Open Data Institute study shows role for PDF with Open Data

by Lisa Lindgren

posted on 10-16-2017

Posted by John Jolliffe, European Government Relations Lead

Earlier this year we blogged about an exciting project we had kicked off with the Open Data Institute in London, to explore how PDF could be better used to help international policies on Open Data. The final ODI report on Best Practices for PDF and Data has just been published.

We’re particularly happy that the report confirms what we have known for some time, that PDF can already achieve at least 3 stars on the 5 Star Open Data scale, on a par with other well-used formats such as .csv. And it’s exciting to see a PDF with data published to Data Mill North, proving that PDF with data can be more valuable in some cases than just publishing the raw data itself.

We think the report will be welcome news for many in government and beyond who already work with PDF or who need to publish open data that is both human- and machine-readable.

The report highlights two use cases in particular: the first relating to the role of PDF in the English Planning system, which was conducted in collaboration with the Department for Communities and Local Government. The second relating to the complex needs of scientific publishers.

But the work is only just beginning. The ODI has kicked off a public process to capture additional use cases where PDF is essential, with a view to showing how PDF can address their open data needs too. Finding and developing these use cases will be a focus of the new W3C PDF Open Data Community Group, now chaired by the ODI, and will help provide clear guidance on the use of PDF for broader communities of open data users.

We’ll report back on the exciting progress being made in the future. In the meantime, the message to open data publishers is clear: not only do you no longer have to avoid PDF, but rather, you can embrace PDF knowing it has more capabilities than you previously thought while recognizing that it may not always be the most appropriate format to use for the type of data you want to publish.

* This blog post was revised on October 23, 2017 to clarify points brought to our attention by readers. If you would like to be part of this evolving conversation, please join the W3C Community Group on PDF and Open Data.

Topics: Data & Privacy, Public Policy