I'm with Falk on this one.
Rather than "we should continue making PDFs open access with all our
energy" I would argue that we should ensure that papers are made available
in open formats (such XHTML) wherever possible, and regard PDFs as a tainted
compromise (although the ISO PDF-A format can be useful as a preservation
As well as the technical and interoperability benefits that open and
Web-native formats can provide, there is also a need (indeed, legal
requirement) to address issues such as accessibility. Indeed you touch on
this in your comment:
""True Open Access" is a hitherto unidentified specialisation of "Open
Access". The latter simply requires research outputs to be accessible to
everyone, without let or hindrance, now or in the future." "Without let or
hindrance" surely included access to people with disabilities?
The WAI WCAG guidelines state:
3.2 Create documents that validate to published formal grammars. [Priority
11.1 Use W3C technologies when they are available and appropriate for a task
and use the latest versions when supported. [Priority 2]
11.4 If, after best efforts, you cannot create an accessible page, provide a
link to an alternative page that uses W3C technologies, is accessible, has
equivalent information (or functionality), and is updated as often as the
inaccessible (original) page. [Priority 1]
This doesn't seem very PDF-friendly.
Note that although WAI compliance is a legal requirement in various contexts
I (and others) have argued that the WAI model and WCAG guidelines have
fundamental flaws (and UK legislation, unlike that in other countries,
provides us with some degree of flexibility - we need to take reasonable
measures to ensure people with disabilities aren't discriminated against
unfairly, whereas legislation on other countries mandates WCAG compliance).
Our most recent papers are:
Contextual Web Accessibility - Maximizing the Benefit of Accessibility
Sloan, D, Kelly, B., Heath, A., Petrie, H., Hamilton, F and Phipps, L. WWW
2006 Edinburgh, Scotland 22-26 May 2006. Conference Proceedings, Special
Interest Tracks, Posters and Workshops (CD ROM).
Forcing Standardization or Accommodating Diversity? A Framework for Applying
the WCAG in the Real World
Kelly, B., Sloan, D., Phipps, L., Petrie, H. and Hamilton, F. Proceedings of
the 2005 International Cross-Disciplinary Workshop on Web Accessibility
(W4A). ISBN: 1-59593-036-1.
Our approach (which, in part, is being addressed in the WCAG 2.0 guidelines)
argues that WAI should be neutral about technologies, as proprietary formats
(such as PDF, Flash, MS Word, etc.) can be accessible. However there is
still a need to ensure that the formats ARE accessible - and it is not clear
to me how the workflow processes will ensure that PDFs will contain ALT text
for images and the structural information needed for assistive technologies
to work correctly.
Surely if institutions need to handcraft PDFs in order to comply with
accessibility guidelines, it would be a more effective use of resources to
do this on the open format? Or perhaps I've missed these 'easy to use
tools' you refer to.
UKOLN, University of Bath, BATH, UK, BA2 7AY
Email: [log in to unmask]
Phone: +44 1225 383943
From: Leslie Carr [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 10 December 2006 11:29
Subject: Re: PLoS business models, global village
On 10 Dec 2006, at 08:27, Falk Huettmann wrote:
Am I correct to say that PDFs are not part
of true OpenAccess (raw data, shared analysis) and should be fully
abandoned/replaced ASAP ?
"True Open Access" is a hitherto unidentified
specialisation of "Open Access". The latter simply requires research outputs
to be accessible to everyone, without let or hindrance, now or in the
Perhaps you are suggesting that PDFs are not an optimal information
exchange vehicle - and many people (data miners) would agree with you.
However, PDF files are the majority means of dissemination, and while we
await the Next Great interoperability format (presumably based on XML)
together with the easy-to-use tools to go with it, we should continue making
PDFs open access with all our energy.