System for Information on Grey Literature in Europe

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The “System for Information on Grey Literature in Europe” (SIGLE) was established in 1980, two years after a seminar on grey literature organised by the European Commission in York (UK). Operated by a network of national information or document supply centres active in collecting and promoting grey literature, SIGLE was an on line, pan-European electronic bibliographic database and document delivery system.

The objective was to provide access to European grey literature and to improve bibliographic coverage.

From 1980 to 1985, SIGLE was funded by the Commission of the European Communities (CEC). When CEC financial support ended in 1985, the national centres formed a network for the acquisition, identification and dissemination of grey literature called “European Association for Grey Literature Exploitation” or EAGLE, who became the producer of the SIGLE database.

Input to the database ended in 2005 when the EAGLE General Assembly decided the liquidation of the network.

In 2007, together with the last EAGLE operating agent, FIZ Karlsruhe, the French STI centre INIST-CNRS integrated the SIGLE records into a new open access database called OpenSIGLE hosted by INIST-CNRS.

SIGLE characteristics[edit]

For each SIGLE member country, one or two national structures assumed the acquisition, referencing and document delivery of grey literature, mostly national libraries (UK, Luxembourg) or documentation centres of national research organizations (Italy, France, Germany). Merging of the national files was done by an independent operating agent under contract and the database was hosted on up to three different servers. A CD-ROM was produced from 1992 on by Silverplatter/Ovid Technologies.

Cataloguing rules and classification scheme were adopted from the International Nuclear Information System (INIS) database produced by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). The SIGLE classification was derived from the American COSATI scheme. One important difference to INIS was that SIGLE never included serials (only collections of monographs) and never provided records on an analytical level (book or report chapters, communications from conference proceedings etc.).

Each SIGLE record contained informative titles in English and/or in the original language, the author’s name, academic degree, and the research organization or educational institution, the document’s date of publication and type, number of pages, report numbers, and language, as well as subject classifications. Many records include keywords and abstracts.

Each national structure sent records in its own language. A search through the entire database was made possible through providing an English translation of the title or English keywords. One of these fields was mandatory. This constraint may seem irrelevant but for some countries it was a considerable barrier to increased input.

One of the goals of SIGLE from the beginning was to facilitate access to grey documents in Europe. Therefore:

  • Each record contained a clear mention of availability (with or without shelf number).
  • Each member country committed to supply the referenced document on demand, whether from its own collections or through interlending service by back-up libraries.
  • Useful information on document supply (addresses, conditions) was given on specific help pages or in user-guides.

Record samples[edit]


Accession Number

98:4462DE SIGLE


Anaerobic co-treatment of biological waste materials and sewage sludge. Final report. Gemeinsame anaerobe Behandlung von Bioabfall und Klaerschlamm. Abschlussbericht.


Risse, H.

Corporate Source

Technische Hochschule Aachen (DE). Lehrstuhl und Inst.fuer Siedlungswasserwirtschaft

Funding Organization

Oswald-Schulze-Stiftung, Gladbeck (DE)


Jan 1998. 83 p.


Available from TIB Hannover: F98B1076+a.

Document Type

Numerical Data


Germany, Federal Republic of




The main goals of co-fermentation are sewage sludge stabilisation, production of a cyclable product and minimisation of process emissions. This research project focused on anaerobic wet fermentation. Criteria of evaluation were the quantity and quality of the resulting fermented sludge, biogas, and process water. In view of the scarcity of data on optimum process conditions, the investigations were to provide information, e.g.: Optimum ratio of biological waste to sewage sludge, influence of process conditions (temperature, charge volume, flow rate) on biogas production and process water burden. (orig.)

Classification Code

10U Biomass energy




Accession Number

98:20686GB SIGLE


Switching to cheaper coals for power generation.


Carpenter, A.M.

Corporate Source

IEA Coal Research, London (GB). Clean Coal Centre

Number of Report



1998. 87 p.


Available from British Library Document Supply Centre-DSC:4362.64377(1).

ISBN 92-9029-301-2

Document Type



United Kingdom



Classification Code

10A Coal

10T Other power plants

SIGLE content[edit]

SIGLE was started in 1980, but since some members put in older documents, the earliest publications go back to the sixties. Pure and applied sciences were the first subjects to be covered, with economics, social sciences and humanities added in 1984. Although SIGLE was a multidisciplinary database, about one third of the records were found in the humanities and social sciences (>35%), followed by medical and life sciences (12%) and physics (9%). These figures were related to different practices of research communities to publish white only or grey, but also to the willingness of organizations to cooperate. Some of the documents existed only in three copies and it was not always easy for the SIGLE centre to obtain one of them.

Among the document types one finds a majority of reports, followed by doctoral theses or dissertations. In several countries monthly files were obtained by conversion from other catalogues, without a clear identification of the document type, so that the "miscellaneous" category is a "hold all" for these cases.

Over the years the content of the database improved. For instance, since 1997 English abstracts were added, in particular to Russian records. Members provided English keywords with increasing frequency. Even so, another important project was never realized: the integration of electronic documents, if possible with a link to the full text. Instead members started to build institutional repositories or to provide access to electronic grey literature by other means.

In October 1993 the SIGLE database contained 336,650 records, with around 40,000 new records being added each year. In September 1999, SIGLE contained more than 630,000 records with a current annual input of 60,000 records. The database was updated monthly.

The coverage in 1999 country was
49% United Kingdom
24% Germany
10% France
17% other countries
Records in 1999 document type
55% reports
34% theses and dissertations
11% other documents

The coverage by subject areas in 1999[edit]

Subject area coverage in %
Humanities and Social Sciences 35%
Biology and medicine 12%
Physics 9%
Engineering 7%
Electronics 7%
Earth Sciences 5%
Mathematics 4%
Chemistry 4%
Energy 4%
Environment 3%
Materials 3%
Agriculture 3%
Other (aeronautics, space technology…) 4%

In February 2005, SIGLE contained 855,260 records from 16 countries and the European Commission. UK, German, French and Dutch records represented 90% of the overall input. 63% of the records were reports, 32% were theses and dissertations, and the other records were conference proceedings, data files and translations.

The 2005 coverage broken down

Country total number of records (with %)
Belgium 5,236 (0,6%)
Czech Republic 5,683 (0,7%)
France 72,752 (8,5%)
Germany 198,588 (23,2%)
Hungary 728 (0,08%)
Ireland 97 (0,01%)
Italy 30,758 (3,6%)
Latvia 3,916 (0,45%)
Luxemburg 33 (0,0%)
Netherlands 61,471 (7,2%)
Poland 87 (0,01%)
Portugal 1,780 (0,2%)
Russian Federation 19,524 (2,3%)
Slovakia 800 (0,09%)
Spain 11,256 (1,3%)
Sweden 14 (0,0%)
United Kingdom 434,007 (50,7%)
Commission of the EC 8,530 (1,0%)

SIGLE Technical Committee members[edit]

  • Czech Republic Jan Bayer, State Technical Library
  • France Christiane Stock, INIST-CNRS
  • Hungary Marta Leces, Kármán Tódor Számítástechnika Szakkollégium
  • Latvia Dr. Aigars Krauze, Latvijas Akadēmiskā bibliotēka
  • Portugal Gabriela Lopes da Silva, Fundacao para a Ciencia e a Tecnologia
  • Slovakia Daniela Dranackova, Slovak Centre of Scientific and Technical Information of Slovak Republic
  • Spain Marisol Hernando, Centro de Información y Documentación Científica

See also[edit]


  • Pagamonci A. II SIGLE e l'EAGLE: un percorso di politica comunitaria e di cooperazione europea in materia d'informazione scientifica. Bolletino d'informazioni - Associazione italiana biblioteche. 1987, vol. 27, n° 3-4, p. 348-366.
  • SIGLE Manual. Part 1: SIGLE cataloguing rules. Luxembourg, EAGLE, 1990.
  • Wood D.N., Smith A.W. SIGLE: A Model for International Co-operation. Interlending & Document Supply. 1993, vol. 21, n° 1, p. 18-22.
  • Schöpfel J., Stock C, Henrot N. From SIGLE to OpenSIGLE and beyond: An in-depth look at Resource Migration in the European Context. The Grey Journal. 2007, vol. 3, n° 1. hdl:10068/697774
  • Luzi D., Di Cesare R., Ruggieri R. Open archives and SIGLE participation in Italy: Is there a subtle link between the two experiences? In Farace D., Frantzen J. (eds.) GL7 Conference Proceedings. Seventh International Conference on Grey Literature: Open Access to Grey Resources. Nancy, 5–6 December 2005. Amsterdam: TextRelease 2006. hdl:10068/697821
  • Lankenau I. Grise mais disponible : le système d'information sur la littérature grise en Europe (SIGLE). Translation by Bakelli Y. RIST. 1997, vol. 7, n° 2.

External links[edit]