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Enabling Rapid Standards Development from Start to Finish

by Tom O'Toole

You’ve just come back from a four-day ASTM committee meeting. You know that you won’t see most fellow committee members for another six months but you recognize how important it is to “keep the ball rolling” when it comes to standards development. In the past, despite your best intentions, the momentum provided by the meeting would often be lost over the course of six months. Today, the ASTM Web site helps you keep up the momentum between now and the next meeting by providing the tools and information to communicate, manage, draft, review, and ballot.

The latest update to ASTM International’s Web site includes many new features that reflect the needs of our constituents. Since it was first launched in 1995, the Web site has evolved to provide the latest technologies for the development and rapid delivery of market-relevant standards and related products to an international marketplace.

In addition to recently added functions, the Web site has a more user-friendly look that includes a navigation bar that enables users to quickly move among different subject areas. The Web site also contains more information to assist users in the development of standards and includes FAQs and online support for questions relating to membership, the standards development process, electronic balloting, and many more topics.

The Web site now provides the tools needed to draft, develop, ballot, and deliver published standards completely online. This is not to say that there still isn’t a need for the synergy that has always been part of technical meetings related to standards development. But the electronic tools provide an additional mechanism to more quickly and effectively conduct the standards development functions. These tools have been developed for all members as well as others interested in the development of ASTM standards.

In this article, we’ll move quickly into the tools and information that will help you develop standards efficiently, then describe the many other ASTM services represented on the Web site.

First, a note about where you’ll start.

The Main Page:

Navigation bars down the left side of ASTM’s main Web page immediately provide the viewer with links to pages and useful functions that previously had been buried further in the site. The viewer can now quickly move to the most commonly used functions directly from the main page without further searching. With the same navigation bars on many other pages, the user can quickly toggle between various areas of the Web site with just a click.

Hovering the cursor over certain navigation bars, you may notice a feature called a “mouse-over.” This feature is activated when the cursor is placed over certain topic navigation bars; a drop-down menu provides a brief overview of the subject to assist the user on deciding whether to go to that link.

The banner ad at the top of the main page presents an opportunity to view many products and services related to your interests. The Recent News link changes periodically and provides the latest noteworthy news concerning ASTM.

The Nitty Gritty—Standards Development @ASTM

Now to the functions—some of them recently developed—that make the standards development process easier than ever. You may have noticed that many articles in recent issues of SN have detailed the continuing efforts to increase the functionality of the Web site, which now includes an integrated system available 24/7 that enables a committee to develop a draft document (Interactive Forums), submit them for ballot (ballot submittal forms), and actually ballot them (subcommittee/committee electronic balloting and society review). When approved and published, these standards are then available online for use quickly in the marketplace (see Along the Digital Path).

Quite literally, the use of this process—often referred to as the “Digital Path”—has reduced a standard’s potential development and delivery time from years to months. The following section will show you the many ASTM Web pages that will help you navigate the consensus process faster and with better results.

From the Technical Committee main page you can access committee homepages for every one of the 130 ASTM technical committees. From the committee overview, which provides a brief summary of each committee’s activities to the “Members Only” area, the objective of the committee page is to serve as a focal point for committee activities. It is an especially valuable resource between meetings. The committee pages not only allow members to engage in the standardization process, they also provide a valuable tool in recruiting new members and disseminating committee-related information.

Each committee page currently contains links to the following specific committee-related information:

• Committee Scope;
• Standards by Subcommittee;
• Meeting Schedule;
• Committee Membership Application;
• Search Links for Publications;
• Committee Officers;
• Future Meetings;
• Committee Week and Symposia Information;
• Standards Development Forum (see details further on in this article); and
• Standards Development Tools (see details further on in this article).

In addition to this basic information for each committee, committee homepages also provide other related information that supports the development of standards. These informational links are found at the bottom of each committee main page.

Standards Development Forums

The Interactive Standards Development Forum program (accessible from the Technical Committees main page) has provided an online forum for the development of draft standards and the revision of published standards for several years. These Forums provide increased access to the standards development process for international members and those who may have limited participation due to travel constraints.

The Forums, or “virtual online task groups,” allow task group members (assigned by a task-group leader) to place and develop a new document or revise an existing standard entirely online. It provides a central location for task group members to review, provide comment, and e-mail other members. The Forum allows the task group to instantly review online the comments from other task group members. The task group leader can then compile the comments, revise the document and either re-post or submit for electronic ballot.

The program is designed to accelerate the functions of a task group and can substantially reduce the time it takes to develop a standard by allowing task group activities to be effectively conducted between meetings on the ASTM Web site.

The Forums site contains a detailed tutorial to help program users. For more information on participating in Forums, please contact your committee’s staff manager.

Guidance for Writing and Balloting Standards

One cannot begin to develop a standard without proper guidance. To this end ASTM provides an extensive array of tools to assist in the development of standards. The Guidance for Writing and Balloting Standards page may be accessed from several different areas including your Committee Page, Standards Development Forums, the Technical Committees main page, or, of course, the Site Map.

On this page, click on How To Prepare Ballot Items for Submission. The document you'll see there, “Development and Submittal of New Standards and Revisions, Reapprovals and Withdrawals of Existing Standards” provides some detailed information on the ASTM process, answers to many frequently asked questions, and assists members in the preparation and submittal of documents. It includes links to many ASTM documents that support the development of standards, from Form and Style for ASTM Standards to Rules Governing ASTM Technical Committees, and contains a final checklist for submitting the document for electronic balloting.

From the Guidance page, click on Ballot Item Submittal Forms to access forms that will allow you to submit ballot items online, without having to download or print forms.

The Key Documents and Forms page, also accessed from the Guidance page, contains links to the following publications, forms, and resources:

• Form and Style for ASTM Standards: This manual provides guidance for writing the various types of ASTM standards. ASTM standards must be written in accordance with the provisions of this manual.
• Regulations Governing ASTM Technical Committees:This publication provides regulations for the operation of technical committees and the standards development process.
• Draft Standard Templates: To assist with the development of new standards, ASTM has created draft standard templates for each type of standard. These Microsoft Word temp- lates insert all of the required form and style elements as specified in the form and style manual. (See more information on templates below.)
• ASTM Technical Committee Officer Handbook: This handbook was originally developed for use by technical committee officers and has become a useful resource for aspiring members in the standards development activities of their committees.
• Strategic Planning Manual: This manual provides guidance for developing a strategic plan for your committee.
• ASTM Publicity Request Form: This form is to be used by members interested in publicizing their committee’s activities to interested media (technical journals and magazines). Completing this form will get the ball rolling on having an article on your activity published in SN, a press release sent to committee-related journals, or both.
• Proxy Form: This form must be completed and signed by the ASTM member assigning the voting proxy in compliance with the provisions of the Regulations Governing ASTM Technical Committees.
• How-To Articles: Links to articles in previous issues of SN that contain practical advice for technical committee members and officers on managing the standards development process.

Using the Standards Development Templates

If you are drafting a new standard, pre-formatted Microsoft Word templates will help speed the process. These templates insert the required form and style elements as specified in the Form and Style for ASTM Standards manual. Directions for downloading the templates and detailed instructions for using them are provided at this site.

There are separate downloadable templates for the following standard types:

• Test Methods
• Specifications
• Guides/Practices
• Classifications
• Terminology

Several function “buttons” help you standardize layout and facilitate the quick movement of the standard through balloting and editing processes.

Other Resources in the Technical Committees Section

The Technical Committees main page also provides links to several additional sites including:

• The current Society Review—This site provides an index of all documents currently balloting at the Society Review level. Members may determine the need to review and provide comment on a document and may do so by following the instructions found at this site.
• Contract and Project Management Services—This site gives information on the Contract and Project Management Services department, which provides management support for grants, research projects, and other related activities intended to enhance the quality and timeliness of ASTM products and services. Some of the services provided include grant and contract administration, technical project management, and management support for external standards development or other related activity.
• Honors and Awards—This portion of the site contains Honors and Awards information for each committee and the requirements for each award.

Members Only

This area of the ASTM Web site is accessible to committee members only and consists of links to key committee information. It can be accessed through your individual committee home page. The Members Only area of the Web site was launched in early 2000 and originally served as a platform to post meeting minutes. The area has continued to evolve and serves as a convenient resource for technical committee members.

Once in the Members Only area you will have access to the following links (details on all three are provided below):

• Electronic Ballots
• Member Rosters
• Meeting Minutes

Electronic Ballots—Electronic balloting was designed to offer many advantages over its hardcopy ancestor. Documents contained in an e-ballot are delivered to the membership more efficiently than by hardcopy and provide 24/7 access to participants around the world.

Members are informed of the issuance of a ballot via an e-mail that provides instructions and a link to your committee’s Web site, at which point you will need to login to the Members Only area.

Reminder e-mails are sent two weeks and one week before the close of an e-ballot to members who have not yet voted. This feature is an added bonus not available in mailed ballots; the e-mail provides a direct link to the committee’s Web site to access the e-ballot. After accessing the main ballot area page you will see the electronic ballots currently being conducted by your committee and subcommittees.

Click on the ballot you want to review and begin the e-ballot voting process. This process allows you to begin reviewing and voting at anytime before the close of the ballot, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The system also allows members to begin the review/voting process, save a portion of their completed work, and return at a later time (before the close of the ballot) to complete the voting process. Once you have completed the e-ballot and submitted your vote, the system provides a ballot summary or electronic “receipt,” which shows the status of your votes on all items on the ballot and includes the text of all negatives and/or comments that were submitted. If you select the “save and return” feature, the system provides a summary page (that should be printed or saved as a file on your computer) with all information submitted to that point. You may return to the e-ballot at any time before the ballot closing date to continue reviewing the ballot and cast your vote.

Members may wish to download the complete document for reviewing off-line before actually voting. Each e-ballot can be downloaded as a single series of individual PDF files.

Detailed instructions are included on the site and a Help Desk has been assigned to assist with any questions that you may have.

What’s next for e-balloting? In the future, you will see an online closing report that will provide an item-by-item breakdown of ballot results, include the posting of negatives and comments, and the ability to view ballot items online after submitting a vote. Also coming is the capability of online negative vote resolution, including a feature that enables subcommittee chairmen to address negative votes online in real time (based on the appropriate requirements of the ASTM regulations).

Member Rosters—Member rosters of the committee and subcommittees allow committee members to quickly view the names, addresses, phone and fax numbers, e-mail addresses, and voting status of other committee and subcommittee members.

Additionally, you may change your own membership roster information at this site (except for information that would need to go to the committee membership secretary such as a change of company affiliation).

Committee members wishing to be added to a subcommittee(s) should contact the respective subchairman directly by using the contact information on the Member Roster.

Meeting Minutes—As mentioned above, this was the first component of the Members Only area. Committee and subcommittee meeting minutes are posted here as PDF files for quick access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Meeting minutes may be submitted in any word-processing format for posting; ASTM staff converts these into PDF files for easy access. This area of the Web site provides the two most recent meeting minutes for each committee/subcommittee.

Standards and Technical Publications

The Web site enables you to directly search for standards and related technical publications. Click on either Standards or Technical Publications on the ASTM homepage.

Standards Search

Clicking on “Individual Standards” takes you to a much-used search engine for all of the more than 11,000 published ASTM standards. Standards can be searched by designation, terms, or referenced documents. There is also a commonly used “Search All” function, which will search in any of the parameters.

Further down on the page you will find the option to search all standards by the letter of the alphanumeric designation. You may also search for ASTM provisional standards and selected ISO standards. A link on this portion of the page also provides tips for searching the database. Lastly, there is a function that provides a complete listing of all discontinued ASTM standards and the designation of the replacement if applicable.

Once you have found the standard you are looking for, you will see a document summary for the standard. The summary includes such information as a direct link to all the ASTM documents referenced in the standard, the committee of jurisdiction’s Web site, as well as ordering information. A list of other standards downloaded by users of the standard currently displayed may also be provided in the upper right corner.

Ordering Standards

The full standard may be acquired directly from ASTM as a PDF download, or may be ordered for mail delivery.

Other Standards Publications

Standards publications that can be ordered online for mail delivery include individual volumes or sets of the Annual Book of ASTM Standards (in print or CD), ASTM Standards Source (collections of ASTM standards on CD) and print or CD compilations of selected ASTM standards. Additionally, various online subscription plans allows subscribers to download 25, 50, 200 or more ASTM standards each year for up to a 12-month period.

Technical Publications

The search engine on the Technical Publications main page can search for any ASTM technical book or journal. ASTM journal articles are now available online. Users may search the table of contents of the five ASTM journals, as well as search and download individual papers as PDF files. Current subscribers to the journals receive printed journals and unlimited access to the online versions.

The ASTM journals available online are:

• Cement, Concrete and Aggregates
• Geotechnical Testing Journal
• Journal of Composites Technology and Research
• Journal of Forensic Sciences
• Journal of Testing and Evaluation.


The Membership page is a key element in providing information to prospective new committee members and has been greatly enhanced to provide information on joining ASTM International, membership types, as well as an online membership application form.

Also new is a detailed New Member Orientation page that contains the answers to questions that new members may have and also provides detailed information and links for:

• General ASTM information;
• Effective participation; and
• How standards get developed.

Membership Renewal—All members need to renew their membership annually. The Membership area of the Web site allows you to do this online; click on the link for Renew Membership. Technical committee members may choose their free volume of the Annual Book of ASTM Standards online.

Recently added to this page is a link to Career Resources. Members now have access to an career resource and can perform job searches relevant to their career niche through a JobMatch service. Members can also post their resumes to leading companies through a confidential, electronic ResumeMatch service.

To provide further assistance on the Membership site, a link to the Staff and Services Directory and to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) relating to membership are provided.


The ASTM Meetings page provides meeting-related information to both members and non-members interested in attending committee meetings.

Of particular significance is the Committee Week Information and Registration link. This provides committee members and potential members quick access to information about upcoming Committee Weeks.

The Committee Week Online Preregistration Form (there is a link to a form on every Committee Week page) is a valuable tool that allows ASTM staff to better plan for your meetings and provides staff with information so we can quickly contact you with the latest information on the Committee Week.

The Meetings site also contains general information on:
• Directions to ASTM Headquarters;
• Hotels Near ASTM Headquarters;
• Airline Discounts.

Directory of Testing Labs

The Directory of Testing Laboratories is an online full-text search for services and locations of testing laboratories. Information is provided by the types of tests performed, specific tests performed, materials analyzed, or other services offered. (ASTM has not attempted to investigate, rate, endorse, approve or certify any laboratory and each laboratory has paid ASTM a fee for their listing.)

Directory of Scientific and Technical Consultants and Expert Witnesses

The Directory of Scientific and Technical Consultants and Expert Witnesses is an online full-text search for individuals/companies who perform consulting services or act as expert witnesses. (ASTM has not attempted to investigate, rate, endorse, approve, or certify any consultant or expert witness and each consultant has paid a fee to ASTM for their listing.)

If you would like to have your organization listed online and in the printed version of either of these directories, please contact Ellen McGlinchey.


ASTM symposia provide an opportunity for members and others to present their research findings and exchange information that often identifies and forms the technical basis for the development of ASTM International standards. For upcoming symposia, program agendas and registration information are available online. Online registration is encouraged. New functions planned for the Symposia Page in the future include: online call for papers, a technical paper submittal form, and individual symposium abstract sites.

Over 20 symposia are sponsored by ASTM technical committees each year and the papers presented are peer-reviewed and published in Special Technical Publications (STPs) or in one of the ASTM journals, which may be ordered on the ASTM Web site.

Technical and Professional Training Courses 

ASTM International has offered continuing technical education programs for industry and government for many years. These one- to three-day courses provide intensive, focused, and practical training on the standards that most impact your industry and are available as on-site training at your facility or at various international locations.

Links within this site provide the course outline, the standards involved, dates, location, and information about the course instructor. This site also provides for online registration of each course.

Also available is a link to the CD training product, Computer-Based Training Program on Environmental Site Assessment Practices for Commercial Real Estate. This popular ASTM training program is based on standards E 1527, Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process, and E 1528, Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments; Transaction Screen Process. The CD format acts as an aid during on-site assessments as well as a refresher or supplement for past attendees of the in-person course.

Proficiency Testing and Interlaboratory Crosscheck Programs

These statistical quality assurance programs enable laboratories to assess their performance in conducting test methods within their own laboratories when their data are compared against other laboratories in the same worldwide program.

Laboratories perform specified ASTM methods or other methods normally conducted by their laboratory and the results are returned to ASTM where final (coded) reports are generated and returned to program participants and sponsoring ASTM Technical Committees.

The resulting report provides a meaningful and useful quality-control tool to enable labs to monitor strengths and weaknesses of laboratory performance. This periodic comparison of test results and calculated statistical parameters with other labs worldwide allows labs to demonstrate proficiency in the specific analysis to meet laboratory accreditation requirements.

News and Information

The News and Information pages contain resources useful to not only members of the press, but to you as an ASTM member. Take a moment to look at some of the historical and current resources that can help you understand more about the world of standardization:

• News and Upcoming Events;
• ASTM Business Link;
• Company Articles;
• President’s Column;
• National Standards Strategy for the United States;
• Frequently Asked Questions;
• Information for Students and Educators;
• ASTM Annual Report; and
• ASTM Mission Statement.

Standardization News

Standardization News, ASTM’s monthly magazine, is a valuable resource for the latest news on ASTM standards and related topics. (You are in the SN pages now.) The online version contains the same information as the printed magazine including feature articles, Tech News, monthly columns, commentary, and more. SN online has the added feature of being available 24/7, and navigation bars link you directly to other areas of the Web site. Links within the articles provide a quick and easy method of obtaining useful standards-related information. There is also an archive of SN articles dating back to January 2000, when SN was launched online.

Site Map

Last but not least, the ASTM Site Map contains a listing of links on a single page of text. This easy to use and easy to find area of the site is a must for anyone looking for a specific page.

In Conclusion

You can see from this overview of the Web site that ASTM International has evolved in today’s business environment in providing services to our members and customers by using the most efficient technologies available. We will continue providing these and other cutting-edge technologies and services to you as your standards development requirements and the technologies for developing them continue to evolve. //

Copyright 2002, ASTM

Tom O'Toole has been staff manager in the Technical Committee Operations division since 1996.