I first became interested in standards education in 1999 when I interviewed the founders of the Center for Global Standards Analysis at Catholic University of America for an article in SN. Part of the centers goal was to create a curriculum accessible to academics and professionals so they could teach the many facets of standardization to students and established professionals. At the time, new criteria for post-secondary engineering programs from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology provided one impetus for the formation of the center. These criteria specified that students must have a major design experience that includes the use of engineering standards and realistic constraints. This was big news for anyone who thinks about and promotes standards and the critical role they play, not just in design, but in public health and safety, procurement, regulations, and international trade.
But why was one accreditation boards cursory nod in the direction of standards big news? Why werent standards, the building blocks of industry and commerce, already among the building blocks of any engineering, business, or law students basic education? That question seems to stymie standards professionals. While there are notable educational programs today, they are the exception, rather than the rule. One reason may be that standards developers have long managed to distribute superior technical documents written by committed professionals who learn as they go. But what kind of business/regulatory/trade environment would create the need for young professionals with standards savvy right out of the gate?
As one way to answer these questions, the Center for Global Standards Analysis recently completed a survey of the current state of standards education. Its executive summary draws a connection between the lack of standards education in academia today and this historical fact: Most law schools in the United States were not even formed until the late 1800s because circumstances had changed, the law was growing increasingly complex, and there was a specific need to establish accreditation for law schools. In short, absent specific needs such as the increasingly complex nature of global standards issues, or the creation of certification requirements for standards education, the field of standardization may not need to create formal education and training courses among colleges or universities to support those currently participating in the development of private sector voluntary standards.
While there may not be a widespread outcry for certification in the field of standardization, the first condition mentioned above, the increasingly complex nature of global standards issues, is surely the reality we live in today. It is the contention of the Center for Global Standards Analysis, and many other leaders in the standards developing community, that todays conditions do indeed demand opportunities for college and university students, as well as seasoned professionals, to learn about the many critical aspects of standardization.
In this and next months issues of SN, youll find articles that I hope will encourage dialogue about standards education. Start with this months article by Don Purcell, one of the founders of the Center for Global Standards Analysis, about the results of the centers survey, and the plaintive cry of Rob Steele, CEO of Standards New Zealand, Is Anyone Listening Out There? Next month, I invite you to check in on a print-version roundtable on the issue, in which SN will get opinions from todays leaders in the standards community on what a viable formal standards education program, in academia or the professional sphere, would look like. The time has come for the standards-savvy student and professional, so lets start talking about how to make that happen.
Editor in Chief
Copyright 2003, ASTM