After kicking off the morning's program with welcome remarks, ANSI president and CEO S. Joe Bhatia presented an overview of ANSI's forthcoming online portal of standards that have been incorporated by reference (IBR) into U.S. laws and regulations. The ANSI IBR Portal will provide free, read-only access to a large number of IBR standards from many of the largest domestic and international SDOs, and is expected to be launched at the end of this month. The portal will also include links to many of the SDOs who offer their own online reading rooms for IBR standards.
"ANSI began work on developing the portal after extensive outreach out to ANSI Federation members and stakeholders, as well as U.S. government and international officials. Time and again, we heard that there is demand for a single solution, to make it easy for those affected by any piece of legislation to view the related IBR standards. But at the same time, there is also a strong need to allow for flexibility, so that each SDO can provide reasonable access in the way that makes sense for their business model and doesn't undermine their ability to function," said Mr. Bhatia. "We believe that the ANSI IBR Portal does all that. And as coordinator of the U.S. standardization system, we are very proud to present this solution."
Following Mr. Bhatia's remarks, Brian Markwalter of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) moderated a panel on IBR-related issues. All three members of the panel - Emily Bremer of the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS), Robert McArver of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), and James Shannon of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) - expressed support for the planned ANSI IBR portal. By making IBR standards available, ANSI and the SDOs that offer their own online reading rooms are meeting their obligation to the public while simultaneously protecting the standards development ecosystem, ensuring that SDOs can continue to do their important work.
During the panel's discussion, Mr. McArver noted that government agencies should seek to be more directly engaged in the standards development process, beyond simply incorporating finished standards by reference into regulation. Such engagement would help agencies and regulators to understand key revisions, and help keep references to standards up to date. Mr. Shannon described instances where regulations incorporating NFPA standards had grown significantly out of date, and noted that limited government budgets and other fiscal concerns may be responsible for some of these issues.
In response to an audience question about challenges associated with the free availability of standards, Ms. Bremer noted that copyright is an important tool in ensuring that interested parties are receiving authentic and authoritative standards, rather than altered versions that have circulated for free online. And while his organization makes its standards freely available, Mr. Shannon explained that the revenue stream associated with copyrighted standards provides many SDOs with the financial resources to develop standards without the risk to their independence that direct funding by government or industry can pose.
Following a short break, Claire Ramspeck of ASHRAE delivered remarks on that organization's pilot program allowing increased remote participation in its standards development meetings. Ms. Ramspeck described the advantages of increased participation and flexibility, as well as current downsides, including issues with Internet bandwidth at event locations, the need for increased staff support, and additional expenses. Participants discussed their own experiences with remote participation in standardization-related meetings and brainstormed methods to make the use of this emerging option more streamlined and effective. Following Ms. Ramspeck's remarks, attendee Bruce Mahone of SAE International described a best-practices document for virtual meetings that may be a helpful resource for other SDOs.
Wrapping up the event, Mr. Bhatia and James T. Pauley, senior vice president of external affairs and government relations at Schneider Electric USA and chair of the ANSI Board of Directors, teamed up to lead a dialogue on how the Institute can best meet the changing needs of the greater community. Attendees raised concerns about declining U.S. participation in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Committee on Consumer Policy (COPOLCO), as well as larger issues connected to ANSI's ongoing efforts to increase U.S. industry's involvement in the domestic and international standardization system. Mr. Bhatia highlighted the important work being done in this area by ANSI's Standards Boost Business public awareness campaign, including the recent mailing of a call-to-action brochure to the top 3,500 Fortune 500 executives and other industry and government leaders [see related article].
Attendees also touched on the continued desire to bring consortia and SDOs closer together within the ANSI community, noting that several consortia have become ANSI-accredited standards developers in recent years. Andy Updegrove described a resource available on ConsortiumInfo.org, which helps those interested in standards development navigate the existing field of SDOs, and provides instructions on how to create a new activity if the right fit doesn't already exist.
"When ANSI started the Open Forum eight years ago, we wanted to create a venue for traditional SDOs and consortia to talk about standards development challenges and best practices," said Mr. Pauley in his closing remarks. "Now, the event has evolved into a discussion that involves the entire standardization system - not just standards developers, but also participants, users, and implementers. Today's event was a great demonstration of why that shift has been important and meaningful."
Photographs from the Open Forum are available online.