Today, I tried to apply for conference funding to the DAAD. As part of the application process, one is supposed to download a pdf form. This form needs to be opened in adobe acrobat reader. As a passionate Linux user, I am unable to install a current version of Adobe Acrobat Reader. An outdated version is available but has been unsupported since 2013. Many security issues have not been fixed in this version, so installing it is very risky. As a workaround, I tried to open the file on my tablet, using the official Android version of Adobe Acrobat Reader. Doing so results in an error message. Acrobat Reader says that Adobe Acrobat DC for MAC or Windows is required to open the file. THis is in contrast to the official information given in the web portal of the DAAD, where it is clearly stated, that Adobe Acrobat Reader is required.
Some quick research showed that this would mean two things. In order to open the file, fill the form, and upload it to finish the application, I would need to buy 1) a new computer (or at the minimum a new Windows licence), and 2) I would need to buy a yearly (!) licence for Adobe Acrobat DC, which comes in at 15€ per month. This is quite some expenses for filling a form.
I have contacted the DAAD help desk and I am still waiting for an answer on how I can submit my application using free software (I'll update you on this). The point is, that by resorting to non-free software, with specific requirements for operating systems, the DAAD effectively prevents a subgroup of researchers, who use free software, from applying. This is a serious problem and shows how much work there is still to do to make bureaucrats aware of open standards and open software. In this specific case, there would be an easy solution: A platform independent web form.