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July/August 2010

Drafting a Standard

ASTM Tools Support the Process

You are planning to draft a new standard. Now what?

Longtime ASTM International member Jack Roach, technical service engineer at IPS Corp. in Durham, N.C., offers this suggestion: just do it. And, he emphasizes, “Don’t try to go it alone. Bring others into your project. Even if you think these others may slow down the process, get them involved. Often times it will speed your process up because issues can be dealt with early,” he says.

Once you start developing a test method, specification or other type of standard, make use of the ASTM International tools designed to support the drafting process, which in turn tends to expedite balloting of the standard. The tools available from ASTM are geared toward fostering task group participation in drafting a standard and helping to ensure that the draft meets ASTM form and style requirements.

To help foster participation, ASTM’s cyberspace collaboration areas provide a place where your colleagues — task group members and any other invited technical experts — can comment on or suggest changes to draft standards. At any time, from any place where there’s a computer with Internet access, task group members can review the latest draft of a work item as well as previous versions.

Virtual meetings, which combine teleconferencing and document sharing, also foster participation by giving task group members the opportunity to discuss a draft standard without leaving their desks. Flexibility and interactivity highlight this option. To take advantage of virtual meetings, choose “Schedule Online Mtg./Conf. Call” under “Additional Resources” when logged in to “MyASTM,” or contact your staff manager to set up a date and time.

For members new to work item collaboration areas and virtual meetings, ASTM International regularly hosts training sessions about using these tools both at committee weeks and virtually. You can register for an online staff-hosted training session or view PowerPoint files and see a video demonstration on the same webpage.

For writing a draft, one particularly useful tool is the standards template. “Its ‘fill in the blank’ ability is great,” says Roach. A template, whether for a specification, test method, practice/guide, classification or terminology, includes every mandatory or optional section for that type of standard; a recently added toolbar makes templates even more useful. Templates help ensure that needed elements are in place and can jog your thinking to consider, for example, including an annex or equipment preparation section.

The other critical writing tool is Form and Style for ASTM Standards. Different sections provide detailed explanations for every type of ASTM standard. Additional topics address abbreviations, spelling, literature references and more. The SN column Rules&Regs highlights useful details about ASTM style and committee regulations.

Should you have template or style questions while drafting a standard, ASTM’s standards development editor Kathleen Peters (phone: 610-832-9650) can help. Peters answers questions on such topics as numbering sections or references, gives guidance on definitions, channels illustrations to the ASTM production department, reviews what you’ve done so far or organizes your initial efforts in a template before you continue. Your committee’s editor is also ready to answer questions.

For more information about standards development from idea to approval, consider the online session on Developing and Revising an ASTM Standard or attend the next committee week learning session. Those in leadership positions are also invited to attend the 2010 Officers’ Training Workshop to be held Sept. 14-15 at ASTM headquarters, West Conshohocken, Pa. For more about the workshop, click here, or contact Joe Koury (phone: 610-832-9804).

Roach says, “The [committee week] learning sessions are very important to me for the simple reason that ASTM is continually making improvements to the website tools. If I do not attend, I risk not learning a new ‘trick’ or ‘short cut path’ that would allow me to be even more efficient with my time while on the ASTM website.”