International Statistical Standards: A Guide for the Uninitiated
Abstract: International statistical standards provide an abundance of tools for potential use by practitioners. The collection of these standards can be thought of as constituting a toolbox including a variety of statistical methodologies. These documents can be extraordinarily helpful, if one or more of them match the problem at hand. For applications involving commerce with countries belonging to the ISO community, the use of an international standard provides immediate credibility—particularly with in the areas of acceptance sampling and measurement method accuracy. Munitions, food quality control, and inter-laboratory testing are some areas for which statistical standards have played an important role. However, international statistical standards are not a panacea, as the range of topics covered is limited to material covered in sixty-eight published documents (as of 17 August 2010). There is a loyal users community for international statistical standards but the statistical profession as a whole (especially in the United States) is fairly oblivious to them. The United States, unlike other ISO participant countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan, operates on a fully-volunteer basis with its technical experts (administrative support is, however, provided by ASQ and ANSI). For US technical experts, it is a “labor of love” to progress documents through the stages of conception, working draft, committee draft, draft international standard and published standard while interacting throughout with internationally recognized authorities. At each stage, experts from over fifty countries could provide detailed comments, each of which needs to be addressed by the working group responsible for the document. On the other hand, the final published document will have survived an incredible amount of scrutiny and reviewing, leading to documents that are very clean. The purpose of this mini-paper is to introduce the international statistical standards documents to those not acquainted with them and their structure. The existing ISO site (http://www.iso.org/iso/store.htm ) for purchasing of the documents presumes a certain level of understanding of the standards arena and does not, for example, explain the limited scope of coverage. In addition to outlining the present situation, this paper also describes exciting work in progress and the opportunities for technical experts to become involved in this area.
Keywords: Acceptance sampling - Measurement method accuracy - Measurement systems validation - Bulk sampling - Interpretation of data - Statistical terminology - Statistical process control - Inter-laboratory testing