110: A Look Back at the Decade Since ASTM International’s Centennial Celebration, 1999-2008
Part 1 of a Two-Part Series
In 1998, ASTM celebrated its 100th anniversary. Founded in 1898 by Charles B. Dudley, an energetic Yale-educated scientist experienced in the quality issues faced by steelmakers and their railroad customers, ASTM was among the first groups created under a new premise: competing interests within a single industry could — and should — come together in a consensus process to standardize materials and performance. First known as the American section of the International Association for Testing Materials, and soon after as the American Society for Testing and Materials, Dudley’s organization published its first specification, A1 for Carbon Steel Tee Rails, in 1901. Within its first 10 years, Dudley’s brand of consensus attracted the cement, paint, paving materials, coal, wood, roofing and other industries, and would go on to encompass dozens more.
Ten years have now passed since ASTM’s staff and members celebrated a century of standards development that has enhanced quality and safety for millions around the world. As in its first decade, ASTM International has expanded its influence into new industry sectors. On the following pages, we review years 101-110, years we believe our successors will look back on in another century with the knowledge that we had only just begun to fulfill our promise.
To learn more about ASTM's first 100 years, click here.
Since its founding, ASTM membership has welcomed interested stakeholders from around the world regardless of national or professional affiliation. In the last 10 years, the advance of the global economy and developments in information technology have created an environment in which ASTM’s consensus process can be used by more and more members around the globe.
In late 2001, the American Society for Testing and Materials became ASTM International. An article published in the January 2002 issue of SN emphasized that the change was one of name only, initiated to better represent “the truly international way ASTM has operated all along — international in how our standards are developed as well as where and how they are used.” But of course in practice over the more than six years since, the Society’s new identity has been part of, and has spurred, remarkable growth in international participation in ASTM’s standards development, its staff’s presence at worldwide forums on standardization issues, and its commitment to fostering growth in developing nations through its Memorandum of Understanding program.
The first memorandum of understanding between ASTM International and a national standards body was signed in August 2001 with ICONTEC, the national standards body of Colombia. ASTM International initiated the program to support the standards needs of developing nations and regions, and to date has signed 58 MOUs.
After China’s accession to the World Trade Organization, ASTM partnered with the American Petroleum Institute, ASME International, and CSA America Inc. to create the Consortium for Standards and Conformity Assessment. From their office in Beijing, the four organizations could assist Chinese government and industry in meeting China’s standards and conformity-assessment related obligations under the WTO’s Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.
On the heels of the success of the CSCA, ASTM opened its own office in Beijing in 2006. Staff at the ASTM China office have steadily worked to introduce Chinese leaders to ASTM’s process and standards, and have continued to capitalize on the good relationships ASTM has enjoyed with Chinese governmental standards developing organizations over many years.
ASTM’s Open House program, established in 2001, has brought leaders of national and regional standards bodies from around the world to ASTM International headquarters in Pennsylvania. The program has provided a forum in which these leaders can voice their needs and learn about ASTM’s process and standards.
Beginning with Mexico City, Mexico, in 2002, ASTM International’s board of directors has been holding meetings at intervals outside the United States. These meetings are accompanied by workshops and visits with industry, government and academic representatives in the host countries, enabling ASTM’s senior staff and board to learn firsthand about technology and standards issues around the world. For a photo of the 2008 board of directors at their meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, please click here.
Accelerating and Enabling Worldwide Participation and Use of ASTM's Process and Standards
In 1999, ASTM launched an enhanced version of its own Interactive Standards Development Forums. The forums were among the first of their kind of collaborative, Internet-based work areas wherein members could meet between their twice-yearly face-to-face meetings and accelerate their standards development process. The forums also permitted stakeholders from around the world an immediate voice in the creation of ASTM standards and enabled the global outreach for which ASTM would become known in the following decade.
By 1999, ASTM had converted its standards to SGML, a markup language that enabled the publication of standards in PDF format. Users of ASTM documents could now order standards by mail or fax, or download PDFs directly from the Internet. In 2007, ASTM introduced the online availability of HTML versions of its standards.
In 2000, ASTM introduced the Members Only section of its Web site, a gateway for ASTM members to manage their technical committee activity and personal information. In 2004, Members Only became MyASTM.
The first component of the electronic balloting of standards was introduced in 2001 with the new requirement that all ballot items be submitted to ASTM electronically. While today most people regularly create and revise documents large and small on their computer screens and send them via e-mail only, the introduction of electronic balloting in ASTM meant that members would now work directly with Microsoft Word versions of their standards as opposed to the longtime practice of marking up hard copies — an occasion they rose to admirably. Later in 2001, members were able to vote online through the Members Only section of the ASTM Web site. In 2004, an Internet-based ballot item submittal process was introduced.
In 2002, ASTM International introduced virtual meetings, a Web-based tool combining teleconferencing with Internet document viewing and editing. The use of virtual meetings has exploded in popularity since then, with technical committees using them to develop standards between semiannual in-person meetings and staff using them to educate memorandum of understanding signatories on the ASTM standards development process.
As part of its effort to increase the transparency of its process and provide an internationally accessible database of not only approved ASTM standards, but those under development, ASTM International introduced in 2003 the registration of work items, i.e., new standards under development and revisions to existing standards. Today, work items are listed with approved standards whenever a user searches by keyword on ASTM’s Web site and on technical committee pages.
Leveraging the Internet as an increasingly popular medium for receiving information, ASTM introduced the Journal of ASTM International in 2003, an online-only collection of cutting-edge technical papers resulting from ASTM symposia.
Users of standards had long wished for redlined versions of documents that had been revised, so that they could see changes at a glance without having to compare versions word for word. Technology allowed ASTM to grant this wish in 2003. That same year, historical versions of standards also became available on the ASTM Web site.
In 2005, ASTM International’s meetings department introduced online meeting registration.
In 2006, the introduction of the ASTM Digital Library revolutionized the search for and acquisition of ASTM technical papers. With over 40,000 papers and 400,000 pages of information at launch, the Digital Library, available at the ASTM Web site, offers researchers a new and convenient way to access the vast amount of technical research and information amassed by ASTM International over its century-plus of work.