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US Revamps NIST's Standard-Setting Efforts 64

Posted by timothy
from the tab-a-just-wider-than-slot-b dept.
coondoggie writes "The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been given new marching orders: expand work with the private sector to develop standards for a range of key technologies such as cloud computing, emergency communications and tracking, green manufacturing and high performance green building construction. NIST could see its core science and technology budget double by 2017. NIST has also cut the number of labs it runs to 6 from 10. NIST labs now include engineering, physical measurement, information technology, material measurement, the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the NIST Center for Neutron Research."
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US Revamps NIST's Standard-Setting Efforts

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  • For example, the White House's National Science and Technology Council recently issued a notice in the Federal Register looking for public input on development and implementation of future standards. "The subcommittee is seeking answers to such questions as: How is the Federal government doing with respect to standards activities? What works well? What can be improved? The challenges of the 21st century, including the need to build a clean energy economy, reduce the high cost of health care, and secure our information technology systems, require that we actively consider ways to enhance the efficiency and responsiveness of the standards development process. Send responses to SOS_RFI@nist.gov," according to the to the government's Office of Science and Technology Policy blog.

    Seems like this is the part that would draw more readers on this site.

    • It also is working out the standard to use for creationism, because it's a fact, and not just a theory like evolution.

      • Does that have something to do with the story or are you making fun of the origin of my nick - which has to do w/the apocalypse, not creation. I'll woosh myself just in case... *woosh*

    • by Suki I (1546431)
      The beginning of what you quote should have been there before, in federal boilerplate. Building a "clean energy economy"? Good luck if you are going to exclude the already captured, already cheap hydrocarbon sources.
      • Good luck if you are going to exclude the already captured, already cheap hydrocarbon sources.

        We agree, I think. Harvesting energy is like the traditional domestication of horses. You do not raise a lithe Dandy to run itself to death except in the case of final defense. You do not raise a Dray to outpace a Dandy, nor to eat through your pantry.

        Fast energy supplies should be kept fresh and available in reserve. Slow energy should be expected to pay incremental dividends each day in a methodical manner.

  • NIST has also cut the number of labs it runs to 6 from 10...

    Shhhhh... don't let congress get wind of what "cut" means ...

    • by hoytak (1148181)

      Or the fact that my tired eyes swapped "to" and "from".

      Sigh... Back to working under my government grant...

  • by Doofus (43075) on Saturday January 08, 2011 @12:46AM (#34801614)
    Summary left out a number of Smart-Grid related efforts NIST is heading up, all of which involve large numbers of private sector corporations and engineers.

    See the following:

    NIST Smart Grid overview [nist.gov]

    as well as this page [nist.gov]

    Who is involved?

    Because the Smart Grid will touch so many aspects of life in the 21st century, the development of standards involves a wide range of stakeholders—national and international, private and public, large and small. This simplified illustration (see below) shows the many complex relationships and interactions that will take place within the Smart Grid, as electricity and/or information flows back and forth.

    As part of the overall Smart Grid coordination effort, NIST is also pushing security issues [nist.gov] for the Smart Grid, which is somewhat reassuring.

    • by idlehanz (1262698)
      I suspect the reason smart grid related activities wasn't included is because NIST's smart grid expansion was last years news. This release reflected new marching orders for the coming year.
  • by gman003 (1693318) on Saturday January 08, 2011 @12:57AM (#34801668)
    American user here, requesting the NIST start migrating America to pure metric. I've done about all I can to prepare myself for metric - I can't do any more unless more people start switching as well, and the only way to really do that seems to be government mandate.
    • Yes, that's what we need, more government mandates shoving unpopular and unnecessary new things down everyone's throat.

      • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Saturday January 08, 2011 @01:57AM (#34801900) Homepage
        Heck yeah. If this metric thing is so popular or necessary, why hasn't the rest of the world adopted it?
      • by FrootLoops (1817694) on Saturday January 08, 2011 @03:05AM (#34802138)
        It gets inconvenient having both. Mechanics have to use x mm or y/z'th inch wrenches; nurses convert from F to C, pounds to kg's, and feet/inches to meters all the time; NASA lost a mars orbiter a few years back because of a conversion mistake. English units are inconvenient and error prone in other ways, besides the fact that the rest of the world doesn't use them. Try calculating your BMI by hand--you'll need to convert feet+inches to inches, that to meters, and pounds to kg's. The extra feet+inches conversion requires multiplication by 12 instead of a decimal shift and needs to be done even if you use a formula combining the other two conversions into multiplication by a constant. Converting between pounds and tons, gallons and pints, and feet and miles have similar issues--it's just stupid to add random constant multiplications when decimal shifts could do the same job.

        If the weather was reported in C and kph, speed limit signs used both mph and kph, and common body temperatures were taught in both C and F, we'd be well on our way to conversion. Even a slow conversion is fine with me--letting the older generations die out as newer ones use metric more and more will eventually cause a switch.
        • No no no, the absolutely best metric conversion story is the Gimli Glider.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider

          • the cockpit warning system sounded again, this time with a long "bong" that no one present could recall having heard before. This was the "all engines out" sound, an event that had never been simulated during training.

            They immediately searched their emergency checklist for the section on flying the aircraft with both engines out, only to find that no such section existed.

            Wow. Interesting read.

        • A lot of the common hardware (as in stuff bought from hardware stores) has been standardized in the US in inch/foot dimensions for decades, switching those to metric units would likely take several decades. Real estate (land) titles are almost always in traditional units and changing those would be incredibly expensive.

          Note that the US residential standards for electricity are 117V/60Hz, compared to the European standard off 220V/50Hz - don't see either side changing anytime soon.

          Finally, it would be nice t

          • Real estate (land) titles are almost always in traditional units and changing those would be incredibly expensive.

            Making new titles use both units doesn't seem like much of a burden, though I'm not very familiar with them.

            Finally, it would be nice to have a "true metric" system for temperature, i.e. one where the "degrees" would allow for simplified thermodynamic calculations.

            Kelvin and Celcius are at least just translated versions of each other. When temperature differences are needed, Celcius and Kelvin are equivalent. Also, I don't feel *too* guilty making science types convert their units. It's my nurse converting that dosage from English to metric that I'd like to prevent more.

      • by slick7 (1703596)

        Yes, that's what we need, more government mandates shoving unpopular and unnecessary new things down everyone's throat.

        Exactly, I'll give you a prize/sammich if you create an idea that will net me millions of dollars of profit from you.
        NIST will become another bought dog of big business.

    • we do not mandate any system. But the inch and such have been based on the metric system since then

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metrication_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

    • by Chapter80 (926879)

      I would love to see the US convert completely to metric. And that includes metric time [zapatopi.net].

      But until the rest of the world is willing to convert to metric time (which they have shown no inclination to do), one can argue that it makes little sense for the US to do a half-conversion to metric, converting distance only. Why should the US set itself up to have to go through two conversion processes?

      So the question is, rest of the world, why won't you convert to metric time?

      Imagine if we converted all our Speed Li

      • The essential problem with time is that it is tied to natural phenomenon, and so, no matter how you pick your units, there will be a non-factor-of-ten conversion somewhere - most noticeably, there are always so many days in a year.

        Splitting the day itself is quite possible, the only issue is with granularity. 1/10 is too big to be convenient, and 1/100 is too small. Again the basic problem there is that the fundamental unit is predefined, in a manner that is not exactly convenient (at least for base-10 arit

        • by Chapter80 (926879)

          The article I referenced recommended that the day be split in 10 units (metric hours or some other name), and each of those 2.4 hour units be split in 100 units (metric minute or some other name), which would be about 1.44 minutes long), and each of those units could be split into 100 units.

          The new metric second would be about 86.4% of a current second.

          So instead of counting seconds like "1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi, 3-Mississippi", it'd be more like "1-Arkansas, 2-Arkansas, 3-Arkansas".

      • > half-conversion to metric

        Ummm... time is in metric, the second, its just not base 10. Most metric units are base 10, not all, many of the derived scientific units, like atomic quantity, are based on natural considerations. Your argument is specious.

        So we have length, mass, energy, and force, along with the hundreds of associated units, all in base 10. We have a single measure, time, which is _typically_ not base 10 (it is in science). How is that "half", troll?

        • by Chapter80 (926879)

          So we have length, mass, energy, and force, along with the hundreds of associated units, all in base 10. We have a single measure, time, which is _typically_ not base 10 (it is in science). How is that "half", troll?

          Let's see, my argument is to people who say the US should convert to metric is that we are already half on the metric system, and you call me a troll, because the US is MORE THAN half metric? Good logic, troll.

  • I hear it's catching on everywhere except the country that invented it.

  • by Gavin Rogers (301715) <grogers@vk6hgr.echidna.id.au> on Saturday January 08, 2011 @02:27AM (#34802018) Homepage

    From TFA, "Since World War II, the United States has played a key role in international standardization"

    Umm. Played a key role in international standardisation? This is a country - the only major industrialised nation in the entire world - that so far refuses to embrace the metric system. Key role, indeed.

    • by khallow (566160)

      Umm. Played a key role in international standardisation? This is a country - the only major industrialised nation in the entire world - that so far refuses to embrace the metric system. Key role, indeed.

      And what does that have to do with the NIST's activities? Getting the US public to adopt the metric system is just as much the responsibility of every corresponding foreign organization as it is of the NIST. Thus, I could use the same logic to claim that nobody else has played a key role in international standardization either, because the US didn't adopt the metric system.

      In other words, it's not the NIST's responsibility nor does that fact change the NIST role in developing international standards, inc

      • by Sir Holo (531007)
        You forget that the US's lack of standardization in length measurement has led to major equipment failures, such as the lost Mars probe? Making US industry use standards is NIST's primary job. Go read their congressional mission statement in the main lobby.

        NOTE: I'm responding for the record, not to feed a troll.
        • by khallow (566160)

          You forget that the US's lack of standardization in length measurement has led to major equipment failures, such as the lost Mars probe? Making US industry use standards is NIST's primary job. Go read their congressional mission statement in the main lobby.

          And yet despite this alleged "forgetfulness", it doesn't change the truth of my statement. NIST isn't authorized or funded to make the US fully adopt metric nor is any other standards body (well, maybe there's some NGO somewhere which tries to get the US to adopt metric).

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      From TFA, "Since World War II, the United States has played a key role in international standardization"

      Umm. Played a key role in international standardisation? This is a country - the only major industrialised nation in the entire world - that so far refuses to embrace the metric system. Key role, indeed.

      Not everything's lost - only 4 labs! Given that NIST has still a lab for neutrons research, who knows what measurements system will be they able to derive?

      • Not everything's lost - only 4 labs!

        The "NIST has also cut the number of labs it runs to 6 from 10" from the summary is very misleading. NIST just underwent a major re-organization, and reduced the number of administrative "labs" from 6 to 10. But none of the divisions within NIST were cut: various labs were just merged and divisions moved around to better reflect the modern research mission. No science programs were eliminated and no one was fired.

        (I used to work at NIST.)

    • No, the metric system is in use in the United States. Just not for everything. It's the same way in the U.K, BTW--don't Brits go off to the pub for a couple of pints? It's not called a couple half-liters now is it?

  • All government documents will now be saved in the "docx" format... on "the cloud"...

    Haven't we already seen what happens [microsoft.com] when we let "private industry" meddle in technical standards?

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde

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