International Organization for Standardization

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The International Organization for Standardization, widely known as ISO, is a non-governmental international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations. Founded in 1947, the organization promulgates worldwide proprietary industrial and commercial standards. It has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.[1]

The organization's has logos in its two official languages, English and French, including the word ISO, and it is usually referred to by this short form name. ISO is not an acronym for the organization's full name in either official language. Rather, the organization adopted ISO based on the Greek word isos , meaning equal. Recognizing that the organization’s initials would be different in different languages, the organization's founders chose ISO as the universal short form of its name. This, in itself, reflects the aim of the organization: to equalize and standardize across cultures.[2]

The founding of ISO

ISO was created from the merging of two organizations - International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA), established in New York in 1926, and the United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee (UNSCC), established in 1944.

In October 1946, delegates from 25 countries, meeting at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London, decided to create a new international organization "to facilitate the international coordination and unification of industrial standards". The new organization, ISO, officially began operations on 23 February 1947.[3]

Members, technical program and staff

As of 2009, ISO had 160 national standards organizations as members[4] out of the 195 total countries in the world.[5] ISO's technical program comprised 208 technical committees, 531 subcommittees, 2,378 working groups and 66 ad hoc study groups, for a total of 3,183 technical bodies.[4]

Also as of 2009, the central headquarters in Geneva had a full-time staff of 153 people from 26 different countries. In addition, 39 of the member bodies provided administrative and technical services for the technical program bodies. Those services involved a full-time staff equivalent to 500 persons.[4]

ISO has three membership categories:

  • Member bodies are national bodies that are considered to be the most representative standards body in each country. These are the only members of ISO that have voting rights. (The member bodies are also referred to as "National Bodies" later in this article.)
  • Correspondent members are countries that do not have their own standards organization. These members are informed about ISO's work, but do not participate in standards promulgation.
  • Subscriber members are countries with small economies. They pay reduced membership fees, but can follow the development of standards.

Participating members (i.e., those with voting rights) are called "P" members as contrasted to corresponding and subscriber members (with no voting rights) who are called "O" members.

International Standards and other publications

ISO's main products are the International Standards. ISO also publishes Technical Reports, Technical Specifications, Publicly Available Specifications, Technical Corrigenda, and Guides.[6] As of 2009, ISO had published more than 18,000 standards.[4]

International Standards are identified in the format ISO [/IEC] [/ASTM] [IS] [nnnnn:yyyy] [Title], where nnnnn is the identifying number of the standard, yyyy is the year published, and Title is the title of the standard. IEC for International Electrotechnical Commission is included if the standard results from the work of ISO/IEC JTC1 (the ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee). ASTM is used for standards developed in cooperation with ASTM International. IS (an abbreviation of "International Standard") is prepended to the identifying number of the standard. The publication year and IS are not used for an incomplete or unpublished standard, and may under some circumstances be left off the title of a published work.

Technical Reports are issued when "a technical committee or subcommittee has collected data of a different kind from that which is normally published as an International Standard".[6] such as references and explanations. The naming conventions for these are the same as for standards, except TR (instead of IS) is prepended to the standard's number in the report's name. Examples:

  • ISO/IEC TR 17799:2000 Code of Practice for Information Security Management
  • ISO/TR 19033:2000 Technical product documentation — Metadata[7] for construction documentation

Technical Specifications can be produced when "the subject in question is still under development or where for any other reason there is the future but not immediate possibility of an agreement to publish an International Standard". Publicly Available Specifications may be "an intermediate specification, published prior to the development of a full International Standard, or in IEC it may be a publication published in collaboration with an external organization".[6] By convention, both are named in a manner similar to naming Technical Reports. For example:

  • ISO/TS 16952-1:2006 Technical product documentation — Reference designation system — Part 1: General application rules
  • ISO/PAS 11154:2006 Road vehicles — Roof load carriers

Technical Corrigendums[8] are sometimes issued by ISO. These are amendments to existing standards because of minor technical flaws, usability improvements, or to extend applicability in a limited way. Generally, these are issued with the expectation that the affected standard will be updated or withdrawn at its next scheduled review.[6]

ISO Guides are meta-standards covering "matters related to international standardization".[6] They are named in the format ISO [/IEC] [Guide] [nnnn:yyyy] [Title], for example:

  • ISO/IEC Guide 2:2004 Standardization and related activities – General vocabulary
  • ISO/IEC Guide 65:1996 General requirements for bodies operating product certification

Standardization process

A standard published by ISO/IEC is the last stage of a long process that commonly starts with the proposal of new work within a committee. Here are some abbreviations used during that long process:[9][10][11][12][13][14]

Abbreviations for indicating status within the process:

  • PWI: Preliminary Work Item
  • NP or NWIP: New Proposal or New Work Item Proposal
  • AWI: Approved new Work Item
  • WD: Working Draft
  • CD: Committee Draft
  • FCD: Final Committee Draft
  • DIS: Draft International Standard
  • FDIS: Final Draft International Standard
  • PRF: Proof of a new International Standard
  • IS: International Standard

Abbreviations used for amendments:

  • NP Amd: New Proposal Amendment
  • AWI Amd: Approved new Work Item Amendment
  • WD Amd: Working Draft Amendment
  • CD Amd or PDAmd: Committee Draft Amendment or Proposed Draft Amendment
  • FPDAmd or DAM (DAmd): Final Proposed Draft Amendment or Draft Amendment
  • FDAM (FDAmd): Final Draft Amendment
  • PRF Amd: Proof of an Amendment
  • Amd: Amendment

Other abbreviations:

  • TR:Technical Report
  • DTR: Draft Technical Report
  • TS: Technical Specification
  • DTS: Draft Technical Specification

  • TTA: Technology Trends Assessment
  • IWA: International Workshop Agreement
  • Cor: Technical Corrigendum )

International Standards are developed by ISO technical committees (TC) and subcommittees (SC) by a process with six steps:[10][15]

  • Stage 1: Proposal stage
  • Stage 2: Preparatory stage
  • Stage 3: Committee stage

  • Stage 4: Inquiry stage
  • Stage 5: Approval stage
  • Stage 6: Publication stage

Stages in the development process of an ISO standard[9][10][11][14][15]
Stage code Stage Associated document name Abbreviations
00 Preliminary stage Preliminary work item PWI
10 Proposal stage New work item proposal NP or NWIP, NP Amd/TR/TS/IWA
20 Preparatory stage Working draft(s) AWI, AWI Amd/TR/TS, WD, WD Amd/TR/TS
30 Committee stage Committee draft(s) CD, CD Amd/Cor/TR/TS, PDAmd (PDAM), PDTR, PDTS
40 Inquiry stage Inquiry draft DIS, FCD, FPDAmd, DAmd (DAM), FPDISP, DTR, DTS
50 Approval stage Final draft International Standard FDIS, FDAmd (FDAM), PRF, PRF Amd/TTA/TR/TS/Suppl, FDTR
60 Publication stage International Standard ISO TR, TS, IWA, Amd, Cor

The first step - a new proposal is approved at the relevant subcommittee (SC) or technical committee(TC). A working group (WG) of experts is set up by the TC/SC for preparing a Working Draft. When sufficient confidence in the stability of the standard under development is reached, a Working Draft (WD) is produced. This is in the form of a standard but is kept internal to the working group for revision.

When a Working Draft is sufficiently solid and the working group is satisfied that it is the best technical solution to the problem being addressed, it becomes a Committee Draft (CD). If required, it is then sent to the P-members of the TC/SC (National Bodies) for ballot. The CD becomes a Final Committee Draft (FCD) if the number of positive votes is sufficient. If the number of positive votes is insufficient, successive committee drafts may be considered until a consensus is reached. When it is reached, the text is submitted as a draft International Standard (DIS).

The DIS is then submitted to National Bodies for voting. It is approved for submission as a final draft International Standard (FDIS) if two-thirds of the P-members of the TC/SC are in favor and less than one-quarter of the total votes are negative. ISO will then hold a ballot with National Bodies where no technical changes are allowed ( a yes or no ballot). It is approved as an International Standard (IS) if two-thirds of the P-members of the TC/SC are in favor and less than one-quarter of the votes cast are negative. After approval, only minor editorial changes may be introduced into the final text sent to the ISO Central Secretariat for publication as an International Standard.[10]

ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committees

To deal with the consequences of substantial overlap in areas of standardization and work related to information technology, ISO and IEC formed a Joint Technical Committee in 1987 known as the ISO/IEC JTC1. It was the first such joint committee.[16]

The second joint committee was created in 2009 known as ISO/IEC/JTC 2, Joint Project Committee - Energy efficiency and renewable energy sources - Common terminology.[17]


  1. About ISO From the official ISO website. Accessed February 5, 2010.
  2. Discover ISO: ISO's Name From the official ISO website. Accessed February 5, 2010.
  3. Founding
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 ISO Annual Report 2008
  5. Independent States in the World, U.S. Department of State]. 195 including Taiwan.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Links to ISO/IEC Directives Part 1, Procedures for the technical work, 6th Edition, 2008 and Part 2, Rules for the structure and drafting of International Standards, 5th Edition, 2004
  7. The word "metadata" usually means "information or data about other information or data".
  8. The word "corrigendum" usually means a list of errors and their corrections. Essentially, the same as an errata list.
  9. 9.0 9.1 ISO International harmonized stage codes
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 ISO Stages of the development of International Standards
  11. 11.0 11.1 The ISO27k FAQ - ISO/IEC acronyms and committees
  12. ISO/IEC Directives Supplement – Procedures specific to ISO, 2007}
  13. List of abbreviations used throughout ISO Online, 2007
  14. 14.0 14.1 US Tag Committee Handbook, 2008
  15. 15.0 15.1 ISO/IEC Directives, Part 1 - Procedures for the technical work, Sixth edition, 2008
  16. JTC 1
  17. ISO/IEC/JTC 2