||A Passage Toward Harmony
To the members of the ASTM family and to our friends who have
suffered personal losses as a result of the events of Sept. 11,
we extend our deepest sympathy. The best way we know how to honor
those that were lost, and those who mourn them, is to carry on.
And this we shall do, with more dedication and resolve than ever
before. It is in this spirit that I recount the events below.
In the days shortly after the tragedy, two conferences on standardization
were held in Germany, one in Berlin (1) and one in Hamburg. Many
in this country had been forbidden to travel. As it happened,
an ASTM colleague and I were the only Americans to attend either
conference. In Hamburg, the Universität der Bundeswehr held its
Third Interdisciplinary Workshop on Standardization Research,
organized by Professor Wilfried Hesser, Head of the Universitys
Department of Standardization. Professor Hessers call for papers
asked his colleagues to consider the impact of different standardization
approaches in the European Union and the United States on regionalization
and globalization. In particular, he invited them to address the
question, What is an international standard? Following are some
of the extraordinary statements that came out of that workshop.
Some of the most widely used (or internationally significant)
standards are not recognized.
One standard worldwide may not be the most efficient way.
Free trade can be achieved not by harmonization, but by competition.
Free trade cannot be imposed by an international standard.
One standard is like one language: Not so rich opportunities
Independently of the economic arguments for public intervention
the market remains superior.
These statements, all made by European academics, were supported
by market research, case studies, and astute observation. For
example, the statement concerning unrecognized international
standards referred to Internet standards, an example that in itself
speaks volumes. (2) Considering the candor, openness, and impartiality
with which our European colleagues have shared their findings,
Id say we have something very positive to talk about next year.
It could be that we will come to accept the wide world of standards
and how its differences make it dynamic and useful; or perhaps
we will discover that our differences are not as great as we thought
they were. Maybe well be able to agree more than disagree. Maybe
the word harmony will take on a whole new meaning. And if this
year has brought us closer to that, the standards community may
be forging the sense of cooperation and unity we hope for in the
rest of the world.
A safe holiday season to all.
James A. Thomas
(1) See the October issue of SN for Jim Thomas speech delivered
to this gathering.
(2) A paper was also presented titled Inspiration and Segmentation:
The Long Anglo-American Standardization Dialogue, which included
parallel histories of ASTM and BSI, by Mr. Robert C. McWilliam,
of the National Museum of Science and Industry, in London.
Copyright 2001, ASTM