ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Panel Fosters Dialogue on Enhanced Integration of Standards in Higher Education Curricula

New York, Sep 10, 2002

Will an enhanced focus on raising the awareness of standards and conformity assessment at the university level better prepare graduates for their professional careers? Could industry and government rely more heavily upon research conducted at the university level as a mechanism for predicting future standards and conformity assessment related trends? These were the predominant questions during a panel discussion on the future of higher education curricula held yesterday at Columbia University in New York City.

The event, "University Education and Research on Technical Standards," was organized by the International Center for Standards Research (ICSR), in conjunction with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and hosted by the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information (CITI). It was the first in a series of planned interactive panel discussions to provide academic, industry and government representatives with a forum to build an agenda on how to introduce standards into higher education curricula and research strategies.

According to conference organizers, the impetus for these discussions was, in large part, a statement raised under Goal 11 of the U.S. National Standards Strategy that indicated "management in both the public and private sectors are not sufficiently aware of the benefits of external standardization . . . even when they are vigorously implementing standardization programs in their internal operations."

"The aim of the panel was to address how the importance of strategic standardization management can best be presented to academia, clarify what the agenda for academic research in standards and standardization should be, and uncover ideas on how to move a standards research and education agenda forward," explained Pam Suett, ANSI director of education.

James Alleman of Columbia University served as moderator for the discussion, highlighted by presentations from Tim Schoechle, University of Colorado International Center for Standards Research; William Kelly, Catholic University Center for Global Standards Analysis; and George Arnold of Lucent Technologies and a vice-chairman of the ANSI Board of Directors.

The panel was comprised of a distinguished group of individuals representing the standards community, higher education, and government and included Hugh Carter Donahue, Consultant (formerly Annenburg School of Communication); Frank Farance, Farance Inc.; John Kasdan, Columbia University; Jeff Strauss, Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management; and Mary Saunders, NIST.

Panel members and attendees participated in an often-candid discourse about the current role of standards development and research in higher education, and offered suggestions on what might be done in the future to expand standards education at the university level. Schoechle, whose research is focused in the area of technical standards in the telecommunications industry, emphasized that "the ways that standards are evolving are changing dramatically, and this provides a rich opportunity for the university to explore this area." The group agreed that another cause for increasing awareness at the university level is that standardization as a profession has strategic importance for the U.S. economy, both nationally and internationally.

Another topic of exploration was what types of standards research opportunities could be addressed at the university level. The development of wireless technology standards was used as an example, because when the technology was beginning to develop at a rapid rate several years ago, there was a pointed difference between U.S. and European approaches. Today, the U.S. has a policy of encouraging competition and innovation in wireless communications, whereas the European market emphasizes the importance of a singular standard. At one time, the ideologies were switched. As Mary Saunders of NIST pointed out, policymakers face great difficulty in making predictions about approaches to certain standards development, and a body of research would be of great value in shaping public policy.

The panel raised many complex and dynamic issues facing the standards community and higher education, even tackling fundamental ideas about the definition of standards, their general importance in society, and how or why they should matter to higher education specifically and to the greater public in general. At the conclusion of the forum, a consensus was reached that further discourse is needed to create an agenda for academic research in standards and standardization. A Breakout Session titled, "University Faculty Outreach Forum: Developing a Standards Agenda for Change" to be held during the ANSI Annual Conference on October 15 will provide another opportunity to do so.

 Homeland Defense and Security Standardization Collaborative