Most textual document include references to content from elsewhere. That referenced content might be quoted excerpts, data summaries, or paraphrased findings or conclusions. In fields where attribution of such referenced content is essential, such as law and academic research, citations and reference lists associate referenced document content with their source. And yet, formatted reference lists typically represent a subset of the source metadata, and may need to be reformatted for different audiences. In this sense, citations and reference list items can be understood as dynamic text fields whose content is generated from linked metadata descriptions.
It would therefore significantly enhance the possibility for user collaboration and application interoperability to have a standard metadata infrastructure. Likewise, bibliographic metadata is more complex than the simple document metadata commonly found in productivity applications, which is often just a series of key/values. Consider a simple example of a journal article, which involves relations between a document and a periodical, one or more people who author that document, and so forth. Beyond standardization, then, it is important to have a metadata approach that can support that sort of richer description.
Three users collaborate on a paper, each using different OpenDocument-compatible applications.
As they write the paper and add citations, the citations and bibliography are automatically generated from the embedded metadata. Because the metadata is embedded, it's also portable. When the users pass the document around, the logic is always there so that the formatting can be regenerated. And because the metadata is based on a standard model, it would also facilitate interoperability between different third-party bibliographic applications.
When authors finish paper, they send it to a publisher, who can extract the metadata and make it available to search engines and journal providers. A standard metadata model also allows the publisher to regenerate the citations in a variety of standard styles (such as MLA, APA, Chicago). It would also be possible to embed that metadata in PDF files, and to then enable those finished documents to offer:
- richer functionality
- copy-and-paste text to an ODF document, and metadata is copied with it
- links to further information