Events with Style: How ASTM International Events Affect Standards Development

Across the ASTM calendar, workshops, committee weeks, webinars, and symposia bring people from around the world together.
JP Ervin

Standards are more than words on a page – they are living documents. They come to life through application, responding to global needs and inspiring confidence in the commodities we buy and the materials we use.

The standards-development process is no less vital. Research and deliberation play an essential role in the creation of standards. Ultimately, standards become what they are through the tireless work of members, partners, and organizations, leading to an ongoing process that breathes life into ideas and enables them to become something more.

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ASTM International’s wide range of events is the engine powering that work. Whether it be the consensus-building of committee meetings and the careful discussions of symposia and workshops – or the gatherings hosted by the Exo Technology Center of Excellence (ET CoE) and Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence (AM CoE) – events drive thinking about standards, from the early emergence of new technologies to the standards that are at work around us every day.

Along the way, these events reach out to new industries, allowing anyone to have a voice in the standards-development process and participate in cutting-edge innovation at the earliest stages. Events also provide invaluable resources for learning, sharing viewpoints, and building a broad community of people committed to helping our world work better.

Committee Meetings

Meetings are one of the most fundamental elements of standards work. Per ASTM bylaws, technical committees must meet two times each year. Their meetings provide an opportunity for committees to focus on the logistical and technical concerns that shape ASTM standards.

Schedules and formats of committee meetings are diverse, designed to respond to the profile of a given committee and the particulars of specific industries. Committee weeks are one of the more recognizable ASTM event formats, bringing together many committees for bustling, animated events featuring organization members and staff. Committees also meet in conjunction with other standards development organizations (SDOs) or host their own meetings outside of committee weeks.

In addition to their important role in committee business, meetings also provide a space for conversation and problem-solving. They facilitate collaboration between committee members, and they also play an invaluable role in providing opportunities to network with people in the same industry or others from another industry who might have shared interests.

“Meetings, and ASTM’s role as a solutions provider with the power to convene such a gathering, are a fundamental part of our process and philosophy,” explains Pat Picariello, director of developmental operations for ASTM. “To a large extent, ASTM standards derive their relevance from the breadth and diversity of participation shaping their content. Whether to establish a new activity, chart a course of action for an existing activity, discuss or resolve dissenting opinions, or simply provide a collegial environment for stakeholder groups to gather, meetings ground the ASTM process, and they help the voluntary membership evolve their standards needs from research to market, from theory to practice.”

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Meetings are internally diverse as well. There are many informal or educational activities at any given committee meeting. Training sessions focus on providing an orientation to ASTM and familiarizing attendees with the standards development and ballot processes. These sessions provide an invaluable resource for new members who want to learn more about the process, as well as for experienced members who would like to refresh their skills.

There are also several programs oriented toward students and early-career professionals. The Emerging Professionals program offers financial assistance and development programs for up to ten candidates per committee week, providing support and training for newer ASTM members.

Committees themselves also sometimes host their own introductory events, designed to ensure that new participants have a chance to meet fellow members and have a voice in the process.

Socializing is also a key element of a committee meeting. Events often feature members lunches, receptions, and anniversary celebrations. They even leave time for exploring. Now that in-person events have returned, one of the key advantages of meetings is the chance to travel and visit a new or favorite destination. In the end, committee meetings are more than an opportunity to talk business – they are experiences designed to bring the standards community together.

Workshops, Seminars, Conferences, and Symposia

In addition to committee meetings, there are several other event formats that allow people to participate in important opportunities for discussion, learning, and collaboration.

There are dozens of events such as workshops, seminars, conferences, and symposia happening throughout the year. These formats sometimes are held in conjunction with committee meetings, and some events are available as in-person, hybrid, or virtual events. The function and topic of events are flexible to suit the needs of a committee or the practical concerns related to a given technology, industry, or other contexts.

Workshops present a more informal setting than a conference or symposium. There are 25-30 workshops held each year, often in conjunction with committee weeks. These events also are held in hybrid or virtual formats, and they feature 5-10 speakers during a half- or single-day event. Seminars are similar, but typically last for a few hours and feature 1-3 speakers. It is not required that either event leads to a publication.

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The scope of these events tends to be focused on topics related to a specific practice, industry, or committee area. For example, the committees on packaging (D10) and primary barrier packaging (F02) have organized a workshop to be held at the April 2023 committee week in Denver, Colorado. The event speakers will highlight practical applications of specific test methods and review updated safety-packaging requirements for consumer products.

Symposia usually are 1-2-day events, while a conference can last 2-5 days. Both typically feature 10-15 speakers per day. Symposia require a publication, while conferences do not.

One recent example of a successful symposium was the 20th International Symposium on Zirconium in the Nuclear Industry in June 2022, organized by the committee on reactive and refractive metals and alloys (B10). In addition to convening international expert to discuss the topic, the annual event also leads to a collection of Selected Technical Papers.

Conferences follow a model that is familiar to presenters at academic or research conferences. As an example, the committee on vehicle-pavement systems (E17) is organizing a December conference, to be held in tandem with the committee’s meeting, “Technologies for the Mitigation of Aircraft Landing Performance Related Runway Excursion Conference.” The event is designed to provide awareness and space for discussion around new and emerging standards, regulatory guidance, technology, and sensors whose intended function is to support the mitigation of runway excursion risk through the sensing and transmission of runway condition assessment-related data.

Centers of Excellence

In addition to committees, two key organizers of events are the Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence (AM CoE) and the Exo Technology Center of Excellence (ET CoE).

Founded in July 2018, the AM CoE conducts strategic R&D to advance standards across all aspects of AM. The Center’s goal is to accelerate the development and adoption of emerging technologies, bringing ASTM and its membership together with representatives from government, academia, and industry in the process.

The ET CoE was established in 2019 to accelerate the growth of exo technology. The Center similarly supports R&D and a wide range of other activities that benefit the exo/exosuit industry. By hosting consortia, coordinating research and testing, and providing a wide range of learning and training opportunities, the ET CoE acts as a hub for knowledge, resources, and leadership in the
exo field.

The ET CoE has hosted several types of events, including webinars and roundtables. In August 2023, the Center will sponsor the Exo Games, an initiative to promote student involvement in exo technology, hosted by University of Central Lancashire (Lancashire, UK). The event brings together university teams of STEM students, who compete to design, build, and test a prize-winning, self-contained exoskeleton.

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Similarly, the AM CoE organizes a wide range of events, from workshops and trainings to webinars and conferences. One of the AM CoE’s major annual events is the International Conference on Additive Manufacturing (ICAM). Bringing together ASTM committees and external stakeholders from around the globe, ICAM has gathered experts to exchange cutting-edge knowledge and viewpoints about AM research and standardization.

ICAM is typically a five-day event, featuring several hundred presentations, 10 panel sessions, and 4-5 keynote talks. The conference also features short certificate courses and provides ample opportunities for networking. In addition, ICAM features several networking opportunities, including receptions, awards ceremonies, and last year’s 2022 Women in 3D Printing Happy Hour.

The 2022 ICAM event was held October 31-November 4, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. The seventh annual flagship event from the Center, the event focused on a theme, “Research to Application through Standardization.” Attracting over 850 participants from more than 35 countries, the event was ASTM’s largest scientific conference and featured more than 475 presentations, 27 symposia, nine panel discussions, and four keynote addresses. There were also four short certificate courses, focused on topics such as “Probabilistic Fatigue Modeling in AM” and “AM Process Development to Achieve Optimized Material Properties,” led by experts from ASTM as well as outside specialists in the field.

Whatever the event, big or small, CoE events join meetings, symposia, and the broader range of ASTM offerings in encouraging forward-thinking discussions, all motivated by a sense of the value of standards for our world.

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