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Participants:

George Arnold is chairman of the American National Standards Institute’s board of directors. He is recently retired as standards and intellectual property vice president at Lucent Technologies, where he continues to serve as a consultant on standards strategy and intellectual property matters.

Joe T. Franklin, Jr., is president of the American Gear Manufacturers Association. AGMA is the association for manufacturers of gears and mechanical power transmission equipment and the developer of a number of technical standards for this sector. Over the past decade, he has been actively involved with ANSI where he is a vice chairman and chair of the Finance Committee.

William E. Kelly is a professor of civil engineering at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he is also a member of the board of the Center for Global Standards Analysis and active in standards education and research. He is a member of the American National Standards Institute’s board of directors and chairs the Institute’s Ad Hoc Committee on Standards Education and Awareness.

John Kenny is CEO of Infotech Strategies, Inc., a business consulting firm in the information and communications technology field that helps clients recognize the integral nature of standards in our digital economy. He is an attorney by background, adjunct law professor, and an avid technologist.

Stephen C. Lowell is the deputy director of the Defense Standardization Program Office. He is vice president of the Standards Engineering Society, chairman of SAE International’s Aerospace Materials Division, and a member of ASTM Committee E11 on Quality and Statistics.

Mary H. Saunders is the chief of the Standards Services Division in NIST’s Technology Services. She chairs the Interagency Committee on Standards Policy, which is charged with coordinating federal agency standards-related activities, and is member of several ANSI policy committees. She also serves as the NIST liaison to the board of the Center for Global Standards Analysis.

Timothy Schoechle is the director of the International Center for Standards Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he is also a faculty member of the Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program at the College of Engineering. He also has served as general chair and as an ongoing organizer of the International IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) Conferences on Standardization and Innovation in Information Technology and as associate editor of the International Journal of IT Standards and Standardization Research.

Oliver Smoot is vice president for External Voluntary Standards Relations of the Information Technology Industry Council, president of the International Organization for Standardization, and immediate past chairman of the American National Standards Institute. As ANSI chairman, he created the Ad Hoc Committee on Standards Education and Awareness, to develop concepts and projects that further implementation of the U.S. National Standards Strategy’s goal of incorporating standards within university curricula.

Jim Walters is director, International Standards, at the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), Arlington, Va. He is a member of the boards of directors of the Standards Engineering Society and The Center for Global Standards Analysis.

Is there a need for a formal standards education program in the United States? If you believe that a formal standards education program is necessary, please describe the value of such a program and at what educational level(s) you believe such program(s) should be offered, for example, secondary schools, universities, or continuing education programs for professionals.

George Arnold: I find that very few business executives have an understanding of the strategic importance of standards to their company or how they should be engaged. Today the subject is not covered at all in engineering or business school education curricula. One way to improve the situation over the long term is to expose future engineers and business executives to the role of standards during their university education. I don’t envision this as a formal “program” on standards, but rather as a module that is integrated with other disciplines in a set of courses that deal with the management of products and technology.

Joe Franklin: While we can certainly point to specific cases where better education and more knowledge could have led to better outcomes, I do not think we have reached the tipping point necessary for a successful formal program to provide this teaching.

No doubt a formal, common curriculum would be valuable for many businesses, regulators, government participants and standards developing organizations. A broader understanding of alternative development processes would lead to more efficient development. But it is not clear that the overall value would exceed the cost of developing a broad-based, formal program. The greatest chance for success lies in continuing education programs followed by university-based courses.

Bill Kelly: The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) Criteria for Accreditation of Engineering Programs – for all engineering fields – specifically refer to preparation for the practice of engineering and the use of engineering standards in the culminating design experience. For undergraduate engineering students, this is “required standards education” and there is a unique opportunity for professional societies and the rest of the standards community to support this activity in university programs.

After graduation, engineers pursuing licensure must gain four years of post-baccalaureate experience before taking the licensure exam. During this period they gain on-the-job familiarity with appropriate codes and standards and would benefit by appropriate continuing education courses and being introduced to standards work in professional societies. It is possible that students could already have been introduced to these opportunities through their student professional societies.

John Kenny: Yes. The value of such a program would be at secondary schools, universities, or continuing education programs for professionals. I think that a major task is to establish the importance of standards in our society, marketplace and government. We have not explained at all levels of education the critical nature of standards in how we live and work.

Steve Lowell: There is a strong need for formal standards education in the United States at the university level and in continuing education programs. I estimate that I receive about 100 calls and e-mails a year from engineers, technicians, and librarians who have some basic questions about locating and obtaining standards, what certain standards terminology means, how to contact the right people, and interpretations of regulations, laws, and government policies. In general, their questions are easily answered by anyone who is an expert in the standards world, but for those who are new or only occasionally become involved in standards, the diversity of the standards community is bewildering and overwhelming.

I estimate that hours of productivity lost by engineers, librarians, and others in the technical disciplines trying to learn about standards development, availability and use amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars per year just in the United States. The cost of lost productivity, however, is likely insignificant compared to the costs of reinventing the wheel when standard products, processes, and materials already exist that could have met the need. There is also lost market opportunities when companies are unaware of new regulatory standards that are developed or adopted within the U.S. or in foreign markets. In light of this, even modest training in standards would likely yield very large dividends.

Mary Saunders: Given that standards are such important contributors to the economy, I think there is clearly a need for formal standards education programs in the United States. There are various audiences that should be targeted for standards education, including the general public, government and industry leaders, and even standards professionals.

Some programs already exist and are offered on an ad hoc, limited basis. For example, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) offers courses on effective participation in the activities of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the American National Standards process, and other related topics. ASTM and other standards developing organizations provide very effective training courses for their members. However, there is a critical need for broader access to standards education programs. These programs will be most effective if they are targeted for specific audiences and cover both principles and practical applications. This argues for the development of short courses or focused modules within more general courses, offered at the graduate level in universities, or as part of executive management programs. It also argues for specialized training courses, of one week or less, addressing both process and policy aspects of standards.

Timothy Schoechle: Although awareness of the importance of standards needs to be raised at all educational levels, the most immediate need is at the graduate studies level where future professional organizational management leaders are being trained (e.g., in MBA, engineering, law, and economics programs).

Oliver Smoot: U.S. undergraduate engineering and graduate engineering and management curricula need to inform students that standards are a fact of life with which they will have to deal in their careers. There seems to me to be little interest in or need for “professional standards tracks” that would turn out professional standards participants as exist in some European countries. The major issue is when standardization should be addressed and how. I think that standards should be addressed just before final graduation, because they are practical challenges the graduate will encounter. Given that the goal is awareness, I believe their inclusion as several lectures is more appropriate than as a whole course.

Useful general information can be compiled, but given the differing role standards play in different disciplines, there needs to be a way to help professors connect that to the interests of their students and the philosophy of the institution. Perhaps a Web-based open source collaborative effort could produce many, mostly tailored, instruction sets.

Jim Walters: Standards and standardization should find mention in secondary school courses in economics and business administration. At the university level, they need mentioning in economics, law and engineering at a minimum. At the graduate level, these disciplines should offer certificates for specialty courses taken in the field. It is difficult to generate enough student interest to have a semester-long course, but certificate programs are a good alternative.

Continuing education is, I believe, the key. Once employers see the value of having more informed standards professionals and tie the need for those professionals to stay abreast of developments with continuing education, it then becomes easier to have standards-type CAE designations or SES certification.

What subjects should be covered in such course(s), e.g., process and procedures, technology issues, economic issues, international trade, legal issues, policy issues, and why?

Arnold: It depends on the type of student. For example, I think engineers should be exposed to the area in a bit more depth than business majors. Engineers should be exposed to process, technology and market issues, as well as relevant legal issues such as intellectual property rights and anti-trust. Business school students probably don’t need to know as much about the process, and should focus more on the role of standards in business and market strategy, international trade, as well as legal issues.

Franklin: The more one knows about the entire system – rather than just the elements necessary to do the task at hand – the more successful he or she will be in advancing the overall objectives of their business, government agency or standards developing organization.

These topics vary in importance given the problem being addressed and the perspective of the person/organization involved. An engineer will likely be more concerned with the processes, technology and legal issues. A general manager may focus on the policy, trade and economic issues. That both have a common understanding of all of the subjects will aid them in advancing their organization’s objectives.

Kelly: Faculty members teaching design must have an in-depth knowledge of the codes and standards appropriate to their field. At the undergraduate level, I do not envision a separate course on standards but incorporation of topics in design courses and in the design project. For example, students designing products for sale internationally should be aware of appropriate international standards and any European Union directives dealing with design.

For undergraduates, I see this as a way to pique their interest in “soft” engineering issues. For example, the EU is discussing an “eco-efficiency” design standard and this could be discussed in a design course. What needs to be done at the undergraduate level, at least in my view, is to ensure a basic understanding of the codes and standards relevant to the student’s design area and pique their interest in some of the soft issues.

Kenny: Depending on the level of education, all of these need to be covered: process and procedures, technology issues, economic issues, international trade, legal issues, policy issues. We need to educate all sectors of society as to the fundamental nature of standards. For example, a person that eventually moves into the policy arena at the international, federal, state or local level needs to be taught in policy classes how standards affect markets and the marketplace and what role government plays in standard setting, enforcement, etc. Business schools need to educate future entrepreneurs on policy, law, process etc. Law schools need to teach the specific rules, regulations, agencies, laws, and cases associated with standards. But schools will not offer these courses unless the standards issue is raised to a level of significant government or market importance.

Lowell: For the most part, at the university level, I don’t envision a single standards course. I see infusing information about standards into different academic programs. So for instance, engineering students would learn something about standards as related to technology and economic issues and process and procedures throughout their courses. Law students might focus more on process and procedures, legal issues, and policy issues. Business students might focus more on economic issues, international trade, and perhaps legal issues. Librarians need to know how to locate and obtain standards and legal issues associated with copyright and fair use.

For those who have graduated and are in the work force, a one-or two-day course that covers the fundamentals of standards would be useful to teach everyone in the organization basics about locating and obtaining standards, process and procedures for standards development and use, recent legal and policy issues, and — depending on the business — economic and technology issues. While I prefer the interaction of live classes, many people don’t have either the time or resources to attend a class. Therefore, online learning modules need to be developed to address each of these areas. In some cases, such as technology issues, you might need many modules to address the different areas, e.g., aerospace standards, electronic standards, software standards, etc.

Saunders: The few standards-related courses currently available focus mostly on development processes and procedures. While understanding how the process works and how to participate is important, the critical need is for training that addresses why standards are important and why an individual should participate in standards development activities. A multidisciplinary standards course that addresses technology, legal, regulatory, policy and trade issues would provide a good grounding for individuals moving into both technical and management positions, in the private sector or government.

The NIST Standards in Trade (SIT) workshop program provides one possible model for an “introductory” course on the standards process and its relation to regulation in the United States. SIT workshops cover, at a high level, the standards development process, the roles of the private sector and government, relationship to regulation in specific sectors, and conformity assessment issues. We are currently developing focused training courses for Department of Commerce foreign commercial officers, which will highlight standards-related issues that they will find useful in their work in U.S. embassies overseas.
Schoechle: Standards and standardization are inherently interdisciplinary. Any curriculum must cover and show the interrelationship between all aspects of standardization, including organizational processes, technology, economics, policy, business and law.

Smoot: To me, the important questions are: 1) Why and how are standards going to impact many of these students soon after they graduate? 2) Will they face professional examinations that will require certain knowledge or behavior? 3) How can the above list of subjects best be connected to the institution’s philosophy? If you answer these questions, then the content and balance of topics should be obvious.

For example, a civil engineering department at a school that aims to provide “ready to work” graduates will see different needs than a computer science department at a school that prides itself on turning out theoretically well-grounded graduates.
Since I come from the information technology field, I assume “process and procedures” includes choice of standards developer and the value of different approvals. The IT field is well known for having many different types of “standards” bodies. Choosing where to work is an important part of organizational strategy, even though the technical issues may be identical.

Walters: It’s more important to know how to get a standard accepted in the marketplace and by government than to simply write the world’s best standard that no one uses. Standards education needs to identify the universe of players in standardization — who writes them, who needs them, how do governments use them, how do business leaders use them? One way to think about what kind of education is necessary is to recognize that in business in general, one needs to know a great deal about many subjects, over and above the product being sold. One must know the technical, legal and business barriers to entry, potential allies and distributors. The same is true of standards. A generalized course(s) touching on the many areas that standards impact, or are impacted by, is one approach.

What can be done to attract secondary or college students to enroll in a standards education program? Likewise, what can be done to attract academic institutions to the idea of offering such a program?

Arnold: Sharing information about pilot programs at schools that are leading in this is one way. Another avenue is including this in accreditation requirements for university programs.

Kelly: I have not tried to make the case for separate standards education programs and am not sure this can or needs to be done. I have made the case for standards education in engineering and believe if the graduate engineer has the basic knowledge of standards expected of all graduates, they will be prepared to and will participate in standards activities.

Kenny: Leadership is required at the national level. ANSI and other standards stakeholders need to help create a national dialog around the standards issue and work diligently to get standards issues talked about at all levels of policy discussion. National goals on standards education need to be written, articulated and driven into the academic environments by agencies, businesses and entities that understand the standards value and imperative.

I’m afraid that academic institutions will not lead in this area. They need to be prodded, encouraged, cajoled, led and incentivized by the standards stakeholders. We are doing that now in the technology area. Those who care most about the sale and use of technology are driving programs into the K-12, secondary education, and continuing education spheres. This has been done by having CEOs of the technology companies join with the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies, along with the executive branch and legislators and key educational and technical associations to articulate a vision, engage in the debate, and help to drive funds to support the use of technology in all aspects of education and society. The wiring schools and the supporting use of the Internet happened with federal dollars and corporate drive. Standards education needs to find a similar dialog and campaign.

Lowell: I don’t think there should be a special standards course for college students. While an engineering student might benefit from such a course, it already takes five years to get an undergraduate engineering degree, so I’m not sure how it could be added. But information on standards could be included in many of the existing engineering courses. For other academic disciplines, such as business, library science, etc., there may not be enough material for a stand-alone standards course, so it would be best if appropriate modules were included in existing courses. The attraction to including information on standards in engineering courses is the new ABET criteria. For engineering schools to retain their accreditation, they must now include standards training. The problem, however, is that each school will likely approach it differently and inconsistently. It would be good to standardize the academic content.

I think you also need to ask how to attract organizations to provide training for their employees. That is a tough one, but in some careers, such as engineering, you need to have continuing education in order to maintain your certification as a professional engineer. I suspect there are similar requirements for lawyers and others. If standards courses, either live or online, can be developed to meet these continuing education certification requirements, that would be a strong incentive. An engineer might take a standards course if it counted as one continuing education credit toward certification.

Saunders: This is an important question – how can we create “pull,” or demand, for standards education? I think this is least likely to happen in the near term at the secondary or even undergraduate level. Even at the graduate level, the pull for academic institutions to offer standards education is closely tied to the prospects for funding being available for research on standards-related issues. One possibility for attracting more students to existing standards education programs would be for interested organizations to establish scholarship awards to induce college students to study standardization. However, realistically, I expect the pull to come first and foremost from organizations – private and public sector – that have identified a clear need to educate their staff on standards-related issues. This means that standards education is most likely to expand first as part of corporate or public-sector training programs.

Schoechle: Standards education cannot be separated from standards research. Standards education will not be successfully implemented and carried forward at the university level unless it creates a respected career path for faculty — which means a research agenda — providing a necessary element for academic advancement.

Smoot: Students are interested in courses that they believe will be key in their chosen field, are intrinsically interesting to them, or that they have to take. Personally, I believe several lecture hours should fall in the “have-to-take” category for undergraduate engineering and masters of business students. Industry, government and consumer organizations could do a lot more to make it clear that they desire standards knowledge — that information would motivate additional students. I would think “intrinsically interesting” would apply mostly to students thinking of graduate work in standardization as an academic field of research.

Walters: Colleges and universities will introduce courses when the business community shows that having such a course makes the institution’s graduates more employable. A university-business alliance would hasten the development of courses. Alliances among business, standards developing organizations and universities could turn up both qualified instructors and interested students.

Can the United States standards system successfully compete with standards systems from countries all over the world if the United States fails to commit sufficient resources to properly educate the next generation of standards professionals?

Arnold: As I talk to leaders in the standards communities of countries other than the United States, it is clear that they are all concerned about the same issues. I don’t think the United States is behind other countries in standards education. I see this not so much as a matter of competing with other countries, but rather as an opportunity to collaborate in developing training programs that can be used at many universities around the world.

Franklin: I think competition with other national standards systems is a false comparison. The objective is not to prove our system is better than Germany’s or Japan’s or any others. The real issue is does our system allow (or facilitate) our companies and industries to successfully compete in the world market? If our system stifles innovation, most will ignore the ineffective system and take another route.

Fortunately, the U.S. approach is decentralized and sectoral. Health care, information technology, and mechanical power transmission all approach the process differently. All do commit to a common set of essential characteristics, e.g., the ANSI system. And we expect the participants in the international systems (International Organization for Standardization, International Electrotechnical Commission, and the International Telecommunications Union) to recognize the same rules – due process, openness, transparency, etc.

Kelly: No. For engineering, we have a mandate – the ABET Criteria — and need to make sure that the curriculum materials faculty members need to accomplish this are already available. The professional societies working together with ASTM International and ANSI can ensure that this happens. There may be a need for a concentrated effort including activities such as faculty workshops with course materials that faculty members could take back to campus and use in teaching design.

Bottom line, if we take advantage of this unique opportunity to assist engineering programs in meeting the current ABET criteria, we will go a long way toward ensuring a generation of engineers prepared to participate effectively in standards processes with some ultimately participating as standards professionals.

Kenny: No. And the problem is that many of the other nations are able to drive standards policy, education and regulations through monolithic or authoritarian government structures that guarantee that they will be complied with and followed as state policy. In a democracy, it has to be done differently. The imperative has to be established and debated and bought into by constituencies and stakeholders. Leadership in the public forum has to occur.

Lowell: Because Americans are incredibly resourceful, adaptive, and quick to learn through the school of hard knocks, we likely will continue to be successful in competing with standards systems from other countries. But it will be expensive. It is far less costly to educate in an upfront and organized manner than to rely on the “learning as you go” method. The problem is that the millions or billions of dollars wasted annually in lost productivity and failing to access markets are not readily visible or are attributed to other conditions. In contrast, a meager training budget for standards education provides a visible tempting target when budget cutters look for ways to trim organizational costs in what seems to be a painless way. But such attitudes toward eliminating training costs are short sighted. Standards training, education, and awareness costs should be seen as an investment in future productivity and economic growth.

Saunders: It is clearly important that we – both government and the private sector – consider carefully the need to educate the next generation of standards professionals and make practical plans to address that need. This may appear harder to do within the U.S. system, which is not subsidized by the government, but depends on the individual contributions of participants – and their companies, agencies, etc. However, the United States is hardly unique in failing to address the need for standards education in a concerted fashion. In fact, I think that our decentralized, diversified system may be better suited to responding to changing needs for standards professionals and to educating those professionals than other, more centralized systems. As noted above, to be most effective, standards education should be targeted to particular industry and technology sectors. One size does not fit all in standards education. The strength of our standards development systems lies in its diversity and flexibility. Effective standards education programs can enhance these strengths.

Schoechle: No. Presently, the lead in standards research is with Europe, and particularly at universities in Germany, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Standards research funding provides the expertise and institutional motivation that will expand standards education. It will do so by encouraging the interest of teachers and of the graduate students who will become the next generation of both standards practitioners and educators.

Smoot: The appearance of this roundtable indicates that the need has been recognized and is being analyzed. There also are actions such as the change in ABET criteria. Committing sufficient resources to standardization education is one part of the need to increase resources committed in the United States to standardization generally. We in the standards community need to determine how to communicate the overall need with the education issue as a part of that message.

Walters: No, it cannot. It cannot because the current ad hoc system that fed U.S. efforts in last century’s world is not focused enough to deal with the changing global economic and business structure. To date, a formal standards education program in the United States has not been necessary because of the dominance of the United States in the world market in many sectors. But conditions are changing. The underlying international trade structure shows signs of moving toward greater competition from a more united Europe and a surging Asia. In this arena, the United States’ ad hoc approach to standards training may be insufficient. Standardization is one of many tools global business leaders have to increase their market share. If they do not know how to use them, by definition, they will not optimize their business opportunities.The U.S. standards system can stay federated and private but it cannot thrive if its products — standards — are excluded from the training of America’s business leaders. //

Copyright 2003, ASTM

Last month, in Don Purcell’s article, “A Standards Education Snapshot,” SN introduced the subject of educating students and professionals in standards and standardization. By discussing the results of a survey conducted by the Center for Global Standards Analysis on the current state of standards education, Purcell brought to light many of the issues in this area facing students, educators, professionals, and standards developing organizations. Purcell noted that, like DNA, a building block of life, standards are the building blocks of commerce. “And yet,” he wrote, “the role standards play in everyday life is not well understood, not only by laypeople, which is to be expected, but by future standards developers and users — graduates of business, engineering, and law programs.”

To get more detail about this subject, SN asked a distinguished panel of standards professionals and educators to weigh in on the subject of standards education today and into the future.

Scroll down past the participant biographies to read the roundtable.