Feature

Since its 2004 debut, PsycEXTRA has collected more than 100,000 records of "fugitive" or "ephemeral" literature, those documents that exist outside of psychology's traditional peer-reviewed articles and scholarly books. Also known as "grey literature," these materials include such disparate documents as a Walter Reed Army Institute slide presentation on "battlemind," an FBI case study on an Oklahoma middle-school shooting, and a Harvard Business Review article linking neuroscience and consumer desire.

And this robust collection is growing-by 750 to 1,000 new records every few weeks, says Linda Beebe, who oversees PsycEXTRA as APA's PsycINFO senior director. The database has become a popular way for clinicians, policy-makers, researchers and consumers to suss out cutting-edge research and new directions in psychology. As an added benefit, up to 70 percent of the documents in PsycEXTRA are available in full-text form.

An outlet for archives

To increase PsycEXTRA's holdings, Beebe and her staff solicit conference presentations, technical reports, white papers, standards, policies and newsletters from sources including professional associations, psychology labs and government institutions.

Psychologist Bradford W. Hesse, PhD, chief of the Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute, relies on PsycEXTRA in two ways: to archive his own institute's technical reports and to gather information for his own research.

"PsycEXTRA reaches out to newsletters, where you can get a feel for what's happening within professional organizations and agencies early, before it filters into the scholarly literature," he says.

Hesse also uses PsycEXTRA as a research tool to help him allocate National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants and follow their progress. "Grantees will produce a tech report in addition to or even before they get around to producing a peer-reviewed journal article, and PsycEXTRA gives us access to those tech reports."

He's even used the service to call up research written by NIH directors. "I couldn't even find that research on my own [NIH] Web site, but they had it in PsycEXTRA."

Other psychologists find PsycEXTRA valuable for archiving publications, such as those from the U.S. government that are sometimes posted online and then quicklyremoved, adds Beebe.

"Grey literature is called fugitive for a reason-it's always been in danger of disappearing," she says. Electronic databases such as PsycEXTRA keep what may be the only record of these publications.

Next steps for PsycEXTRA

To further increase PsycEXTRA's collection, the department has recently acquired 15 Web crawlers to troll for psychologically related content to add to the database. New projects also include working with countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand to include their government publications.

"It's a wild, wild West time in scientific and scholarly publishing," adds Lynn Willis, PsycINFO's content development manager. "With open access initiatives, people are taking a broader view of how information should be disseminated."

In the face of uncertainty about print publishing's future, PsycEXTRA's creators see themselves as leaders in scholarly publishing, says Beebe. PsycEXTRA visitors can tap its user-friendly platform to discover content they might not find anywhere else, which they can build on to further the science of psychology, she says.

Further Reading

For more information, visit APA's PsycEXTRA Database.