Just turned in my chapter for an upcoming book on grey literature, which will be published next spring. I presented my argument here in July, and it's below for reference. Let me know if you'd like to see the draft.
Hope everyone enjoyed a good holiday weekend!
7-21-09: I'm in the process of revising a commentary I published in JMLA in 2004, "Connections between open access publishing and access to gray literature."
I extended this argument at the Grey Literature Conference in 2005, with the paper "Towards a Continuum of Scholarship: The Eventual Collapse of the Distinction between Grey and non-Grey Literature?"
And in 2006, Cees de Blaaij and I discussed the "Implications of Copyright Evolution for the Future of Scholarly Communication and Grey Literature."
This was my last paper about grey literature, and so it is great to be back in the game. My current effort will be part of a book about grey lit.
My argument in 2004 was that grey literature doesn't suffer from an access problem (it's generally free) but from a retrievability problem (it is hard to find.) I don't believe this so much in 2009; these days researchers are pretty savvy with their Google.
There are concerns about the long-term archiving of grey literature. Most think tank reports are on the local server of a foundation or non-profit group, with no real plan for archiving. But findability is not as potent a worry.
Now I am more interested in what Dean Giustini terms "grey data," or the tweets and Facebook statuses/link postings that increasingly comprise professional discourse. I thought it was great last month when the Library of Congress announced it was archiving all tweets connected with Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Why not? Obviously a 140 character message is not the same as a book or a report...but it is also not meaningless, from both an evidentiary and anthropological standpoint. This is how many people are communicating today.
So we need an expanded notion of the "grey ecosystem," and the real action right now is in preserving the gry data. Access is not the big problem, or at least it's a different kind of problem than we associate with the open access movement--people can hide their tweets and limit their Facebook profiles, but that's an individual decision and has nothing to do with stiff journal subscription prices that libraries struggle to pay. Findability is not a big concern either; Twitter tracks trending topics, and their hashtag convention aids search. (As I write, I realize that my focus for this paper should be on Twitter and not on Facebook.) But the archiving problems continue to be paramount--and now we have more "grey matter" (pun intended) to worry about.