Publishing only PDF and not your sources is like voluntary entropy

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This post originally appeared here on 10th March 2018 under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Many documents from aid programmes are never published. However, even if they were published, in all my efforts to surface documents, I’ve only come across one word document. In fact, some time ago the Open University of Nigeria was interested in a programme to mass convert PDF back to Word.

Now, of course, there is conversation software (some smarter than others). However, it strikes me that converting, for example, an OpenOffice or Word Document to PDF is like the willful destruction of metadata (i.e. formatting data). Whether done accidentally or deliberately, it makes it  unnecessarily harder to work with the document.

So, as we suggested in our open content encyclopaedia entry (here), we need to push for both

  • Legal freedom – Using Creative Commons licensing 
  • Technological freedom – Publishing your sources (whatever they may be)

I do also think that discovery is moving more into focus. Documents cannot just be ‘available’ somewhere, but they need to be made available so that they are discoverable, ideally posted in multiple places, including a shared platform.

In practice, this may mean that documents are posted in the following places:

  • At each organisation involved in the process (e.g. an NGO, a consultancy, and a ministry)
  • A shared platform (e.g. a pre-print platform such as Zenodo)

This is feasible. Let’s make this happen.

Björn Haßler
Björn Haßler