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Cross-cutting Issues Among Standards-Setting Bodies Explored in ANSI Conference: Synergies and Shared Interests in Standards


Standards-setting bodies of all kinds are facing many of the same issues in today’s evolving standards landscape, from an increasing level of politicization of standards to rapid advancements in critical and emerging technologies. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) convened a community-wide conference on October 11, bringing consortia and ANSI-accredited standards developers together to discuss common issues, share best practices, and explore opportunities for collaboration. The all-day event focused on two primary challenges to all standards developers today: doing more with less in a time of finite resources, and the global politicization of standards development.

Synergies and Shared Interests in Standards, part of ANSI’s week-long series of events for World Standards Week, began with a keynote presentation by Andrew Updegrove, partner, Gesmer Updegrove LLP, who outlined challenges in the current standards landscape.

“Literally everything we rely on in everyday life relies, to a greater or lesser degree, on standards. Indeed, the government itself, particularly in the U.S., relies on the private sector to create standards that are then referenced into law, thereby saving untold millions of tax dollars that would otherwise be expended on developing equivalent regulations,” said Updegrove in his remarks. “All of this happens under the radar of the average person, most of whom are unaware that standards organizations even exist. . . . Most people, including those who work on the Hill, as well as those who work for corporations, have little reason to know or understand what a delicate and precious process standards development is. And sometimes, that can be a problem.”

The day’s first panel, Getting the Job Done: Standards Development in a Changing Landscape, featured Updegrove as moderator, and panelists Scott McGrath, COO, OASIS; Travis Murdock, manager, technical committee operations, ASTM International; Andrew Russell, professor, SUNY Polytechnic Institute; W. Charlton Adams, Jr., Ph.D., distinguished standards strategist, Futurewei Technologies, and past president, IEEE Standards Association; and Nicole Gray, CEO, VTM.

Panelists explored how to best attract new standards professionals, examining the elements of successful outreach efforts to universities, including experiential learning, case studies, and modules that can be replicated in multiple courses and schools. Discussions also addressed the potential of standards education in fields outside of engineering, such as political science and business.

Attendees and panelists also spoke on open source software projects and their unique role in the standards ecosystem. Open source projects are becoming increasingly integral and essential to the national interest as well as industry, and are now developing interoperability standards in their own right. As collaborative open source projects continue to proliferate, especially in emerging and critical technologies, they add value through their agility and position in the collaborative landscape.

How can standards-setting bodies be more effective and efficient? Panelists and attendees discussed ways to improve processes in order to expedite them and improve the experience for participants, including organized and accessible documents and the potential use of artificial intelligence tools to support taking minutes at working group meetings.

Following ANSI’s Annual Business Meeting, attendees heard from keynote speaker Nigel Cory, associate director, trade policy for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, who offered his perspective on politicization issues. Cory introduced three key dynamics that he sees as shaping political influences on standardization: an increasingly fierce race for a global technology advantage; ongoing distrust of the U.S. technology sector; and the U.S. and others prioritizing national and economic security and a greater role for government in standardization.

The conference’s second panel followed Cory’s remarks, focusing on Politicization of Standards Development, moderated by Ajit Jillavenkatesa, chair, ANSI International Policy Advisory Group. Ken Ko, managing director, Broadband Forum; Jessica Fitzgerald-McKay, co-lead, Center for Cybersecurity Standards, National Security Agency; Dawn Shackleford, executive director for trade agreements, policy, and negotiations, U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration; Elaine Newton, senior director, global standards policy and compliance, Oracle; and Carter Eltzroth, legal director, DVB Project, served as panelists.

Panelists and attendees spoke about the U.S. government’s evolving role in standards, particularly as manifested by the recent release of the U.S. Government National Standards Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technology (USG NSSCET). Many lauded the NSSCET for its commitment to expand coordination with allies and partners, and to enhance and protect the private sector-led process, as well as its emphasis on objectivity and inclusivity. However, some noted that the strategy would benefit from greater involvement with the private tech sector, and that, absent such involvement, the U.S. risks being sidelined in some international standardization bodies, thereby hampering its implementation. National security is a priority in the NSSCET, and some expressed concern that misunderstandings of the standards system as it relates to security considerations may undermine and weaken the private-sector led standards development system.

Participants also discussed international standards strategies and recent shifts in approaches, expressing that in some instances, this has resulted in U.S. headquartered companies being excluded from some standards development activities in the EU and elsewhere. In contrast to this approach of closing off international participation, some speakers recommended that the U.S. double down on the importance of broad participation.

Another key topic in the afternoon’s discussions was how to effectively convey standards information—including the importance of the private-sector led standardization system and the value of the process—to public sector representatives and decision makers. One important element is making sure that C-suite executives understand this information, as they’re often the people in communication with senior government leaders. Those participating in standards working groups have extensive knowledge on the technical standards in their area, but may not articulate their value to upper-level management. Once there is buy-in for standards processes by executives, it will be easier to bring this information to government agencies and legislative bodies.

ANSI is grateful to the speakers and attendees at the conference for their insightful input and engaging contributions to the day’s discussions.

Conference room with panelists and attendees


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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