This is some audio that didn't make it into a previous episode on standards development. We join the conversation as Brian talks with ASTM and industry veteran, Glenn Waite about consensus standards and voting within ASTM committees.
AASHTO re:source Q&A Podcast Transcript
Season 3, Episode17: From the Cutting Room Floor - Consensus Standards
Recorded: June 23, 2022
Released: August 30, 2022
Host: Brian Johnson, AASHTO Accreditation Program Manager
Guest: Glenn Waite, Western Rock Products
Note: Please reference AASHTO re:source and AASHTO Accreditation Program policies and procedures online for official guidance on this, and other topics.
Transcribed by Kim Swanson and Descript.com
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[00:00:00] Announcer: Welcome to AASHTO resource Q & A. We're taking time to discuss construction materials, testing, and inspection with people in the know from exploring testing problems and solutions to laboratory best practices and quality management, we're covering topics important to you.
[00:00:18] Kim: Hi, I'm Kim Swanson. And in this episode, we're going to share some audio that didn't make it into a previous episode on standards development. This specific topic today is consensus standards and voting within ASTM committees. We joined the conversation as Brian talks with ASTM and industry veteran, Glenn Waite.
[00:00:39] Brian: There's also another angle to the makeup of a committee. Uh, that's really important, especially when we're talking about consensus standards. Now consensus standards are often more widely used and more widely accepted. Because they are consensus of, uh, whatever that body is. And, and part of the responsibility of a standards development organization is to make sure that they get diverse opinions from different people in the industry. Regulators and, producers and equipment suppliers and users and research and all that. Uh, so that gets into. Another category. That's been kind of hot topic in ASTM lately. Do you want to talk about that at all? Classification of membership?
[00:01:19] Glenn: Well, there are two groups, those that have official votes and those that do not. So again, anyone, whether they're in the asphalt industry or academia, or just your neighbor across the street can join ASTM and be a voting member, as long as they meet the criteria for that to determine whether you get to vote and actually. Anyone can vote as well, but the official vote becomes important when it comes time to resolve problems in the balloting or in the, in the voting, because it's just like any other situation, much like Congress, you have different committees. Subcommittees will oversee certain laws or those types of things. Again, each. So, each subcommittee will have voting members and non-voting members. And a person can be a member of many subcommittees and they may have a vote on one committee, but they may not have a vote on the other, on another subcommittee or different committee to committee.
[00:02:20] Glenn: So, it comes down to those that have votes. Everybody votes and it's, it's not just, you know, well, either it it's either yes or no. And, and that's the end of it. Once that determination of whether you get to vote or not, or get to uphold voting, uh, comes down to what your classification is. And as you mentioned, I mentioned earlier, you know, we have producers, uh, and the question is, well, what is a producer? I work for a company that produces asphalt products, even though I'm not involved in that asphalt process, my company is a producer, so my vote is a producer. So, others are, users, which, and this is kind of where the ambiguity comes in is, well, yeah, we're a user too, because we're using the standard, but a user would be more like a commercial laboratory. Someone that's not actually producing the product. Or coming up with the specifications for an asphalt product or an aggregate product or that type of thing.
[00:03:20] Glenn: So, and then you have just general interest that might be, um, you know, a, a university or an engineering firm, um, like an agency, a D O T or federal. Aviation, federal highways, those types of things, although they could also use because they're using the standard be considered. And so that's left up to the subcommittee chair or the committee chair. To determine where you fall in that classification. The importance is, because it's a consensus, you can't just have all producers. Producers, meaning, we've got a vested financial interest in what that method is or that specification is whereas users. Also maybe have a financial interest in that they're running the test and charging somebody, but you can't have any more producers voting members on a subcommittee than you have everybody else.
[00:04:14] Glenn: So, you know, users, general interest, you can have unclassified. So, the idea is you, you can't have producers outweighing the others. And I think you were involved in ASTM several years ago, where we had an issue where a product was coming on the market. And the producer tried to, for lack of a better term stack the deck to be able to get this, product to come through. So there was, were some quiet issues for some time there, but that's the idea, but there are other subcommittees that I serve on that I'm classified as a user. In any subcommittee, if you are classified as a producer, whatever subcommittee that's on, then that becomes your vote at main. So even though I'm only a user in a subcommittee and I can vote there as a user. At main, my vote is classified as a producer.
[00:05:09] Brian: That's been a hot topic the last couple of years. We know that it's inconsistent in some cases, largely I'd say it hasn't really mattered that much, particularly in D04, because we really haven't had any bad situations where the rules have been subverted to somebody's individual gain. But let's talk about that. You know, are there any safeguards in place if there is abuse of any of the ASTM regulations? Like what would ASTM do for example. If you have a situation where somebody really, uh, let's say, in a specification, they specified only their product could be used for this particular application. Is there any recourse or is there any structure in place? They can stop something like that from happening.
[00:05:5] Glenn: There's a couple, I mean, at the basic level, somebody would develop a standard, a standard, and, and I was going to mention, so we have standard methods, we have standard practices, we have standard guides. Uh, and so as a standard is developed, you know, for the first time, or as it goes through revisions, again, any of those revisions or in the standards are going to be voted on by people. And so, if there's something. For whatever reason, not just the reason that you brought up somebody's opposed to a certain language. They vote negative. Say, no, I don't vote to approve this. That that goes through at the subcommittee level. And the purpose for the meetings, the face-to-face meetings, one of the major purposes is to resolve those negatives. So, we're in the process and we use D3666 as an example, we've got a ballot that we've ballot several times at the subcommittee.
[00:06:42] Glenn: And at this point we haven't gotten everybody to approve it. We've gotten negatives. So, at the meeting, We talk about those negatives. And one of the responsibilities is we have to decide as a subcommittee, whether the negative, the rationale, let's put forward, whether it's a good rationale, I don't want to make it sound subjective, but to become a standard. It has to be consensus. It has to have so many votes. And if there are any negatives, they have to be overcome. So as long as the negative, whether it's a subcommittee or at main committee that has to be addressed. So, we get together and those that are able to attend the meeting. And of course, we have WebEx, if we need to, if we don't have a quorum. If we don't have enough people there to, to be able to make that decision, then we send it out as a ballot item that says so and so voted negative. For thus and sole reasons. So, the subcommittee debates that, and looks a lot to the task group chair. Who's, you know, maybe the, the expert to say, well, you know, yeah, this person got, got a point, so we'll withdraw the ballot, and we'll make the changes and we'll send it back again.
[00:07:49] Glenn: That helps that process. If weeds out those things that, that become unpalatable for one reason or another, or a person can say, well, they've got a good point, but. We really think the standard, the way we balloted it is the way it needs to be. So, at that point, there'll be a motion. We follow Robert's rules, of order uh, motion to find their negative, non-persuasive. They don't persuade us as the subcommittee that their negative is, is valid. And there'll be some rationale. We don't like it. He's bald, you know? No, I'm kidding. But, uh, you know, there, there there's some rationale. We find him non-persuasive because of yada, yada, yada, and then there's a vote. And that vote then has to, has to pass if it doesn't, if there are more people end up voting saying, no, we do think he's persuasive. Then that discontinues the ballot item. If the majority finds and this actually, I think it's two-thirds. I can't remember now it's more than just 50, 50%. And again, based on the voting members of that, subcommittee
[00:08:52] Glenn: if they go ahead and find him nonpersuasive, then that negative goes up to main. Uh, well, I'm getting a little ahead of myself ballot item then can go forward because it was just, uh, balloted at the subcommittee level, everything has to be ballot at the main committee level. So, the person voting negative will get a chance to see the ballot again. Or if any changes. Then at that point, if it's a main ballot item still goes to the subcommittee and goes through the process I just talked about. But then if it's found nonpersuasive, then it goes to the committee, all the members of the committee then have the chance to weigh in on whether that negative is persuasive or not. From the standpoint that the, the chairman of that subcommittee will make a motion to the main committee that they uphold the motion of the subcommittee and then there's discussion and, and it's voted on. And, and at that point, if the main committee still finds it nonpersuasive, then it becomes the new version of the standard.
[00:09:45] Glenn: No above that ASTM has, uh, committee on technical operations that, can override even the. Committee. In fact, I had personally had the experience many years ago of having a, a standard go all the way through, up to the committee. The committee voted to, to handle it. And COTCO said, no, you can't have that standard because it was one that was originally developed by, uh, another standards organization. There was no ASTM standard for reducing asphalt to sample size.
[00:10:27] Brian: Right, right. I do recall that one as well. Yeah. I was wondering if you had had any other experiences with COTCO so that's sort of like the Supreme Court. Yeah. The Supreme Court of ASTM that's a good analogy. And they seem like they seldom come into play at least in, in the committees that I'm involved in with any big conflicts. But I imagine that some of the other ones probably get a little bit more action at that level. But yeah, so there are safeguards in place, not just among, you know, kind of self-policing by the committees and subcommittees themselves, which I'd say is, is highly effective. People want their ideas to be well received and the chairs want those changes to be well received because if they're well received by the committee members or likely good changes, uh, that will be, easily adopted by the users of the standards, without much issue. So, I think it's a good process in general, and it's led to some positive changes.
[00:11:25] Kim: If you want to hear more from this conversation with Brian and Glenn, you can check out our previous episode on standards of development with Glenn Waite.
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