This column took a brief hiatus while ASTM International, in the form of myself, the staff, and some of our technical experts, responded to invitations from around the world. In just the last few months, we traveled to Singapore, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Geneva, Chile, Peru, and Colombia. More and more, we are called on to talk about the way we develop standards. And when we talk about it, we say that we know it’s different; and we know it isn’t for everyone. Just for those who want it.
What a concept. About a hundred years ago, our founders made a decision to make membership available to anyone who wanted it. It was a simple decision, but it had a powerful impact on the kind of standards developing organization ASTM would become.
Today, that simple decision is ours to honor, safeguard, and advance. And advance it we have. ASTM International’s open door policy now includes live, interactive standardization via the Internet. Electronic participation is now part of the process. And when members need training to use it, it’s available. That means that anybody with access to the Internet can be an active member. Openness is now universal. Literally.
Openness in this organization means membership is open to everyone and anyone, open to organizations, enterprises, and individuals, open to all nationalities, open to all governments. Open to academia and consumers. Open to students. Open to those who can come to committee meetings, open to those who can’t. Open to those who only want information. Open to those with computer skills and capabilities. Open to those who participate with pen and paper and a stamp. Open to anyone who wants it.
Thirty thousand members have said this is what they wanted. Members from 104 countries have said this is what they wanted. Putting aside systems and labels and definitions for a moment, let’s look at what they’ve chosen. They’ve chosen a way that guarantees them equity and equality. They’ve chosen a way to create standards that are synonymous with quality and relevance. They’ve chosen to work without restraint and restriction. They’ve chosen to make something they can use and use something they have made. They’ve chosen a way to compete effectively in the world marketplace and build a strong, healthy infrastructure. They’ve chosen the freedom that comes with autonomy.
I like to think that our founders knew all of this was going to happen. I like to think that that decision about openness wasn’t so simple after all, that it took a lot of debate and struggle, and yes, the courage to be different. But in the end, they came to it. And it was remarkable for its time. It’s still remarkable. Because of that decision, our technical committees are abundant with the world’s finest experts and ASTM standards are the best of their kind in the world. And when we talk about the way we develop standards, this is what we say. And we say it isn’t for everyone. Just for those who want it.
James A. Thomas
President, ASTM International
Copyright 2003, ASTM International