OUTCOME AND ACTION ITEMS
1 The event
The WSC Academic Week 2010 took place on 5-9 July 2010 in Geneva.
The initiative was conceived as a way to promote the dialogue between academic institutions and the international standards community, to raise awareness and to foster cooperation and possible joint initiatives.
It was attended by more than 100 participants from over 30 countries, primarily representatives of national standards bodies (NSBs), standards developing organizations (SDOs), university professors and other academics. Invited speakers from industry and international organizations completed the picture.
In addition, about 75 persons were able to access the conference remotely (the conference was web cast using the webinar function of the Citrix software used by ISO/CS).
The programme was designed to cover a plurality of topics concerning the relation between standardization and academia. The first two days of the week were dedicated to the ICES1 workshop, with a view to leverage on already existing aggregations of parties with an active interest in these matters.
A summary of the topics covered during the various days is given below.
Day 1 and 2: The various dimensions of education about standardization
Presentations and discussion were focused on:
- the analysis of the different types of needs to be met by education about standardization
- providing examples of academic programmes and stimulating discussion between “users” and “providers” of education services
- sharing experiences and ideas concerning educational tools, such as case studies, simulations and games, aiming at raising awareness and enriching the education experience.
Day 3: Standards and academia: Recognizing academic excellence
In the morning session, ISO, IEC and ITU presented the most important initiatives pursued by each organization to stimulate cooperation with educational institutes and to recognize academic excellence (ISO Award, ITU Kaleidoscope, IEC Lecture series and school competition).
In this context, the ISO Secretary-General announced a new initiative (the standards simulation game competition) which, hopefully, will develop as a joint WSC project.
The afternoon session was then focused on the sharing of information about initiatives undertaken in the various countries (including e.g. dialogue with governments or cooperation between NSBs, SDOs and universities) to develop and promote education about standardization
Day 4: Cooperation with institutions of the Lake Geneva region and academic networks
In the morning session, the University of Geneva (represented by the Rector and the Dean of the faculty of Economic and Social sciences), the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the University of Lausanne, presented views, and academic activities of their institutes covering standardization.
In this context, Prof. Morard, Dean of the faculty of Economic and Social sciences of the University of Geneva, announced the creation of a new Masters programme in standardization, social regulation and sustainable development, developed in partnership with ISO and SNV (Schweizerische Normen-Vereinigung, the Swiss national standards body).
The afternoon session was dedicated to the theme of academic networks dealing with standards related matters (such as EURAS, the European Academy for Standardization).
Day 5: Economic and social benefits of standards
The last day was dedicated to presenting and discussing research, studies, methodologies and projects covering the theme, with particular attention to the cooperation between International Standardization organizations and national standards bodies with academic institutions.
All the presentations and recordings of the various sessions are available on the conference web site.
In general terms, the feed-back received from the participants indicated high satisfaction about the initiative, considered timely and appropriate. The quality and comprehensiveness of the programme was appreciated, along with the opportunity of sharing experiences with colleagues from national standards bodies and academia.
2 Results and directions for future action
The event was instrumental:
- to capture and discuss company and institutional needs to be met by education about standardization;
- to review the plurality of education programmes available in the various world regions;
- to share experiences about education materials and tools;
- to highlight initiatives undertaken in various countries (including e.g. dialogue with governments or cooperation between NSBs, SDOs and universities) to develop and promote education about standardization; and
- to discuss how to share information and best practices more effectively and further develop cooperation between NSBs SDOs and academia.
For ISO, IEC and ITU the Academic Week was also an excellent opportunity to establish or strengthen the link with the academic institutions at proximity (UNIGE, EPFL and UNIL) – these are important relations that need to be carefully cultivated and further developed.
In terms of directions for future actions, eight key items emerging from the discussions are summarized below.
1. Orientation of academic programmes
Universities need to serve two kind of users, i.e. students and people already active as workforce (managers, professionals, technicians and others). Focus and content of didactic programmes for these two target groups should be carefully structured to match their different needs.
However, a significant recommendation coming from the future employers (especially from industry) of students having received some form of education in standardization, concerned the need for better coverage of the following specific topics, for both target groups:
- benefits of standards (a matter strictly associated with providing sound economic justification to the use of standards and to invest in standards development activities which is becoming ever more important);
- soft skills (e.g. interpersonal communication, behaviour in a consensus-oriented, international and multi-cultural environment) – abilities essential to support the effective and efficient participation in standards development;
- standards and public policies (differences and relations): a very important and most often neglected area of expertise, needed by public officers concerned with technical regulations and agreements covering a large variety of fields, as well as by professionals from the private sectors.
The relations between standards and intellectual property and standards and innovation were also indicated as priority fields to be addressed, but the gap with what can be achieved through the already existing education programmes was somehow considered less acute.
Examples of surveys conducted with graduate students (now part of the workforce) were considered with great interest.
Whenever possible, a more systematic use of surveys was recommended, with the objective of capturing fresh and structured feed-back on the value of education about standardization and on the unmatched needs.
3. Education modules and related materials (existing or under development)
Many presentations and contributions from the audience described or made reference to the significant variety of education materials developed or under development by academic institutions in many countries.
A coordinated effort is needed to build an international inventory (and eventually a repository) of these materials, and to promote exchange of information with a view to allow all the interested parties to take advantage of what is already available and to better orient future efforts.
A first initiative has been announced in Europe, which needs to be followed-up and complemented at the international level.
4. Case studies (and simulations)
Case studies were considered very important: an essential instrument to complement lectures and provide concrete and effective knowledge on a variety of high priority subject matters. (Simulations were also considered similarly important – although it is understood that developing good quality simulations is more complex).
Several organizations are currently making efforts to develop case studies (which may have, of course, different scope and orientation), ICES organizes a case studies competition, and mechanisms of coordination similar to those proposed for item 2 (modules and materials) would be most welcome.
5. Lectures by standards professionals
Contributions from company experts and national standards bodies staff to university courses were considered very valuable.
Participation of standards professional in the provision of lectures should be considered more often in the design and organization of university courses and cooperation between universities and standards professionals (from NSBs, SDOs, companies and other types of organizations – e.g. government, NGOs, etc.) should be effectively promoted.
Universities interested and engaged in research activities covering standards-related matters would welcome support by and cooperation with NSBs, SDOs, companies and other types of organizations – particularly in relation to available data, access to reliable data sources and data capture activities.
The forms of recognitions introduced by ISO, IEC and ITU were highly appreciated by the academic community.
More efforts should be taken by the three international organizations and their members to promote these initiatives at the national level, with a view to raise the awareness and interest of a broader number of academic institutions.
8. NSBs and Academia
This theme was extensively discussed throughout the entire week.
It was recognized that interest and initiatives of NSBs on education about standardization have substantially increased over the past few years and this is now an important agenda item for many of them.
Depending on the country, context and conditions vary and several examples were presented and discussed – including cooperation agreements between the NSB and the Ministry of education (and, in some cases, definition of a “national policy” of education about standardization), specific MoUs between the NSB and universities, coordinated (and government funded) actions taken by the NSB to develop (or to support the development of) programmes and materials for universities, establishment of Standardization Chairs through NSB’s endowment, and many other forms of cooperation.
It is clear that approaches and agreements depend on the specificity of each country.
However, a clear point of consensus concerned the request by academia for an increased and stronger role of NSBs in supporting education about standardization and cooperation with universities, which could concern most of the issues outlined in the items above.
Finally, the development of an information resource at the international level providing info on existing forms and terms of cooperation between NSBs and universities would be highly appreciated.
1) The International Cooperation on Education about Standardization (ICES) is an informal network of individuals and organizations interested in education about standardization which, since 2006, organizes an annual workshop on the theme. (back)