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Standards: Standards Basics

Standards Basics

What is a standard?

Standards gives the assurance of quality and reliability (safety) as well as enables business sustainability through interoperability.

Things to remember: 

  • Some standards are government-mandated, and others are voluntary. They will also vary by government. 
  • Standards  are updated frequently to keep pace with changing technology 

A standard is defined by the National Standards Policy Advisory Committee as:  "A prescribed set of rules, conditions, or requirements concerning definitions of terms; classification of components; specification of materials, performance, or operations; delineation of procedures; or measurement of quantity and quality in describing materials, products, systems, services, or practices."

Why search standards? 

​​​​​​Standards is a great reference source for any project, especially those that involve designing and prototyping. Here's how standards can help you:

Why are other names for standards?

Some types of standards have specific names:

  • Regulations or Codes- government mandated standards
  • Protocols - standard operating procedure that is a list of instructions to perform an experiment, usually in a research laboratory. 

Why are standards so expensive?

"Standards developing organizations rely on the revenues of the sale of standards to fund the standards writing process. This process can be lengthy and expensive. When you pay for a standard, you not only pay for the paper it is printed on, but for the cost of creating the information on the paper." (Standard LibGuide at the University of Washington Seattle)

Why are standards so important?

"They impact nearly every aspect of our lives - even the clothes we wear and the characteristics of our dogs are affected by standards. And standards enhance technology by ensuring that parts fit together. You could design a flash drive that doesn't fit into the standard USB port, but why would you? Who would buy it?" (Standard LibGuide at the University of Washington Seattle)

For more information about the importance of standards, please check:

For detailed & historical information on standards in the United States see:

Adoption of Standards

It is common for many major standards such as ISO, IEC and EN to be adopted by other standards. The standard number usually gives an indication of adoption where standards are equivalent.

Example: UNI EN ISO 9001

  • ISO 9001 is a standard originally approved by ISO
  • It was adopted by the European Committee for Standardisation, so the 'EN' prefix was added to the standard, i.e. EN ISO 9001
  • It then got adopted by the Italian national standard body, so the 'UNI' prefix was added to the standard, i.e. UNI EN ISO 9001

The three standards, ISO 9001, EN ISO 9001 and UNI EN ISO 9001 are identical other than the reference numbers.

Question: The library does not have Italian Standards. What if you need UNI EN ISO 9001?

UIowa Libraries has a good set of ISO and British Standards through our subscription to TechStreet. Since the UK has adopted ISO 9001 as well, you can search for this version (i.e. BS EN ISO 9001) in TechStreet. The content is identical to UNI EN ISO 9001.