In the May 2000 SN Plain Talk article commenting on the OECD [Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development], WTO [World Trade Organization],
and consequences, ASTM President Jim Thomas hit a crucial point:
There are other values than standards; furthermore, standards
are only an actual snapshot, in principle obsolete as soon as
The TBT [Technical Barriers to Trade] Agreement can only resolve
technical questions. And having a valid standard that is no longer
up-to-date because of new developments shall not stop us from
writing and rewriting our standards. Being a member of E10.01
[ASTM Subcommittee on Dosimetry for Radiation Processing] where
in a pilot program ASTM standards have already been and are being
converted into ISO standards, I have had particular experiences.
Several of these standards, after being adopted by the International
Organization for Standardization (ISO), are superseded at the
same time in ASTM by the revised versions. But this is not a real
obstacle. And the value of having a standard at all is very high.
And the particular value of ASTM standards is the way they are
produced: by consensuswith the best knowledge available. Other
standards, including ISO, are diplomatic results, that is, compromises
for reasons other than scientific/technological facts.
You define the problem as a countrys right to choose the best
for its people; but there is no standard for best. Now, after
accepting WTO and helping China to join it, governments are beginning
to see and feel the consequences. Cultural pecularities and ideologies
are categories or dimensions different from technical standards.
Hence, the problem is not their existence but the uses made of
Dipl.-Phys. Dieter A.E. Ehlermann
Director and Professor
Institute of Process Engineering, Federal Research Centre for
Agreement on the Fat Lady
Referencing the Mo Brooke Fat Lady Opinion article in the June
SN, I strongly agree with his points.
The ASTM consensus development procedures, honed over many years
under conditions I have called cooperative antagonism, simply
do not allow standards to become too tight and exclude products
as claimed by the FTC in the 1970s investigations that both Mo
and I sat through along with [former ASTM President] Bill Cavanaugh.
The ASTM voting rules and ballot procedures along with the presence
of competitors developing standards together has enough checks
and balances to prevent anyone from obtaining a competitive edge.
Rather the argument of lowest common denominator is more likely
to be made.
Rather, ASTM test methods are established to measure properties
and produce values that may be used by others in codes, specifications,
and contracts. It is at this point that the appeal process needs
to be present.
The beauty of standards and test methods is that they permit measurable
numbers to be obtained for characteristics and properties of materials.
These numbers may then be used by codes, designers, and specifiers
to describe what they need and want. In turn, suppliers may now
use these standards to design and control the production and quality
of their materials and products.
By routine testing of these materials and products, and by the
preservation of the records of these tests and inspections, the
producer is able to certify and assure his customers and peers
that he has delivered as claimed. The records are available to
substantiate the claims.
Recent activities of ASTM committees such as E36 on Conformity
Assessment and their development of standards related to the competence
of laboratories and certification bodies and having been developed
in conjunction with ISO CASCO [International Organization for
Standardization Council Committee on Conformity Assessment] and
other national and international organizations have largely replaced
the need for appeal called for by the FTC some years ago. This
very situation established the need why [former ASTM President]
George Nelson and I convened the organizational committee that
formed Committee E36.
Mo Brookes point about infatuation with the concept of appeal
is potentially far-reaching. The term appeal implies that some
decision or measurement was wrong. Stretched to the breaking point
concerning test methods and standards, these people would appeal
basic standards such as the metre, kilogram, and time. Where do
You probably have heard this several times by now (I hope). The
1000-horsepower on page 48, June SN, Big Wheels Keep on Turning,
should be 750 kW (not 170 kW). While I am at it, I would prefer
the 4400 Mg to be 4.4 Gg, but you certainly will hear arguments
about it. It is a matter of significant figures.
Keep up the good work.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge, Tenn.
While the tireless and efficient Bob Parsonsthe member of ASTMs
SI committee who calculates SNs metric conversionsis batting
a thousand to date, the editorial staff is not. We apologize for
our typo. (Ed.)
I received the June 2000 issue and want to congratulate you and
your staff on the very attractive looking publication. You have
very adequately answered the question of, Who says technical
articles cant look good?
Lewis S. Ripps, President
Palmer Asphalt Company