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Role and Responsibilities of the Standards Reviewer

by Sean Bailey

Reviewer, noun: Technical committee contact, usually the task group chairperson or subcommittee chairperson, who works with the ASTM editor on items that have passed main committee ballot.

You’ve just received an e-mail from ASTM International. It’s from a standards editor. Finally! That new or revised standard over which your subcommittee has toiled for some time is here for you to review. This may be your first time as a reviewer. You may feel a bit overwhelmed. However, many ASTM International members share the same important responsibility as you: to provide a thorough review of the standard and ensure that the balloted information has been incorporated correctly. It may seem to be an intimidating task, but much of the review process will go smoothly if the ballot was prepared in accordance with ASTM standards-writing guidelines. The information in this article can be used as guidance during the review process.

The teamwork between editor and reviewer begins when the editor receives the balloted standard. The editor will ensure that your standard is in conformance with the guidelines stated in the Form and Style for ASTM Standards manual (the “Blue Book”). Here is what the editor has done up to this point:

• Updated titles of ASTM standards in the Referenced Documents section.
• Verified that the referenced documents are all cited in the text and footnoted correctly.
• Checked numbering of sections and subsections. (Renumbering will be done when necessary.)
• Reviewed supplier footnotes for compliance with Part F, “Legal
Aspects in Standards — Special Instructions,” in the Blue Book.
• Ensured that tables and figures are cited and numbered correctly.
• Ensured that section and subsection cross-references are correct.
• Confirmed that all mandatory sections are included and in the correct order.
• Checked for keywords. (Editor will request that you provide keywords if they are not included. These may be editorially added.)
• Corrected grammar, misspelled words, and typographical errors.

Now, this is where your role as reviewer takes over. After the editor has completed the manuscript, it will be sent to you for your review and approval. As a technical reviewer, you are responsible for checking the following:

• Ensure that the edited manuscript matches the latest balloted draft. (If a standard has been under development for a few years, there could be several drafts.)
• Address any questions that the editor may have asked in the review letter. (There may be questions regarding figure quality/ placement, term usage, equation setup, etc.)
• Confirm that the referenced documents listed in Section 2 are appropriately cited in the standard.
• Provide keywords, if not already provided. (These should be words used in the title and scope of the standard. The indexer uses these to categorize the standard.)
• Reply to the review letter by the assigned deadline. (Please inform the editor immediately if an extension is needed.)

Your attention to the last item is important in upholding ASTM International’s mission to provide the latest standards in a relatively short time after they are approved. After a standard has been approved, the editor needs to have it edited with the balloted revisions, proofread, reviewed by you, include any changes or corrections that you note in your reply, and sent to completion within several weeks. Typically, you will have one week to review the standard.

The editor will then make any corrections or changes that you may have requested after he/she receives your review. Another review copy may be sent to you. The standard will be considered completed when no further edits are needed. The standard will then move forward to final publication. A final courtesy copy will be sent to you.

That’s it! You’ve completed your review of an ASTM standard. Copies of this standard will soon become available to the world. Then the fruits of your subcommittee’s labor will be shared with anyone who wishes to use this standard.

As I mentioned earlier, the role of a reviewer is an important responsibility. It may cause you to sacrifice some time out of your workdays, but in the end, that sacrifice will ensure your subcommittee’s work is accurately conveyed to those who will use the standard for its intended application. //

Copyright 2004, ASTM International

Sean Bailey is a standards editor who has been with ASTM International since 1988.