By Rick Andrew
Many of you already know that the NSF/ANSI Standards are developed through a consensus process. Consensus means that interested stakeholders have a chance to participate in and guide development of the Standards. These stakeholders are represented in a group known as a joint committee, because it includes joint representation from all stakeholder groups. See Figure 1 for a graphical representation of the stakeholders represented in the NSF Joint Committee on Drinking Water Treatment Units.
Joint committees have a purview that includes one or more NSF/ANSI Standards, forming a structure designed to match the expertise of the committee members with the essential knowledge and experience required to develop the best possible standards. Figure 2 includes the Standards covered under the auspices of the NSF Joint Committee on Drinking Water Treatment Units.
I often get questions regarding membership in the joint committee. Often these questions arise when folks first learn that NSF does not simply issue forth the requirements of the standards – that there actually is a joint committee. Or, people may feel that they have expertise and a desire to contribute to the process, and they want to know how they can become formally involved. Let’s take a look at membership policies, and also at the ways that people can contribute and become involved.
Contributions to the Standards Development Process
Before we get into the details regarding actual joint committee membership, let’s first look at five ways to participate in the standards development process without actually becoming a member:
- Observers are permitted at NSF joint committee meetings. Anyone who wishes to observe a joint committee meeting can contact NSF and ask permission to attend. Attendance of observers is at the discretion of the chair of the joint committee. In practice, this means that all who request to attend are allowed to do so as long as the meeting room has sufficient capacity.
- Anyone can submit an issue to a joint committee for consideration. A blank “issue document” can be accessed from NSF’s web site at http://www.nsf.org/business/standards_and_publications/continuous_maintenance.asp , completed, and submitted to the joint committee for consideration at the next meeting. Meetings are held twice each year, typically in May and October. Submitters who are not joint committee members are encouraged to attend the meeting to present their issue and participate in the related discussion. If the joint committee determines that the issue has merit and work should be done to address it, the committee may decide to form an ad hoc working group called a “task group”.
- Participation in a task group is open to anyone who is interested. Joint committee members and non-members alike contribute to the standards development process by chairing and participating in these ad hoc working groups. Most of the work is done through research, both information based and laboratory based, with meetings occurring via teleconference. Reports of progress are always provided at joint committee meetings.
- Information regarding meetings, issue submittals, and other standards related topics is available via NSF’s web site at http://www.nsf.org/business/standards_and_publications/ .
- The official mechanism for public comment on draft standards is through BSR-108. Proposals for new standards and proposals to revise, reaffirm, or withdraw approval of an existing standard are submitted to ANSI using the Board of Standards Review (BSR)-108 form for listing in ANSI Standards Action in order to provide an opportunity for public comment. ANSI Standards Action may be viewed online at http://www.ansi.org/news_publications/periodicals/standards_action/standards_action.aspx?menuid=7 .
Joint Committee Membership
NSF maintains specific written policies for standards development and maintenance. Because these policies are used in the development of NSF voluntary consensus American National Standards, they meet the requirements of due process as defined in the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Essential Requirements: Due Process Requirements for American National Standards. In addition, these Policies are consistent with U.S. Federal government requirements for voluntary standards development.
The policies address a number of topics, including openness of participation in the process, committee structure, public notification of standards development, communication within the committee and externally, committee meetings, balloting, public review, and other topics in addition to membership.
- Membership shall include persons directly and materially affected by the standard(s) being developed. “Directly and materially affected” may be defined by the membership interest categories presented in Figure 3.
- Each member is requested to serve a minimum three-year term. When a member completes a term, resigns, or is otherwise unable to serve, all applications on file for the applicable interest category shall be considered for filling the vacant applicable position.
- The recommended maximum number of members is 34. Committee size may be increased by the Chair if there is a clear need for additional representation. If the committee size is increased, balance must be maintained.
- There may not be more than one member from a given organization or company.
Members are selected by the Chair of the committee, based on applications submitted to NSF and retained on file. The Chair considers the need for members in a specific interest category to maintain balance, the expertise of the applicants, and the previous participation and contribution to the process through mechanisms identified above by the applicants when making selections.
Performance Based Criteria
In order to accommodate qualified individuals who wish to become members of the NSF DWTU Joint Committee but have not yet had an opportunity, and in order to foster productiveness from the group, NSF is initiating a pilot program for performance based membership criteria that will run from June 1, 2007 to May 31, 2008. Members will be given numerical scores based on participation and productiveness. This scoring system will include such factors as:
- Voting record
- Meeting attendance
- Issue paper submittal
- Task group membership and participation
At end of May 2008, the scores will be tallied and each member given a rank in their interest category. The lowest ranked member will be removed and replaced by an applicant on file, if applications are on file for that interest category.
A Voluntary Process Relies on the Efforts of Volunteers
I hope this information has helped to increase awareness of the structure of the group responsible for development of the NSF/ANSI DWTU Standards, as well as providing readers with options and ideas for ways in which you may participate. Future development of these standards relies on the efforts of interested and affected individuals just like you.
The next time you think to yourself, “NSF ought to have a standard for that,” or, “This standard ought to be changed,” I would request that you consider becoming involved in the process, taking the initiative, and working to further the scope and quality of the NSF/ANSI DWTU Standards. After all, we can all be an integral part of this process, and one that is necessary for it to move forward.
About the author
Rick Andrew is the Operations Manager of the NSF Drinking Water Treatment Units Program. Prior to joining NSF, his previous experience was in the area of analytical and environmental chemistry consulting. Andrew has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and an MBA from the University of Michigan. He can be reached at 1-800-NSF-MARK or email: Andrew@nsf.org .