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Evolution of the Standard Terminology Compendium for Petroleum Products and Lubricants

by Paul Strigner

The creation of a standard terminology is a daunting prospect, but with patience, even a behemoth technical committee such as D02 can create a viable document that leaves no doubt as to the definitions of their terms.

As Committee D02 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants approaches its 100th anniversary in 2004, it finds itself without a comprehensive standard terminology compendium, although it is now making up for lost time. One may wonder how a big, powerful committee like D02 would allow something so basic to be largely overlooked. Two possible reasons are 1) member companies and organizations may view this type of standards activity as unproductive and therefore may be unwilling to provide sufficient financial and manpower support for what is essentially a large project, and 2) the tedium of nitpicking the definition of each term (i.e., a committee designing a camel to the satisfaction of about 25 subcommittees).

Our newly formed Coordinating Subcommittee (CS) 95 on Terminology had to determine how to get around these drawbacks and get on with the business of having a compendium sufficient in quality and quantity. Fortunately, Section E of CS 91, our predecessor, had set the stage. An important success factor has been the presence of dedicated (retired!) elders both in CS 91 and CS 95.

The Nitpicking Effect

D 4175, the terminology compendium, came into existence in 1983 as a replacement for D 288, which only had 27 terms, some being obsolete and others faulty. The responsibility for looking after this new standard was lodged in Section E of CS 91. CS 91 had representation from all of the D02 product and properties subcommittees, about 25 in all. In this way, with input from all of the subcommittees, it was thought that definitions for standards could be generated that would be satisfactory to all. While the concept seemed reasonable, it became bogged down from the nitpicking effect, taking place into the evenings with members having gone through a day of often intense meetings and then extending the meeting to tackle a multitude of terms and definitions. This process became tedious, cumbersome, and largely unproductive. It also became apparent that the subcommittees treasured their own terms of exclusive importance to them, most having been developed as terms/definitions for standards under their own jurisdictions and lodged there. Some of the subcommittees, indeed, were not even comfortable with the power to determine definitions resting in a D02 coordinating subcommittee.

Editorial Transfer

In the 1980s, Chairman Lyle Bowman and his Section E commenced the process of “breaking the logjam” by proposing the concept of “editorially transferring terms” already in existence in D02 standards to the new D 4175. Editorial transfer was to be done without letter ballot, but with approval at the CS 91 meeting, as the terms to be transferred had already survived the ASTM letter balloting process. This procedure was ultimately approved by ASTM. Accordingly, Paul Hobson, who later took over as chairman of CS 91E prepared lists of terms for transfer. In preparing the lists, CS 91E attempted to revise many of the terms (rightfully so because many were faulty, largely editorially), but this restored the nitpicking process. It was agreed that editorial transfer would be valid only if the transferred terms were identical to the ones in the originating standard.

This process was continued by the new CS 95 on Terminology, which was reconstituted in 1998 from what had been CS 91 and CS 91E. CS 95 adopted the D13 Textile Committee terminology compendium (D 123) as a model, including the creation of attributions that showed 1) the standard from which the term/definition is taken and 2) the responsible subcommittee. It was agreed that terms or definitions specific to a standard would not be transferred. Since its inception, CS 95 (with a start from CS 91E) has built up D 4175 to over 500 terms and definitions, mostly by editorial transfer. Terms are listed in alphabetical order, and abbreviations, acronyms, and symbols are included. D 4175 is a living standard revised annually by adding terms and revising existing ones as they are revised by the responsible subcommittees. CS 95, nevertheless, has retained the right to generate terms, principally common basic ones, in consultation with relevant subcommittees.

CS 95 commenced its life with a very small number of enthusiastic and dedicated members. Without them the subcommittee could not function. They are Mike Burnett, Paul Hobson, Susan Litka, Hap Thompson, and Edmund White. Some subcommittee liaison members are also present and, from these, two very active and valuable permanent members have emerged, namely Ellsworth Schanerberger and Bill Tanguay. Rounding out the invaluable workers are past ASTM staff editors Vernice Mayer and Joanne Kramer.

Current Work

Important coordinating activities with the subcommittees (led by Edmund White) are taking place with whole-hearted cooperation all around. These are 1) revisions of old defective definitions for terms and the generation of new terms, including some reclassification of terms under subcommittee responsibility from specific to general; 2) the harmonization of terms/definitions common to several subcommittees; and 3) the reduction in the multiplicity of definitions for the same term.

An important task still in the wings is the harmonization of ASTM terms/definitions for petroleum products and lubricants with the international ISO 1998 terminology compendium. The existence of some serious conflicts between the two and ASTM’s international status requires this.

Perhaps we are still moving like the proverbial tortoise, but we now have an excuse. Most of us are in our 70s and 80s with slower minds and hands, but with persistence in setting a base for the younger generation, and in the process creating an excellent compendium in quality and quantity. //

Copyright 2002, ASTM

Paul L. Strigner is chairman of Coordinating Subcommittee 95 within ASTM Committee D02.