|Go with Forums
by Clare Coppa
The 24/7 availability of ASTMs Web-based Interactive Standards Development Forums offers technical committee members the opportunity to garner
expertise from around the world when drafting and revising ASTM
standards. SN News Writer Clare Coppa describes the successes
already achieved through Forums and the potential of this standards
development tool to increase the participation of experts in the
Credibility is the Achilles heel of any standard. When developed
electronically, a wider range of expertise can be gathered to
increase the credibility of a voluntary consensus standard.
Creators of draft standards can collaborate electronically between
meetings with ASTM Interactive Standards Development Forums
a tool on the ASTM Web site. Accessible 24/7, it is designed to:
Increase national and international participation in support
of ASTMs global standards mission;
Erase travel barriers; and
Accelerate the completion of draft documents.
A visual walk-through tutorial on the ASTM Home page helps users get started. User-assistance
is provided with an online link to Dan Schultz, Forums administrator
and ASTM technical committee manager.
Platform for the World
Forums open ASTM up to the world, said Barbara Schindler, director
of Corporate Communications. Regardless of their country of origin
or political affiliation, anyone with Internet access can affect
an ASTM standard based on their technical expertise.
Does a larger geographical input increase the value of a standard?
Paul Sample, Ph.D., chairman of Committee D20 on Plastics, thinks so. I used Forum when I was developing and
balloting ASTM F 2021, Standard Specification for Design and Installation of Plastic
Syphonic Roof Drainage Systems, he wrote from Samples, Inc.,
Wilmington, Del. I was able to communicate with task group members
during the writing stage and during the balloting stage.
Also, I collected comments and resolved terminology as well as
other technical and clarity issues, he continued. Countries
included USA, Switzerland, and England either directly or indirectly.
Forum provided a direct collation of responses in a relatively
short period of time so document alterations could be made so
as to minimize balloting concerns, generally in the form of negatives
or comments. International participation, while much was off-line,
served to broaden the ultimate value of the final document.
Forums Encourages Multi-National Applicability
In her November 2000 report on ASTM in the international arena,
Kitty Kono, ASTM Washington representative, said ASTM members
want to broaden the application and use of ASTM standards internationally.
Launched in 1998, Forums was designed to bring in multi-national
participation and broadened applicability.
Although task groups in the States typically access Forums, international
use is increasing. Lyle Hestermann, manager, Capital Resources,
Raytheon, Ft. Wayne, Ind., is vice chairman of new Committee E53 on Property Management Systems. As task group chair, he used
Forums to collect comments during the development of E 2131, Practice for Assessing Loss Damage of Destruction of Property,
approved Jan. 10. I thought it worked great, he said, naming
a group roster from Canada, California, New Mexico, Colorado,
Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland.
In March 00, the leadership of Committee D30 on Composite Materials decided to promote their standards to
a wider international audience by soliciting and incorporating
international feedback through the Internet. The task group steering
this effort has adopted Forums, and the D30 vice chairman, Rich
Fields, describes their goals in his article.
Specific task groups will be set up using Forums, to begin work
on what the group decides are the priorities, explained Jim Olshefsky,
D30 staff manager. In addition to the use of the Forums, we have
plans to use the D30 Web site for an on-line application and custom
A Vast Continuum of User Capabilities
Forums increases the technical integrity of ASTM standards through
increased domestic and international participation, said Dan
Schultz, who says ASTM has instilled the program with a vast
continuum of user capabilities. Forums is platform independent,
so any system can use it. It does require the usage of Word or
WordPerfect, though. On occasion, it has been found that some
aspects of text formatting and some imaging do not always convert
well to HTML. When this occurs, we work with our consultant to
reconfigure the document for better translation, and the documents
are accommodated. This is not a Forums issue, but an HTML issue.
We are in the process of carving our own path around these rare
instances through researching new HTML translators for integration
with the Forums system.
Schultz said Forums has increased international participation
in standards developed by Committee D20 on Plastics. They have
used the Forums for the development of an ISO terminology standard,
he said. There are many countries represented in this Forum,
and each nationality has been leaving their version of each definition in
their native tongue. Through a survey on the Forums home page,
members suggestions for interactive collaboration are being collected.
The biggest challenge, Schultz continues, is to remind members
that there is a medium through which they can work on documents consistently,
between meetings. Forums that have the highest success have educated
administrators and staff managers that promote its use, and remind
the members to [check] that their documents are posted.
Users can also work off-line with an upload/download link in the
Forums main chamber. According to Schultz, these functions can
support files of any type including spreadsheets, databases, and
CAD files. With these considerations, ASTM Interactive Forums
can join an unlimited number of stakeholders to produce standards
for greater audiences. Its there for the taking. //
Copyright 2001, ASTM