Reinforcing IEC links with academia

Teaching about standards – the Academic Day in China

By Philippa Martin-King

The May 2011 e-tech gave forward notice of the Academic Day conference being held by the WSC (World Standards Cooperation), a cooperation established in 2001 by the three world-leading standardization organizations IEC, ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and ITU (International Telecommunication Union). Here in retrospect are some of the highlights of the event that was organized in conjunction with the annual ICES (the International Cooperation on Education and Standardization) workshop.

Hosted by Jiliang University in China
Hosted by Jiliang University in China

Facilitating contact between learning institutions and industry

The Academic Day, aimed at facilitating contact among academics, industrial leaders, experts and SDOs (Standards Development Organizations), took place in China in Hangzhou on 29 June 2011. It was held in conjunction with the ICES workshop which allowed it to take advantage of synergies that exist between educational institutions and standardization organizations. The two events were hosted by Professor Song Mingshun from China Jiliang University.

ICES – the only association for academics involved in standardization

Commenting on the event, IEC Standardization Strategy Manager, Jack Sheldon, said "This form of cooperation between the WSC (World Standards Cooperation) and ICES is tremendously important. It reinforces links between the IEC and academia and opens up possibilities to make the role of standardization better known among young professionals just starting out in the world of technology and business.

"Holding our Academia day at the same time as the ICES workshop provides us with the possibility to network with a number of key people who are involved in research, business and intellectual property in academic institutions", said Sheldon. "It's really useful, not only for the IEC, but for all organizations involved in international standardization. Indeed, ICES is the only global association that exists for academics connected to the world of standardization."

Standards still not perceived as holding importance

The afternoon session, chaired by John Hill who is a professor at Pennsylvania State University, US (United States), was part of a larger series of discussions covering Standardization Research. One of the speakers, Dong Geun Choi, who is a Senior Researcher at KSA (the Korean Standard Association), pointed out how standardization lends itself to a multi-learning platform that involves both business and engineering. Bruce Harding, a professor from Purdue University, US, and Chairman of ISO/TC 10, Technical product documentation, was quick to point out how standardization was not yet included in courses. "Because it won't make money for them," he said, "it has to be embedded in another course. Standards don't yet have enough importance", concluded Harding.

Insufficient provision made for including standardization in academic programmes

A general overview of the perception of standards within the global academic community shows there are still broad differences between the Western and the Eastern worlds.

Masami Tanaka, who is Vice-president of JISC (the Japanese Industrial Standards Committee) and President of JSA (the Japanese Standards Association), Japan, pointed out how much standardization and IPR (intellectual property) material is available in Japan. Indeed, standardization is an integral part of many academic programmes. He asked other attendees how they felt standards were used and implemented in their own parts of the world.

Henk J. de Vries who is a professor at the Dutch Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, and one of the leading Europeans in standardization matters from an academic point of view, commented that standardization tended not to be taught as a single discipline, but be included in other programmes, whether at a national or company level. The Korean Dong Geun Choi corroborated this saying that standardization lent itself to multi-disciplinary education, whether in engineering or in business. However, in the Western world, as pointed out by Wilfried Hesser, professor and Chair of Standardization and Technical Drawing, Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg, Germany, standardization is not seen to have economic benefit.

"What we need," said Hill "is a standards model of sufficient impact to help academics demonstrate the strategic value of standards". Tanaka commented that it would take additional research in order to implement this and, furthermore, it would be necessary to make further provision for including Conformity Assessment in a programme.

Small and medium enterprises still don't get it!

The feeling that there is still insufficient teaching about standardization in Europe was summarized by Hesser. "Management in SMEs still don't get it…", he said, "there's a standardization deficit at management level."

Indeed, it can be difficult for senior management to understand the advantages of participating actively in international standardization. Since many top managers have little notion of the positive effect that participating in standards development can have on their business and markets, they often see the cost of involving their own experts as an unnecessary financial burden. "In business, particularly in small and medium enterprises, standards are perceived as being a clerical activity and of little strategic importance. As a result, the subject is rarely taught", commented Hesser.

One of the channels for making these facts better known is through academia. Participants agreed that academics in some countries still need recommendations as to how to go about putting their standardization work into practice. They feel they need more guidance, together with examples of strengthening experiences, the possibility to share materials and cross-referenced resources. Newell Hampson-Jones, from BSI (the British Standards Institute) United Kingdom suggested that social media platforms such as LinkedIn would be a suitable resource for setting up a best practice site where people could share their experiences.

IEC and ISO manage a repository of material for academic institutions

One source of information already exists. It is the repository of material maintained by the IEC and ISO specifically for academic institutions. The online service provides suitable documentation about the benefits of international standardization that can be helpful for teaching purposes and inclusion in course syllabuses. Participants agreed they would continue cooperation between WSC and ICES, choosing locations jointly and establishing a draft programme six months in advance.

Next meeting in 2012 in Indonesia

The next ICES meeting is likely to be held in 2012 in Indonesia sometime before the end of May.

Hosted by Jiliang University in China Hosted by Jiliang University in China
Held in conjunction with the ICES workshop Held in conjunction with the ICES workshop
Speaking at the Academic Day. Speaking at the Academic Day.