Standards Writing 101: New Standards
by Felicia Quinzi
Your industry or service sector needs a new standard, But where
do you begin to get it written and approved?
WRITING A NEW STANDARD can seem a daunting task, especially if
you have never before thought of yourself as an author. However,
ASTM, a consensus organization that wholly promotes collaborative
efforts, offers many tools to get you started and see you through
until the end or, at least, until someone votes negative.
What You Will Need:
- Input from other experts;
- Access to the Internet (optional);
- Your staff manager;
- A No. 2 pencil or a PC;
- A comfortable chair;
How Good Is My Idea?
The first step is to introduce the idea for a new standard to
the appropriate subcommittee. The concept must fall under the
subcommittees scope, first and foremost. The subcommittee should
agree that the proposed activity is worthwhile, feasible, and
needed. More importantly, verify that the standard you hope to
write does not already exist under the jurisdiction of another
committee or organization. Avoid duplication of effort and jurisdictional
To do this, do a keyword search of all approved ASTM standards
on the ASTM Web site (see Search for Individual Standards in
the ToolBox). If a standard turns up that sounds similar to the
one you are about to write, contact your staff manager for further
information. In addition, your staff manager can assist in finding
out whether your or another committee has a work in progress on
a similar or related subject by searching draft standards under
development in ASTM.
New Standard Development Form
The best way to ensure that an activity is appropriate is to complete
the Request for the Development of a New Standard form (see ToolBox).
The subcommittee having jurisdiction over the proposed project
should approve the development of the activity and the subcommittee
chairman should subsequently sign the form. If you are between
meetings, the chairman may sign the form on the assumption that
there will be approval of the activity at the next meeting.
Filling out the form will trigger the crucial steps to be taken,
such as (1) establishing a well-defined scope or objective; (2)
identifying those who have expertise in a given area; (3) identifying
those who need to be made aware of, or invited to participate
in, a given activity; (4) identifying the end users; (5) creating
a task group representing all interests; (6) enabling the subcommittee
to track a task groups efforts; and (7) publicity.
Ideally, the task group would be formed under the subcommittee
with a manageable number of members (approximately four to six)
representing a balance of interests. Should this task group need
to look outside of the ASTM subcommittee or committee for expertise,
other members or individuals should be invited to participate.
NOTETask group members are not required to be members of ASTM.
Joint Task Groups
Coordination and cooperation are two of the most important elements
of standards development and maintenance. By coordinating openly
with other members, a task group can bring together key stakeholders
and receive input at the start of a project, rather than later
on when much time and energy has been expended.
Furthermore, when a subcommittee identifies other subcommittees
that should be represented on the task group, the subcommittee
chairman should inform his or her staff manager. The manager will
initiate coordination between the two or more subcommittees. Then,
additional members will join the task group to represent the interests
of the committees to which they belong. We call this a joint
task group. This could also be the case for representatives from
organizations other than ASTM. The joint task group is a vehicle
for individuals to communicate their interests.
If you are uncertain as to whether another committee or organization
is interested in or may be impacted by your activity, publicize!
Your staff manager can assist you with contacting the ASTM Corporate
How Will the Standard Be Used?
Doing the research up front will save time and energy. Ask questions
of your subcommittee, such as: Is it possible that the standard
will be cited in a building code? Will a government agency or
regulatory body adopt the standard?
Start by writing Draft #1 at the top of your first page. It
is likely that there will be more than one or two drafts of the
document and it is always interesting to keep track.
What Kind of Standard Am I?
Now is the time to reach for your Blue Book (Form and Style for ASTM Standards) and dust it off. Review the definitions of test method, specification,
practice, guide and classification. By determining which type
of standard you are writing, you will know which mandatory sections
must be included in your document.
Once you know which sections you need, you can start with an outline,
such as (in the case of a test method):
-Scopepurpose of the standard, general information;
-Significance and Usehow the standard is to be applied, specific
-Keywords for indexing purposes.
Using The Internet
ASTM encourages the use of the Interactive Standards Development Forums, a Web-based standards development tool to which you have access
24 hours a day, seven days a week. Through the Forums, a task
group chairman can designate who has the ability to review and
comment on a draft. Headquarters assigns each task group member
a password when a Forum is created. The task group members view
not only the draft, but also each others comments.
Your First Draft Goes To Ballot
A first draft typically goes to a subcommittee ballot and receives
its first round of comments and negatives. This is actually very
positive and productive for the task group.
If, as mentioned above, a joint task group is working on the draft
because another subcommittee needs to be involved, an informational
ballot is an option. In addition to balloting within the subcommittee
with jurisdiction, a different subcommittee may receive an informational
ballot. Comments received on the informational ballot are handled
in the same manner as a negative or comment on the official ballot.
A Standard Is Born
Maybe it seemed as though there were a few obstacles. Perhaps
you thought there was too much paperwork. However, the draft is
approved and published as an ASTM standard. The draft will have
become a consensus document created, refined, and agreed upon
by the experts in the industry. The standard can be used worldwide
in the international marketplace and adopted by countries in places
where you have never been. We think that its worth it. //