent governance processes in which current research must be fully open. This lengthy experience with open practices in the production and use of grey literature offers insights to the open science movement. In this paper, based on over fifteen years of interdisciplinary research, we demonstrate how open practices in the production and use of grey literature in marine environment science policy contexts could inform open science initiatives. The results from our numerous case studies about information use in decision-making processes, at local to global levels, address two conference themes, namely, the application of open science principles in promoting grey literature, and obstacles and challenges to such open access.

Information pathways in coastal and ocean management are complex and involve many actors (including researchers; managers; policy analysts; members of industry, professional associations, community groups, and non-governmental organizations; politicians; and citizens generally). Open grey literature offers numerous advantages in these settings, as an extensive variety of information needs, types, and formats are prevalent. Open grey literature can also be distributed without restriction by individuals and organizations. It can now be shared globally with ease, which is particularly beneficial to developing countries often unable to afford commercial information sources.

However, while produced and used widely, grey literature also presents challenges that open science also encounters. Openness, i.e., open access, does not ensure awareness and it does not automatically equate to usability by a wide variety of audiences. Because grey literature is assumed to be largely accessible, often limited attention is focused on promoting awareness or communicating information in broadly understandable terms. Furthermore, the massive quantity of literature can contribute to its seeming invisibility. The multiplicity of formats and content can result in perceptions of limited value of grey literature. Even though the information may be rigorously peer-reviewed, in today’s information-saturated environment, open-access may be equated with uncertain quality.  Our research on the use and influence of grey literature in marine environmental decision making highlights the benefits and challenges of open access information. Thus, our findings may be particularly informative to current efforts to advance open science principles globally.]

Link: BHMacDonald-et-al-Is-the-production-of-grey-marine-information-a-model-TGJ-2020