Why Does the ASB Seek Public Comment?

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Source: Mary C. McKiel, PhD, ASB Communications Liaison

The AAFS Academy Standards Board (ASB) facilitates the development of forensic-related consensus standards according to procedures based on the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) Essential Requirements: Due Process Requirements for American National Standards. Among other things, due process requires that the ASB, as an ANSI-accredited standards developer, seeks public comments at two specific stages in the standards development process: in the beginning, through the ANSI’s Project Initiation Notification online system (PINS) when a standard or guide is being proposed, then again after the document is completed.

Consider the value of public comment at both the beginning and the end of the standards process. When the ASB announces its intent to develop a standard, the announcement includes a description of what the standard will cover, known as the scope of the document, accompanied by a statement of why the standard is needed. The public, along with other standards organizations, is made aware of the ASB’s intent. If there is an existing standard that has a highly similar scope, that information is likely to come to light during the public comment period. At that point, the ASB would contact the appropriate standards organization to determine if the ASB’s proposed work is indeed duplicative. Occasionally, there are duplicate standards in the marketplace, but that is rare, and usually only one of them is an American National standard. In any case, if needed, the ASB can adjust work plans accordingly. The most common result of an initial public comment period is approval of the ASB’s intended work, either by direct response or lack of negative responses.

In another scenario, the initial public comment can bring in suggestions that may help the ASB to expand or refine what is included in the proposed standards work. Public comments at this point can also help the ASB identify potential experts for working groups. In the ANSI system, work groups are often the actual drafting groups that write the standards that eventually are presented for a vote by the consensus body. Work group members do not have to be members of the consensus body, which means that public commenters provide a potential pool of work group members.

After the standard is completed, the document again undergoes public comment. The consensus body itself votes concurrently with the public comment period. At this stage, all resulting comments must be considered by the consensus body and all negative comments require resolution under the rules of due process. Public comments may provide views and suggestions that, when adopted by the consensus body, result in an improved final standard. Comments can also point out unintended errors. Adjudicating and dealing with public comments can be time consuming for the consensus body. In some cases, resolution—including adoption—of comments results in significant changes to the standard, and that requires a second round of public comments. In the final analysis, however, openness, transparency and due process, which includes public comments, ensures that an ASB standard is more likely to be accepted and used by the forensic community, and that is the desired outcome of the ASB’s standards program.

For more information about the ASB’s work and procedures, please access the informational links on the ASB homepage.