Focus on Academic Research
Today, the system of innovation that propels the growth of industries around the world is bolstered by the ongoing relationship between academic research and the standardization process. This mutually beneficial partnership provides the critical knowledge transfer that drives progress throughout the industrial sector in the form of creative solutions to technical challenges, advancement of state-of-the-art technologies, improvements in testing methods and quality processes, commercialization of market-relevant products and services, and much more.
The close cooperative relationship between academic research and standards development is the centerpiece of ASTM International‘s Focus on Academic Research campaign in 2014. In addition to highlighting the contributions of academic research to the standards process, the campaign will also emphasize how student participation in research can nurture interest in standardization and build the technical and problem-solving skills valued by their future employers.
The ASTM International standards development process has long been a home for cooperation between the academic community and diverse industry professionals and technical experts. ASTM members from academia work side by side with colleagues from industries and governments around the world on ASTM's standards development committees. Many members from the academic community have often stepped forward to assume important committee leadership roles. The Focus on Academic Research campaign will build on this spirit of cooperation and extend ASTM's ongoing outreach in the academic community.
"Cooperative and sustained interaction between the academic research community and industry has long played a valuable role in the transfer of knowledge and the advancement of new technologies in the marketplace," says John J. Schemmel, Ph.D., P.E., FACI, professor of civil engineering, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Ind., and an ASTM member since 1989. "Conducting research and examining issues through the lens of ASTM standards can impact the standardization process by not only solving specific, discrete problems but also unlocking the potential for even greater innovation in products, materials, processes and more."
Schemmel also emphasizes that by integrating student research with the use of standards, graduates enter their respective fields better equipped with the technical skills that can truly make a difference. Graduates trained in research and the application of standards not only enter the work force with a broader body of knowledge but also gain abilities that are prized in technical fields: self-motivation, problem-solving, teamwork, the ability to organize material and creative thinking.
Schemmel, a professional civil engineer with interests in construction materials, including concrete and related products, believes that student exposure to standards should go beyond classroom learning to doing practical work that can benefit ASTM committees now. At Valparaiso, his engineering students conduct various laboratory tests using ASTM C143, Test Method for Slump of Hydraulic-Cement Concrete, and collect data that is fed back to ASTM Subcommittee C09.60 on Testing Fresh Concrete, part of Committee C09 on Concrete and Concrete Aggregates.
"Short duration research projects involving the use of ASTM standards are ideal for students," notes Schemmel. "Students gain the real-world learning that comes from the use of ASTM standards, and the research projects help connect them to ASTM committees even before they graduate. It's a win for the committees too, as they gain feedback and potential solutions for issues that may not be on their immediate radar."
Through its various components, the Focus on Academic Research campaign will highlight ASTM's avenues for both professors and students to engage in research and apply standards to generate new ideas and knowledge. The initiative will feature both new and ongoing programs, including the following.
The competition provides a vehicle for recognizing the achievements and scholarly work of ASTM's student members at colleges and universities around the world. Through the development of their research papers, students will have a forum to demonstrate their grasp of ASTM standards and offer fresh perspectives to ASTM technical committees. Winners will present their papers at one of the ASTM 2014 fall committee meetings in New Orleans, La. Research papers must be submitted by June 15, 2014.
Recognizing that students at some universities may need financial assistance in completing their graduate or senior capstone design projects, ASTM International will continue to offer a limited number of $500 project grants in 2014. To be eligible for the grant, student design projects must contain an ASTM International standards component. Grants provide a valuable funding source for student projects, supporting the costs of research-related materials and supplies as well as other miscellaneous expenses. ASTM awarded five project grants in 2013.
ASTM International offers professors a broad range of forums to present their research findings and exchange information with diverse technical experts and industry professionals. Professors have the opportunity to present research results at ASTM's robust symposia program, which takes in a wide variety of technical subjects, and to publish papers in ASTM's collection of peer-reviewed journals.
Students and professors are also encouraged to visit the ASTM website section geared specifically toward the academic community. A wealth of resources on standardization is available, including The Professor's Tool Kit, which contains various tools to help educators promote awareness of standards in the classroom. Also on the site, full-time undergraduate or graduate students can sign up for free ASTM membership. Currently, ASTM has nearly 5,000 student members representing 114 countries worldwide.
Another valuable resource that is available to assist academic researchers in developing precision statements for ASTM standards is ASTM International's Interlaboratory Study Program. The ILS Program offers services and resources that can assist researchers with various aspects of their projects, including designing an interlaboratory study, identifying potential samples, soliciting volunteer laboratories, collecting and analyzing data, producing a draft precision statement and more. Many professors find that the ASTM ILS program is an effective way to involve students in their work.
To learn more about ASTM International's 2014 Focus on Academic Research initiative and the various components and offerings of the campaign, visit the ASTM International campus, or contact James Olshefsky, director of external relations, ASTM International (phone: 610-832-9714).Doug Clauson is a freelance writer based in Wynnewood, Pa.