Bookmark and Share

Standardization News Search

ASTM International Education Services Department

by Scott Murphy and Dorothy Fitzpatrick

ASTM offers a variety of educational opportunities for members and non-members ranging from informal workshops, to formal symposia with peer-reviewed paper presentations, to recurring continuing education courses. Our education programs are international in scope and are available both live and electronically.

Technical and Professional Training

In 1984, the ASTM board of directors approved the development of a continuing education program for the Society. Originally known as Standards Technology Training, the program offered three classes and had 65 students during its first year of operation. In 1994, the program was renamed Technical and Professional Training to reflect more accurately the role the program played in meeting students’ technical training and professional development needs. During 2003, the TPT program offered 100 classes in 20 different subject areas. From the program’s inception in 1984 through the end of 2003, more than 23,000 students have attended ASTM training courses.

Instructor-led classes are available in two formats — public and on-site. Public classes, held at hotels and other venues, are advertised via direct mail, e-mail, professional journal advertisements, and on the ASTM Web site. The other type of instructor-led training is private on-site training. ASTM sends instructors to a client’s facility to conduct a class for the client’s employees. Most of the training conducted outside the United States is of this type. There are several advantages to on-site training for a client. First, the client’s per-person cost for training is less than it would be for sending people to a public class. Second, the client’s employees are away from their jobs less time than if they had attended a public class. Third, the training content can be tailored to meet the client’s specific needs.

United States government agencies have partnered with ASTM on training programs to help meet the agencies’ training needs. Federal agencies that have partnered with ASTM include the National Aeronautical and Space Administration on the Fire Hazards in Oxygen Systems course, the Environmental Protection Agency on the Risk-Based Corrective Action Applied at Petroleum Release Sites course, the Consumer Product Safety Commission on two courses covering compliance with federal flammability requirements for clothing and children’s sleepwear, and the Department of Defense on the Environmental Site Assessments for Military Deployment Sites course. In all of these cases, the federal agencies contributed to the development of the courses. The American Society of Association Executives has recognized the success of these government/ASTM partnerships on three separate occasions with its Award of Excellence in Education.

ASTM has an active international training program and has conducted classes in Asia, the Pacific Rim, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Central America, the Caribbean, South America, and Australia. As stated earlier, most of the international classes are on-site classes conducted for specific clients. The relationships with some of our international clients are recurring. For example, we have a 10-year relationship with Pertamina, the Indonesian national oil company, and we send our instructors to Indonesia several times a year to conduct our petroleum training courses. ASTM has partnered with the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, since 1996 to offer our oxygen safety courses annually in Australia.

In 2001, ASTM began partnering with international organizations to make ASTM training courses available to the public in specific countries and regions around the world. ASTM instructors conducted train-the-trainer sessions for our partners’ instructors. The international partners are authorized to organize and deliver specific courses, and the courses are delivered in the native language of the country or region. Through these partnerships, ASTM environmental site assessment courses are now available to the public in Korea and Japan. ASTM textile courses are now available in India and Sri Lanka, and ASTM petroleum courses are now available in the Middle East and Asia.

Training plays an important role in ASTM’s outreach program to serve the standards development needs of developing nations. ASTM has signed memorandums of understanding with a number of national standards bodies. The purpose of these MOUs is to strengthen the relationship between ASTM and national standards bodies and allow ASTM to assist them in their standards development and adoption efforts. Training is usually one of the first areas our new partners request assistance in, and we have co-sponsored several technical training sessions to date with our MOU partners, and more are planned.

ASTM training is also available in electronic format. Our most popular course, Environmental Site Assessments for Commercial Real Estate, is available on a CD-ROM featuring 15 modules that contain 14 hours of instruction. In addition, short on-line tutorials on some ASTM standards are available at ASTM International University.

ASTM Technical and Professional Training provides a valuable service in the marketplace by offering continuing education courses in the performance, use, and application of ASTM standards and the most up-to-date standards information available. A side benefit of the training program for the Society is that 95 percent of the students attending the training courses are not ASTM members, and they are introduced to ASTM and its mission at a TPT course.

While most TPT customers are not ASTM members, there are two other educational opportunities available, of which many members take advantage— symposia and workshops.

Symposia Program

The ASTM Symposia program has been in existence for more than 70 years. Symposia provide a forum for original research and informative discussion, and promote knowledge and the exchange of information. Information presented at symposia may focus attention on a market trend in an area that may become critical in the near future; provide a rationale for various details within a standard; or identify new opportunities for standards and related products. Often the discussion identifies potential problem areas facing today’s emerging technologies and forms the technical basis for the development of new ASTM standards or revision to existing standards.

Symposia are sponsored by ASTM technical committees and are often held in cooperation with government agencies and national or international professional organizations. The papers presented at symposia are peer-reviewed and may be published in one of ASTM’s journals (Journal of ASTM International, Geotechnical Testing Journal, Journal of Testing and Evaluation, and Cement, Concrete, and Aggregates).

ASTM technical committees sponsor approximately 20 symposia annually.

In 2003, 15 ASTM committees sponsored 18 symposia, which attracted more than 1,200 attendees. Each symposium is led by a chairman who is a member of the sponsoring technical committee. The chairman is frequently assisted by a co-chairman.

Some symposia are sponsored with government agencies or with other professional organizations. In 2003, four symposia were co-sponsored or held in cooperation with other organizations, such as the European Structural Integrity Society on fatigue and fracture mechanics; the International Society for Skiing Safety on skiing trauma and skiing safety; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on landscape ecology and wildlife habitat evaluation; the National Institute of Standards and Technology on metrology and standards for cell signaling: and their impact on tissue engineering.

Symposia are generally held in conjunction with the sponsoring technical committee’s standards development meetings, but they are occasionally held independently from such meetings. In 2003 most symposia were held in the United States, but three were held internationally, in Switzerland, Canada and Australia.

ASTM members usually may attend a symposium without paying a fee. Occasionally members are required to pay a reduced fee. All symposia fees are waived for full-time students, whether or not they are ASTM members.

In addition to participating in the exchange of technical information, symposium attendees are eligible to receive continuing education units for their attendance. Upon completion of a form, an attendee is sent a certificate stating the number of CEUs awarded.

When planning for a symposium, technical committees should consider topics that have market potential for the actual event and for the resulting published papers. The presentations should stimulate discussion regarding current research and provide the underpinning for existing or new ASTM standards.

Symposium presentations/papers are solicited via a call for papers, which is the first announcement of the event. This first announcement is publicized via broadcast e-mail to the appropriate ASTM technical committees, in news releases to journals and organizations in the field, in SN, and on the ASTM Web site. The second announcement of the event contains a technical program and registration information, which is publicized similarly to the call for papers.

As stated earlier, symposium presenters may submit their papers to one of the ASTM journals for consideration for publication. The newest journal, the Journal of ASTM International, replaces the Special Technical Publications series. STPs were published for many years to disseminate the peer-reviewed papers from symposia. JAI is an online journal of the highest quality that makes its most important research results available to a worldwide audience. Its publication process is much faster compared to the old STP format because individual papers are published as soon as the peer review and editorial processes are completed for that one paper. Papers published in JAI also have the advantage of being indexed by the major indexing services, such as ISI’s Science Citation Index.

The symposium planning process can take 12 to 18 months from the initial concept to the actual event. Workshops offer technical committees an alternative to the more formal symposia process.


Like symposia, workshops offer a forum for the exchange of technical information. The workshop format may be similar to a symposium, however, workshop planning consists of fewer procedures, has a shorter planning time, and is less structured. Workshop presenters are encouraged to submit their papers for publication to one of the ASTM journals.

Some technical committees sponsor workshops frequently. Committee F04 on Medical and Surgical Materials and Devices routinely sponsors a very successful workshop approximately 12 to 18 months before a symposium on the same topic. Their workshops are well-attended and serve as a prelude for the more formal events and the publication of technical papers. The F04 workshop topics are directly related to standards under development.

Symposia and workshops offer ASTM members the opportunity to participate in the exchange of cutting edge technical information. More important, symposia and workshops strengthen the standards development activities of their respective technical committees.

The ASTM Education Services department provides a forum for the exchange of technical information among members that leads to the development of new standards and provides a mechanism to deliver state-of-the-art training on ASTM standards to the general public. //

Copyright 2004, ASTM International

Scott Murphy is director, education services, at ASTM International.

Dorothy Fitzpatrick is manager, symposia, at ASTM International.