AVAILABILITY AND USE OF GREY LITERATURE FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH IN UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES IN SOUTH EAST,NIGERIA

 

ABSTRACT

This study was undertaken to find out the availability and use of grey literature for scientific and technological research in university libraries in south eastern Nigeria. The design of the study was a descriptive survey. Six research questions bothering on extent of availability; use made of available grey literature; problems affecting the availability; problems affecting the use; strategies for overcoming the problems of availability; and strategies for  enhancing the use of grey literature were formulated to guide the study. The sample consisted of seven (7) university librarians and two hundred and forty (240) postgraduate researchers in science and technology drawn from seven (7) universities in south eastern Nigeria.

Data was collected using a combination of questionnaire and observation checklist. The data collected were analysed using percentages, mean and standard deviation. The findings of the study showed that grey literature was marginally available for science and technology research in the libraries; the available grey literature was used to a high extent; the availability of grey literature in the libraries was hindered by such factors as inadequate funds, and absence of library acquisition policies; while the use of grey literature for science and technology research was hindered by difficulty in finding needed materials among others. The findings had implications drawn for the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in designing appropriate policy for the capture, storage, dissemination and use of grey literature; the administrators of the university libraries in Nigeria; the users of scientific and technological literature in the libraries; as well as the staff of the university libraries. Based on these implications, some major recommendations were made.

These included the revision of the national policy on scientific and technological information to include measures on grey literature acquisition and use; allocation of adequate funds to university libraries to ensure grey literature availability and the digitization of available grey literature to enhance access to them.

CHAPTER ONE

 

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

The term, grey literature, came into the professional vocabulary of librarianship about three and half decades ago. Despite this relatively long history, some librarians and information professionals are yet to be aware of its existence. Others who at all know about it appear confused over its exact meaning. (Auger,1998). This state of confusion, it seems, has given way to several varied definitions of grey literature. In some attempts to define it, authors have
often used equally obscure terms such as semi-published, non-conventional, and elusive (Schmidmaier, 1986; Keenan, 1996). Others have become rather simplistic in approach and defined it as that material which is not available through normal book selling channels (Wood, 1982; Auger, 1998). The British library (1994) also viewed it as any document, which is not a book or a journal, or any document (other than a journal), which will not stand up on the shelves on its own.

Further efforts have been made at overcoming the definitional problem of grey literature by listing the materials that fall under it. This usually included a long list of such items as technical reports, theses and dissertations conference proceedings, preprints, official publications, fact sheets, standards, patents, working papers, business documents, newsletters, symposia, bulletins. Aside from being endless, the list can be equally confusing because, according to the Science and Technology Section (STS), Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee (2003:1), “virtually everything we read outside of journals and books can be considered grey literature”. However, the list is often broken down into four component categories. The first category is made up of  publications issued by pressure groups and similar bodies with special interest. From time to time, such organizations have the need to publish quickly, their funds are limited, and there is no time for the niceties of sales or return and trade discounts. In consequence, sales are achieved by direct mail or through
specialist outlets. The second category is made up of privately published materials ranging from small volumes of poetry through carefully researched family and local histories to topical stories presented with a particular point of view.

The third category, sometimes referred to as alternative literature, consists of materials on topics or perspectives unknown or marginalized in the mainstream of publishing and usually absent from library collections. The fourth category, often called ephemera, consists of materials that carry verbal messages and are produced by printing or illustrative processes but not in a standard book, periodical or pamphlet formats. Most items of ephemera are produced for short-term purposes, e.g. bus tickets, timetables, and posters. What appears to be an international consensus at defining grey literature emerged at the third International Conference on Grey Literature held in Luxembourg in 1997. The conference defined grey literature as that (information resource) which is produced by government, academics, business and industries, both in print and electronic formats, but which is not controlled by commercial publishing interests and where publishing is not the primary activity of the organization. (Aina, 2000: 25).

Debachere (1995:94-95) has further distinguished between two major groups of grey literature based on content. The first group consists of publications with scientific content: reports of studies, research, meetings, proceedings of conferences and seminars not published by a publishing house, and doctoral dissertations. The second group is made up of unconventional documentary material: in house publications by companies, publications by chambers of commerce and industry, associations, political parties and trade unions, non-administrative statistics; economic letters and correspondence, plans and expertise for development, leaflets, tracts, etc For the purpose of this study, grey literature is taken to mean the overall body of human knowledge having
scientific and technical content but are produced by organizations without commercial publishing interests and without publishing as their primary activity. This includes technical reports, theses and dissertations, conference proceedings, patents newsletters and fact sheets.

There are many and varied reasons why authors do not use commercial circuits in publishing. Sometimes, as the urgency of the demand for the content requires, authors are deterred by the times taken between the writing of an article and its appearance in a periodical or for a book. At other times, authors think that their report is targeted to a narrow group of specialists and hence may be too long or too short to be treated as a commercial publication. Another important reason is derived from the need to publish inexpensively by utilizing the in-house automation faculties. In spite of these benefits, grey literature appears to receive lackluster treatment by librarians and information professionals. The major reasons for this are apparent difficulties in identifying, procuring and processing it. Generally, due to its diverse origins and unconventionally published nature, grey literature can be difficult to find.

It is often found by searching for the agency or institution that is most likely to produce the literature. Such search may require looking at a large number of sources, some of whom may not have a list of what they produce in the first place. As Wood (1982:278) noted : As well as being the subject of haphazard or specialized distribution arrangements it also has a number of other distinguishing characteristics –small print runs, variable standards of editing and  production, poor publicity, poor bibliographic control, unacceptable format… and poor availability in libraries. Availability can be seen in four perspectives – physical, bibliographic, intellectual and online. Physical availability, which is the thrust of this work, refers to the existence of the grey literature document in a library.

This means that users have the opportunity to undertake detailed consultation of the contents. Bibliographic availability implies the presence of references made to the documents or their content without necessarily having the document itself in the library collection. Efforts at bibliographic control of grey  literature have been made in some countries. In Europe, for instance, a grey literature policy has resulted in the creation of the European Association for Grey Literature Exploitation (EAGLE).  International conferences have also been held on grey literature since 1993 and these have awakened national interest in grey literature in such countries as Sierra Leone, Sudan, Benin, Lesotho, Senegal, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Tanzania (Debachere, 1995; Muswazi, 2001).

Intellectual availability means the existence of critical or interpretative works on the host grey literature documents. Intellectual access in most cases may
satisfy the users’ information need without the extra need to see the document. Online availability on the other hand, refers to the existence of the grey literature in computer systems that are accessible through computer-to-computer interactions. In this case, the content can still be rendered physically available (by downloading) even though the documents containing them are not physically available in the library. Availability remains, perhaps, the greatest problem affecting the appreciation of the value as well as consequent use of grey literature in libraries. Even though items may be available in libraries without being accessible (due, perhaps, to poor organisation), they may not be accessible without being available in some form.

This seems to imply that the use of grey literature is dependent upon its availability in libraries. When items of information are available in libraries, use studies become strong indicators of the value attached to such materials by the users. However, this may not always be entirely true because sometimes people use what they see not because it is what they desire but because it is what is immediately available. In any case, data emanating from use studies are major ingredients of library collection development policies. Such data are, however, often difficult to generate as a result of confusion arising from how to determine what amounts to real use of library materials. To some, use is best measured by collecting data directly from the users themselves and relying solely upon their responses , whereas to others, evidence of use become more realistic when it is built up from references made by the users to what they have used.

The measurement of use by inference from citations to used items by the users has been criticized as being unreliable because people are often constrained to use what is available. With particular reference to grey literature, which suffers from availability problems, a more reliable data on use can only emanate from a direct interaction with the users themselves. The problems associated with the use of grey literature have made people, librarians and end-users alike; lose sight of its benefits. As observed by Wood (1982), it contains information likely to be of use to a considerable number of people. The advantages of grey literature over other means of information dissemination are quick access, greater flexibility and the opportunity to go into considerable detail when necessary (Auger, 1989).

As a primary source of information, grey literature is even more current than the journal because most journal articles have existed in one grey form or the other prior to publication. For instance, papers presented at conferences are often later published as articles in journals, sometimes years after they were presented. There is no doubt that grey literature is going to be far more important in the future given the development of information communication technologies that seem to enhance its access. As Weintraub (2000:3) observed, “In a world in which free trade and instantaneous communication have eliminated many of the barriers to information flow, grey literature is gaining greater importance as a source of information for much of the world’s population.” Grey literature is invaluable in all areas of science and technology, but its usefulness has been more particularly documented in agriculture (Omeje, 2003:1); geology (Bitchteler, 1991:40) and energy (Cutler, 1999: 2).

Deriving from its tendency to be original and recent, grey literature is more particularly valuable in sciences and technology. As a result of its currency, grey literature is useful in establishing the exact realms of contemporary scientific and technological knowledge thereby delineating gaps in knowledge that needed to be filled by further research. Its quick and rapid means of generation helps to obviate the rapid obsolescence of scientific and technological literature, which usually stifles research in science and technology. Bunge (2002:120) has defined science as the study of nature and natural phenomena.

The bodies of knowledge that fall within this definition are dynamic both in nature and size. One major way of classifying them is to look at the class of  objects or phenomena they deal with. Using this parameter, the following broad categories can be identified:- agricultural sciences, biological sciences, earth sciences,environmental sciences, medical sciences, physical sciences, pharmaceutical sciences, and veterinary sciences. However, in institutions of higher learning, distinction is normally made between the pure and applied sciences and other sciences, thereby excluding such disciplines as library and information sciences and the social sciences. Thus, science is used in this work to refer to all the disciplines of study and research in institutions of higher learning which are concerned with the real world-the inherent properties of space, matter, energy and their interactions.

This definition is adapted from Akaneme (2001:2) and Sherwood and Maynard (2002: 185). Science generally is characterized by the possibility of making
precise statements that are susceptible to check and proof. Once proved,such statements become laws or theories that govern scientific behaviour under particular conditions. If disproved, even when previously held as law(s), such statements are rejected and replaced by new knowledge. The resultant knowledge is applied under particular conditions to address particular human issues or remedy particular human problems. It is this application of scientific knowledge in designing solutions to human problems that is referred to as technology. Sherwood and Maynard (2002:185) have defined technology as  “systematic knowledge and action, usually of industrial processes but applicable to any recurrent activity”.

The basic goal of technology is to utilize available scientific knowledge in the design of tools and procedures for dealing with man’s numerous problems.
Science and technology have been a part of human history (Awachie, 2001:26). Man has always sought proper understanding of the real world around him. Such knowledge has often been utilized in fashioning tools and techniques, no matter how crude, for dealing with the challenges of man’s environment.
Science and technology are the driving forces for much of the transformation of human society. Through the application of science and technology, the resources of nature have been transformed into goods and services for better quality of life.

Thus, in spite of the tremendous growth of world population, science and technology have been applied to agriculture to sustain the world population (Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, 1986:3). Science and technology have been responsible for human progress in such areas as communication, energy, health, leisure, transport and even war. According to Mernier (1980:91), “Scientific and technological progress opens up unprecedented opportunities for the transformation of nature, the creation of tremendous material wealth and the multiplication of the creative abilities of man.The adoption of science and technology in national life is the yardstick for measuring development or underdevelopment. Even though national development indices are primarily a function of economic status, they invariably reflect the state of scientific and technological development. Accordingly, the world is divided into two — the developed and the developing nations.

The developed world has attained technological sophistication by exploiting science and technology to create wealth, enhance standard of living, save human energy, and provide technical services. The developing nations, on the other hand, are yet to adequately utilize science and technology to exploit their natural resources and are hence largely dependent on goods and services from the developed nations. The benefits of science and technology and the adverse effects of dependence are the reasons behind the quest for scientific and technological development by all nations of the world. The quest became so intense in the 20th century that it was christened the century of science. (Bunge, 2002). Even the 21st century, which is called the ‘information
age’, derives its name from tremendous advancements in information and communications technology, a product of science and technology.

Advancements in science and technology are possible only through research. Research has been identified as the springboard for science and technology (Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, 1986:5). Best and Kahn, as cited in Aina (2002:1) defined research as “the systematic and objective analysis and recording of controlled observations that may lead to the development of generalizations, principles and theories resulting in prediction and ultimate control of many events that may be consequences or causes of specific activities”. In this work, scientific and technological research refers to a systematic and guided inquiry into nature and natural phenomena and the various possible applications of the resultant knowledge to the design of  measures for dealing with the challenges of man’s environment.

Even though research is an activity undertaken by all individuals and organizations, it is a major attribute of academic institutions. With particular reference to universities, research is pursued at three basic levels-the undergraduate; postgraduate and faculty levels. However, the postgraduate and faculty levels have stronger research components, and are therefore more research oriented than the undergraduate programme. Generally, universities institutions play a pivotal role in scientific ad technological research, particularly in Africa (Okeke, 2004:75). Through theses and dissertations submitted in partial fulfillment of the various degrees as well as other research works, universities contribute baseline data for the nation’s scientific and technical research. In view of the high rate of obsolescence of knowledge in science and technology, scientists and technologists depend largely on primary sources of information for their research.

The primary sources include the  periodicals (newspapers, magazines, journals) and grey literature. While journals were initially recognized as the traditional source of primary literature in science and technology, the difficulties in its publication have led to a shift in focus on grey literature as a reliable complement or sometimes outright alternative to journal literature. This implies that universities libraries should be in position to provide adequate quantity and quality of primary information resources and services in science and technology, especially grey literature.

 

AVAILABILITY AND USE OF GREY LITERATURE FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH IN UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES IN SOUTH EAST,NIGERIA

 

Statement of the Problem

 

Nigeria, one of the non-industrialized or developing countries, is still grappling with efforts at scientific and technological development. It has, for instance, set up thirty-one (31) research institutes, out of which thirty (30) are science and technology-based. Various levels of science and technical research are also undertaken in thirty-one (31) universities and twenty-five polytechnics (The World of Learning, 2005:1260-1281). The World Bank (2001:311) also reports that nine (9) out of every 1 million Nigerians are scientists and technologists engaged in research and development for the period 1987-1997. For the same period, up to 42% of total tertiary students were in sciences and engineering. Furthermore, 0.09% (approximately 1%) of the nation’s GNI was spent on research and development

However these efforts at scientific and technological development are only realizable given adequate availability and use of scientific and technological literature much of which exists in grey forms. This class of literature has been seen as presenting remarkable advantages over other means of information dissemination in science and technology in terms of quick access, greater flexibility, and the opportunity to go into considerable detail when necessary. Unfortunately, it has been observed that grey literature presents some inherent problems that have in the past affected its availability, access and use in libraries. The result is that this valuable resource may be under-utilized to the detriment of science and technological research in Nigerian universities.

One major hindrance to breaking this barrier is that  not much is studied about grey literature in the country in terms of its availability in the libraries as well as use by the scientific and  technological researchers. If nothing is done in this direction, a huge portion of the nation’s scientific and technological information existing in grey literature may not be discovered and used. In addition to losing much of the local ingredients of scientific and technological research, Nigerian scientists and engineers may be excommunicated scholarly in this era of globalization where all are expected to be common producers and users of information. This will, obviously, not be in the interest of scientific and technological developments in the country. A study like this is therefore necessary to establish the status of availability and use of grey literature for science and technological research.

 

AVAILABILITY AND USE OF GREY LITERATURE FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH IN UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES IN SOUTH EAST,NIGERIA

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