Why would anybody want to work in a fishbowl? If the work is the development of voluntary consensus standards, there isn’t any other credible way to do it. There is a principle involved here. The term for it is transparency. ASTM International operated on the principle of transparency long before the term became part of the lexicon of treaties and international agreements. It never operated in secrecy. And now ASTM has taken transparency to a new level. We are pleased to announce a new system designed to initiate, develop, and track draft standards and revisions before and during balloting. 1
Why? Why should ASTM go to new lengths to expose its work to the world? Why would it invest time and money to make itself more transparent when it was transparent in the first place? There are at least two good reasons. First of all, it’s possible. Technology has made it possible. ASTM has a Web Site that is filled with information, and it’s continually expanding. More and more information is available now than at any time in its history.
Second, and more important, is ASTM’s commitment to the principle of transparency. At first glance, it may seem as if this commitment is linked to the grand scheme of things. And it is. It is directly linked to Annex 4 of the second triennial review of the World Trade Organization’s Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement. 2 Transparency within the meaning of Annex 4 is that “all essential information regarding current work programmes, draft work under progress and proposals under consideration as well as the final results should be made easily accessible to at least all interested parties in the territories of WTO Members throughout all stages of standards development.” 3
And while it is linked to this grand scheme, ASTM’s first commitment is still to its members. ASTM members are all over the world, and this new program is intended to make their work as meaningful and as real as possible. ASTM International is not just a name. Its members in 100 countries around the globe must have real and meaningful access and impact at every stage of standards development. Our members are not members in name only.
A funny thing happens when you do the right thing for the right reason. What follows is right as well. ASTM adds another level of transparency. ASTM members everywhere have added impact on standards development. The added transparency, which is available to everybody, contributes to a better understanding of the work. This attracts more interested parties and increases international application of ASTM standards. This, in turn, makes more ASTM standards more meaningfully international. ASTM’s principles align with the principles that discourage technical barriers to trade. ASTM’s work contributes to an improved global system of trade. And all because we keep doing what we’ve always done. Only better.
James A. Thomas
President, ASTM International
1 See Scott Orthey’s article.
2 Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations with Relation to Articles 2, 5 and Annex 3 of the Agreement
Copyright 2003, ASTM International