2.2 Grey Literature and Data Structure Reports

Grey literature refers to materials and research produced by organisations or individuals outside of traditional academic publishing and distribution. This includes project reports, such as those undertaken by community projects or by commercial archaeological units as conditions of planning.

Commercial units and some other projects produce Data Structure Reports (DSR), summarising work undertaken and providing recommendations of what further action might be undertaken. If further work does occur, a final report should be produced. Other research projects should also report findings, but this does not always occur. It is for this reason that the Discovery and Excavation in Scotland summaries, discussed in chapter 2.1, are so important.

Some large scale organisations also have valuable internal publications relating to Highland sites. The National Trust for Scotland is an important example, as their surveys and excavation reports are not placed in the public domain (Case Study Archaeological Work by the NTS in the Highlands). It is important that such information be made more widely available.

The project reports from community projects, academic research or individual research are often difficult to find. Where excavation has occurred this is especially important, because fieldwork will have destroyed the evidence. This information is essential for future research. As these reports are grey literature, copies are not sent automatically to copyright libraries.

While compiling the Highland Archaeological Research Framework it became apparent how important this issue of grey literature is. Archaeologists are losing knowledge, simply because work undertaken is not tracked and archived in a way to allow it to be consulted for future research. There are a number of reasons for this but the primary is down to funding; the proper archiving of archaeological and post excavation material with the appropriate bodies is complex and time consuming, and it can only happen after the material has been properly reported by the project coordinators. One project that is currently carrying out the proper archiving of half a decade of commercial archaeological work is the Kirkdale Archaeology Archive Project, sponsored by HES. 

This is not specific to the Highlands of course. It should be possible to track the status of a project, from initial work, to post-excavation analyses and dating, to publication, to the final depository of reports and finds. The recent version of OASIS in theory can do this. While widely used by the commercial sector, it is less used by community academic and individuals, and support for these groups to use Oasis should encourage its use more widely, in particular for the input work at all stages of a project.