Deconstructing White Paper

May 3, 2023 | News

The racial and colonial context and why we need to retire the term

Questioned by community members and partner organizations about why we are still using the term “white paper” (also cited and referred to as whitepaper) the Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE) Network began a journey of discovery into the history of the term and data gathering on how the term is used and perceived.

Our research team discovered that the term “white paper” is used by a wide range of professionals to describe material made available to the public through non-traditional publishing. Originally referring to government documents, a “white paper” now refers to a document meant to educate and aid decision making. They are used in government, politics, academia, business, and technical fields. Currently there is no universal definition, and the term is vague and does not clearly reflect the content of the work. At present, and informed by individuals with expertise in library science, there is no formal way to classify white papers.

Because of the issues arising from the origin of use in Canada and the racialized terminology, we invited experts from across Canada, and hosted a consultation meeting to explore the use of the term and gather participants personal and professional views on building a new naming practice. Participants were academics, researchers librarians, Indigenous leaders, science policy experts and other leaders who work in or are advocates in areas of racisms, de-colonization and who use or would be impacted by the term.

Download the Full Public Brief as a PDF

To become part of the solution, please join one of the “working spheres” who will be discussing and working towards retiring and renaming the term white papers.

Click here to become part of the solution