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Barriers to Participation in International Standards Development, Challenges for Small Businesses, and Transparency among Topics Discussed

December 19, 2023

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hosted a virtual public listening session to receive stakeholder input on questions posed in a request for information on the Implementation of the United States Government National Standards Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technology (USG NSSCET) on Dec. 19. 

The event included opening remarks from Tarun Chhabra, Senior Director for Technology and National Security at the National Security Council, and Dr. Laurie Locascio, Director of NIST and the Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology, as well as an overview of the USG NSSCET by Dr. Jayne Morrow, Senior Advisor for Standards Policy at NIST. 

The event featured four listening sessions led by NIST staff: Brandyi Phillips, National Standards Strategy Advisor (Group 1); Dimitrios Meritis, National Standards Strategy Advisor (Group 2); Dr. Nicholas Barbosa, National Standards Strategy Advisor (Group 3); and Dr. Jayne Morrow, Senior Advisor Standards Policy (Group 4). Listening session groups heard testimony from a variety of stakeholders who each prepared five minutes of remarks. Stakeholders hailed from numerous professional societies, businesses, organizations, and interest groups.

Stakeholders shared their perspectives, which were informed by domain-specific experiences. In all four groups, stakeholders spoke to challenges associated with participating in international standards development. Speakers highlighted the unique barriers that start-ups and small- and medium-sized enterprises face in standards participation. They also raised concerns regarding education, transparency, and resources for effective standards development. 

Participating in Standards Development

Many stakeholders spoke to challenges associated with participating in international standards development. Speakers agreed that standards development carries a resource burden that is often unappreciated. Participating in standards development 

organizations requires considerable time, travel, and financial costs. Some speakers highlighted the desire for financial support or grants in order to close this gap. Additionally, participants often receive no recognition for their commitment to standardization work.  

Financial Barriers for Small Enterprises

Several speakers highlighted the unique challenges that organizations with fewer resources - and relevant subject matter experts - must overcome in standards. Standards for critical and emerging technologies are essential to ensure integrity, compliance, privacy, and safety. Still, there is a financial cost associated with accessing and implementing standards. Small organizations pay a disproportionally larger sum to access standards. Information asymmetry and standard essential patents can block small businesses from market access. Likewise, start-ups and small- and medium-sized enterprises have fewer resources to support the time, travel, and financial costs for subject matter experts to participate in standards development. 

Challenges with International Standards Meetings

Multiple speakers expressed frustration with hosting international standards meetings in the U.S. Some international subject matter experts cannot easily travel to the U.S., creating incentives to hold standardization meetings elsewhere. Locating standardization work in the U.S.  should be a priority. Holding standards meetings in the U.S. broadens participation for domestic stakeholders. It would also benefit smaller organizations, as it is less resource-intensive to attend meetings in the U.S. than abroad. Stakeholders agreed that the U.S. private sector-led standards system is a source of innovation and international competitiveness. There was a call for the U.S.  to champion its status as the premier location for collaboration on cutting-edge technology and standards development. 

Workforce Development and Resource Needs

Another theme among speakers was supporting the workforce with standards-related educational tools and resources. Some stakeholders expressed a desire for the U.S. government to dedicate more resources to curriculum development on the U.S. standards system. Communicating the benefits of standards to students at the university level is essential to ensure broad, future standards participation. Some speakers highlighted the need for easier access to standardization information for critical and emerging technologies. Government-led initiatives could communicate new trends in standards development, as well as the maturity and progress of standards for new technologies. This is especially beneficial for start-ups and small- and medium-sized enterprises. 

Multiple speakers noted that subject matter experts in industry could serve as excellent leaders in standards development organizations for critical and emerging technologies. Providing educational resources would benefit subject matter experts and foster participation at the leadership level in critical standards development activities. Speakers noted that start-ups and small- and medium-sized enterprises are often overlooked in information-sharing arrangements and strategic partnerships in favor of established market leaders. 

Nomenclature and Terminology for Critical and Emerging Technology

Additional discussion covered the importance of clear definitions for critical and emerging technologies that are universally understood. Global participation leads to the most robust and applicable standards, and global cooperation rests on a shared understanding. 

Prioritization of Critical and Emerging Technology Standardization

Lastly, stakeholders shared thoughts on where to target efforts for standards development among critical and emerging technologies. A few referenced the need for the government to clearly define and prioritize from the list of critical and emerging technologies to foster participation and leadership.


Created April 16, 2024