It’s so easy to take things for granted, things like consensus, and openness, and maintenance. These things are part of our lives in ASTM. We’re so used to them that they’ve become ordinary. Routine. Predictable. With the whole world sitting on our desktop, it’s no wonder we lose sight of what’s in our backyard.
Agreement by consensus, for example, is an extraordinary accomplishment, a sign that we’ve evolved as human beings and as scientists. A consensus arising out of fiercely contesting factions is extraordinary at the least. But in ASTM, it’s done at its bestin an atmosphere of fairness and equality.
Maintenance is something of a thankless job, but somebody’s got to do it. Taking responsibility for the standards you have already created, keeping them alive and in constant forward motion isn’t glamorous. It’s like juggling, or playing the piano. Nobody sees you practice. They come for the performance. At ASTM, the performance is always good.
Take the fact that ASTM is completely, unequivocally, and without reservation, an open Society. Nowhere in the world is access so easy, so freely given, so unencumbered. There are places in the world, most places, in fact, where this kind of openness just doesn’t exist. We can’t lose sight of things like that. They’re the real miracles of our present day.
There’s something else we can’t lose sight of either, and it’s that the world really is sitting on our desktops, and that we’re not creating our miracles in isolation. Some of us have to do business in that world, and for many of us, the way to do it is as yet unclear. The only way to conquer a new market is to know how it works. Knowing that, we’ve added something to our Technical and Professional Training Program, a new course called “Technical Requirements for Entry into the European Union.” Our instructor is the former ASTM Washington Representative and Director of Global Affairs, Helen Delaney, who was also, for three years, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards attaché in the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels. The course can be conducted on a company site, in a government agency, anywhere there’s a need. The Department of Commerce’s Export Assistance Center and the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center were our partners for the first course.
We’ve got a spectacular way of doing things in ASTM and in the United States. It works for us. Our economy is proof of that. But we’re not alone, and ours isn’t the only way. There are other ways and we need to know what they are if we are going to be successful at navigating the world and accessing its markets. That doesn’t mean we can take what we have here for granted. It only means that we are not alone.
James A. Thomas
President, ASTM International
Copyright 2000, ASTM International