Mark Esser’s picture

By: Mark Esser

Alot has changed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) during the past 120 years. For one thing, we were known as the National Bureau of Standards for the first 87 years of our existence. Then, in 1988, we became the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to reflect our agency’s expanding mission and a renewed emphasis on boosting the competitiveness of American industry.

But as much as things change, they also stay the same. While much of our early work has been baked into the American economy, NIST continues to be a world leader in advancing measurement science. We still provide many of our original services, though the techniques and technologies have evolved.

Multiple Authors
By: Joseph Near, David Darais, Kaitlin Boeckl

Does your organization want to aggregate and analyze data to learn trends, but in a way that protects privacy? Or perhaps you are already using differential privacy tools, but want to expand (or share) your knowledge? In either case, NIST’s blog series on differential privacy is for you.

Why are we doing this series? Last year, NIST launched a Privacy Engineering Collaboration Space to aggregate open source tools, solutions, and processes that support privacy engineering and risk management. As moderators for the Collaboration Space, we’ve helped NIST gather differential privacy tools under the topic area of de-identification. NIST also has published the “Privacy Framework: A Tool for Improving Privacy through Enterprise Risk Management” and a companion road map that recognized a number of challenge areas for privacy, including the topic of de-identification.

Clare Naden’s picture

By: Clare Naden

It’s been about a year since the Covid-19 pandemic turned our world upside down, and that includes the world in which we work. Certainty has hung up its hat, normality looks unlikely to return, and unpredictability is here to stay for the long term. How can organizations manage in this context, and how can employees keep themselves safe while fulfilling their obligations?

Agility and flexibility are the hot new recruits, according to Sally Swingewood and Martin Cottam, manager and chair of ISO/TC 283, ISO’s expert committee on occupational health and safety (OH&S).

The committee recently published ISO/PAS 45005—“Occupational health and safety management—General guidelines for safe working during the Covid-19 pandemic,” a publicly available specification designed to help employers and employees in all areas of work, from one-man bands to multinationals.

Elizabeth Benham’s picture

By: Elizabeth Benham

Each year during national Weights and Measures Week (March 1 to 7), we celebrate the contributions made by the weights and measures community to ensure accuracy and fair competition in commercial transactions based on weight or measure. This year’s theme, “Measuring Up to the New Normal,” was especially meaningful because 2020 will be remembered as one of the most unusual years we’ll likely experience in our lifetimes. The year highlighted how a common challenge can positively transform how we do business.


Weights and Measures Week commemorates the signing of the first U.S. weights and measures law by President John Adams in 1799. Marble bust by artist Daniel Chester French.

This year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recognized the contributions made by the weights and measures community to sustain equity in the marketplace. Equity in the marketplace takes the effort of many people and institutions.

Esteve Garriga’s picture

By: Esteve Garriga

There are many important issues to be considered in the food industry, such as consumer tastes, environmental impact, and economic aspects, but the most important is food safety.

Although current food safety management system (FSMS) certification schemes around the world are highly effective, I believe it’s desirable to have a single agreed-upon FSMS certification that would harmonize various scheme requirements. Such a system would help reduce the auditing burden for companies that are certified to several FSMS schemes.

The most widespread FSMS certification schemes

In 1996, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) was created by UK retailers (Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, and others) to harmonize food safety standards across the supply chain. The first edition of the BRC Global Standard (BRCGS) for Food Safety was issued in 1998, and is now in its eighth edition. Since then, sector-focused standards have been published covering different stages in the food supply chain (e.g., storage and distribution, packaging materials). Today, more than 28,000 sites are operating under such schemes worldwide.

Catherine Cooksey’s picture

By: Catherine Cooksey

New employees at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are often surprised to learn that our agency is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. How could this be? On the surface it seems that the missions of the two organizations couldn’t be more different. The Department of Commerce would appear to be concerned with, well, commerce, while NIST is well known for its Nobel Prize-winning scientific and technological work.

But the connection can be explained through our agency’s mission statement: “To promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.”

Clare Naden’s picture

By: Clare Naden

Never have we been more acutely aware of the importance of reliability when it comes to laboratory testing. As the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted, the development of accurate diagnostic tests plays an important role in outbreak management.

Whether a laboratory develops its own test methods or incorporates ones that already exist, there is a lot to be considered, and the task bequeathed to them is great. Apart from the general risks of contamination, inadequate equipment, or failings in processes that must be rigorously managed, the procedures and tools required for each test can potentially differ.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, ISO has been collaborating with experts in many fields to establish where standards can really make a difference. As a result, experts on ISO’s technical committee for laboratory testing and in vitro diagnostic (IVD) test systems are currently working on international best-practice guidelines to assist laboratories.

Shaneé Dawkins’s picture

By: Shaneé Dawkins

What do first responders do? It’s an easy question, and I used to think I knew the answer. Firefighters put out fires; police officers enforce the law; emergency medical system (EMS) workers treat injuries; 911 operators answer 911 calls and dispatch first responders to the scene. Simple, right?

I am a computer scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conducting research focused on human-centered computing and human-computer interaction. I have worked in the field for more than a decade, researching ways to help people with their real-world technology problems. My research, by nature, requires me to learn about different communities in order to assess their technological needs. For public safety, I thought I had a pretty decent grasp of the community. After all, what they do is woven into all our lives.

Grant Ramaley’s picture

By: Grant Ramaley

As the 2020 pandemic threatened world health, a large number of unscrupulous companies began generating fake International Organization for Standardization (ISO) quality management system (QMS) certificates in an attempt to fool governments into buying personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, thermometers, and Covid-19 test kits. The credibility of ISO 13485 certificates used to certify medical devices suddenly became a crisis.

Aside from the obvious fake certificates, other companies were paying to get certificates with little or no oversight as to how they were earned. If the goal of getting certified is to gain worldwide recognition, it’s important to understand what makes an ISO certificate valid, especially when paying thousands of dollars for an ISO QMS certificate that may not be considered valid by ISO. Companies may think they are getting a credible certificate but find themselves exposed later when trying to sell their products to those who require certificates issued from accredited certification bodies.

Natalie Weber’s picture

By: Natalie Weber

Unlike Covid-19, remote audits aren’t unprecedented. Remote audits didn’t start with the pandemic, although it has forced more companies to use them than previously. At MasterControl, we’ve been doing remote audits for years for our international customers. It saves time and expense, and it’s every bit as effective as an in-person audit.

However, this is only true because we operate in a digital environment. Using a paper system would significantly hinder remote audits.

This is largely still the case. The difference between pre-pandemic remote audits and those of the “new normal” is the sheer number that are being done, in many cases by those who have never done them before. Doing a remote audit is difficult to wrap your head around if your audit usually requires scouring binders for paperwork and completing a site walk. Mastering remote audits now will be worth it even after the pandemic is over.

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