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Locating Gray Literature: Conferences, Technical Reports

"Gray literature" is a term for the mass of information that falls outside the mainstream of published journal and monograph literature. This page describes some of the more commonly cited conference publications and tech reports in chemistry and chemical engineering. (Patents are also often considered part of the gray literature.)


ACS Abstracts of Papers

The American Chemical Society publishes abstracts of papers to be presented at technical sessions of the ACS Spring and Fall National Meetings.
  • Abstracts from the current meeting are available on the ACS National Meetings web site. Go to the Technical Programming Archive for abstracts from past meetings back to 2004.
  • Abstracts since 1995 (210th meeting) are included in SciFinder. In Chemical Abstracts the title was historically abbreviated as:
    "Abstr. Pap. Am. Chem. Soc."; and more recently appears as:
    "Abstracts of Papers, [N]th ACS National Meeting, [place], [date]".
    Web of Science also includes recent years.
  • 2006-11 : the abstracts were published on CD-ROM, available on Reserves. In 2007 the title changed to Abstracts of scientific papers.
  • 1937-2005: Abstracts of papers - American Chemical Society are available as printed volumes in the library, shelved in the journal stacks. This is the only source for abstracts from 1937 to 1995. No abstracts were published before 1937.
  • Unless a paper was also published as a preprint from one of the Divisions listed below, or as a postprint within a separate proceedings volume, there are no full papers -- the abstract is all there is. You should contact the authors for more information, or search SciFinder for later articles based on a meeting presentation.

ACS Division Preprints

Various technical divisions of the American Chemical Society have published short preprints of papers in advance of national meetings.
Division Title Web Access UT's Archival Holdings
ENFL Energy & Fuels Preprints* 2012- U.T. restricted CD-ROM: 2012-14
ENVR Environmental Chemistry Division Preprints Extended Abstracts
(ceased 2008)
(not subscribed)
Print: 1973-99 (incomplete)
CD-ROM: 2000-07
FUEL Fuel Chemistry Preprints*
(ceased 2012)
1957-2012 U.T. restricted
Web Archive, 1957-2004
(open access)
Print: 1960-2002
CD-ROM: 2003-12
PETR Petroleum Preprints*
(ceased 2012)
1956-2012 U.T. restricted Print: 1942-2005
CD-ROM: 2006-09
PMSE Polymeric Materials Science and Engineering**
(ceased 2015)
2001-2015 U.T. restricted Print: 1983-2001
CD-ROM: 2002-07
POLY Polymer Preprints***
(ceased 2012)
2000-2012 U.T. restricted Print: 1962-2004
CD-ROM: 2005-09
* The FUEL and PETR divisions merged into the Energy and Fuels Division (ENFL) in 2012. The former divisions published their respective FUEL and PETR preprints for the Spring 2012 (243rd) meeting, and launched ENFL preprints with the Fall 2012 meeting.
** The final published volume of PMSE Preprints was the Spring 2015 meeting. Earlier titles of PMSE were: Organic coatings and applied polymer science proceedings (1982-83); Organic coatings and plastics chemistry (1978-81); Coatings and plastics preprints (1974-77); Papers presented - American Chemical Society, Division of Organic Coatings and Plastics Chemistry (1960-73).
*** Polymer Preprints ceased after the Fall 2012 meeting and was replaced by graphical abstracts available only to division members.

ACS Symposia

Full papers from selected topical symposia held at ACS meetings are later published as proceedings volumes.
All volumes in these series are individually cataloged. Search for them in the Library Catalog by series title + volume number as keywords (e.g. KW= acs symposium 1081), or by individual book title. Archival E-book access is available to UT-Austin persons for both series from 1950 to 2011.

AIChE Meeting Papers

The American Institute of Chemical Engineers holds Spring and Annual meetings.
  • There is no comprehensive index or archive of AIChE meeting papers. Some papers are indexed in SciFinder or Engineering Index. The catalog of the Linda Hall Library lists some too.
  • From 1979 to 2000 selected papers were issued on microfiche, but these are not widely held in libraries; the UT Libraries do not own any. Consult with a librarian before trying to request a paper via interlibrary loan, because a request is not likely to be successful.
  • Proceedings of conferences since 2003 (including their various topical symposia) are a mix of abstracts and full papers that have been sold only on CD-ROM. The CDs are generally not held in libraries but may be purchased individually from the AIChE web site.
  • The AIChE Symposium Series (1971-2002) and its predecessor Chemical Engineering Progress Symposium Series (1951-71) published postprints of selected topical symposia from the AIChE meetings. The Chemistry Library holds complete runs of these series at TP 1 A488/5. These papers were fully indexed in SciFinder.
  • Some meeting papers may have been revised later as articles in AIChE Journal or other journals, sometimes with slightly different titles. Searching for the authors in SciFinder can reveal these revisions.

Electrochemical Society Proceedings

2005-current: The ECS Transactions U.T. restricted can be searched or browsed for conference papers from ECS national meetings.

Pre-2005: The ECS published print conference proceedings until 2005. These books are individually cataloged in the Library Catalog by conference name and title, under the series heading Proceedings (Electrochemical Society) plus a year/volume number. UT's holdings are mostly complete after 1988. If you have a reference to a paper such as

Proc. Electrochem. Soc. 97-12
search for this volume in the Catalog using keywords:
proceedings electrochemical 97 12

Other Tools

  • Search the conference name as an author or as keywords in the Library Catalog.
    Note: Libraries catalog the name of a conference as an author, not a title. So a paper cited as being in "Proc. 12th Int. Conf. Widget Technol., 1998" will, in the catalog record for the published proceedings, have its main author listed officially as "International Conference on Widget Technology (12th : 1998 : [place])" so that all such conferences can be listed together regardless of each one's actual title.
  • Search in WorldCat, using words from the full name of the conference as a conference name query.
  • Search the paper's author(s) or keywords in ISI's Conference Proceedings Citation Index-Science, which goes back to 1990. CPCI-S is part of the Web of Knowledge and can be searched in tandem with the Science Citation Index.
  • Search the paper's author(s) in an index database such as SciFinder, Engineering Index, or Google Scholar. While an unpublished conference paper will probably not be indexed, you might find a later journal article based on it. Work-in-progress is often presented at conferences and then later submitted to journals.
  • Search in Google or other engine. An author might have posted a copy of the paper or a slide presentation in an open repository or personal web site.
  • from Curran Associates is a vendor service that prints and sells hardcopy conference proceedings (not single papers) from many professional organizations that are otherwise available only in electronic formats or to members.
  • Try contacting the paper's authors. They might be willing to supply a copy.
  • The Georgia Tech Library has a useful guide to collections of society technical papers.

Technical Reports

Technical reports usually originate in federal government agencies, but may also come from academic institutions, state or foreign governments, and private firms and organizations. They contain results of research carried out in government labs or on government contracts or, in the case of private companies, for in-house, proprietary use. They are often cited in the literature and indexed in databases, yet in some cases they can be difficult to obtain.

In the 20th century, US federal tech reports were primarily distributed on microfiche; more recent reports are born digital. Some research libraries have large collections of these hardcopy reports, while others - such as UT - have relatively few. Tech reports are usually not individually listed in library catalogs. Consulting a librarian in advance may save time.

Major U.S. government sources include:
  • Department of Defense (DOD)
  • Department of Energy (DOE and its predecessors the AEC, ERDA, etc.)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • NASA (and its predecessor NACA)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, formerly the National Bureau of Standards, NBS)
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC or NUREG)

Technical reports are usually referenced by author(s), title, and report number. Report number formats vary widely according to the issuing agency's own numbering system. Some examples:

  • EPA/600/S2-86/051 (EPA)
  • NASA-TM-111279 (NASA Technical Memorandum)
  • PB95-187282 (NTIS accession number)
  • AD-A417298
  • SAND-83-2301/2 (DOE Sandia Labs)

Search Tools and Repositories

Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC)
Public access to bibliographic data and some full text of unclassified DoD documents and technical reports since 1974.

DOE Data Explorer
A metasearch tool for public DOE data collections (not tech reports per se) - such as computer simulations, numeric data files, figures and plots, interactive maps, multimedia, and scientific images - generated in the course of DOE-sponsored research in various disciplines.

DOE SciTech Connect recommended resource
This system contains over 2.5 million bibliographic records and over 313,000 full text reports from the Department of Energy (DOE), most of which are post-1991. SciTech Connect includes technical reports, bibliographic citations, journal articles, conference papers, books, multimedia, and data information sponsored by DOE from the 1940s to present.

EPA Publications
EPA's gateway to digital and paper publications. Warning: EPA documents can be very difficult to find! (For more information on EPA analytical methods see the Analytical Chemistry pathfinder.)

INIS (International Nuclear Information System) offers online access to 3.6M bibliographic records and over 350,000 full-text documents, such as scientific and technical reports, conference proceedings, patents and theses, covering the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology. (IAEA)

NASA Technical Reports Server
The NTRS collects scientific and technical information from NASA's technical report servers and non-NASA sites. It is not a comprehensive index of NASA reports. This site now also includes NACA aerospace reports (1917-58).

NIST/NBS Catalog
The online catalog of the NIST library provides access to selected report series that have been digitized.

The National Technical Information Service is the primary clearinghouse for federal government technical reports. Its National Technical Reports Library (NTRL) database is now available to the public. It provides access to about 800,000 full text reports as well as over two million bibliographic records since 1964. Non-digitized reports must be purchased directly from NTIS and can't be requested via interlibrary loan.
A search engine covering nearly 2,000 federal government web sites and databases.

Technical Reports and Standards (Library of Congress)
The TRS unit of the Library of Congress holds over 5 million current and historical technical reports and standards on microform, digital media and paper.

TRAIL: Technical Report Archive and Image Library
A collaborative project to digitize selected federal technical reports primarily issued prior to 1976.


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