Standards vs Standardisation

I read Enrico Coiera's recent blog post Are standards necessary? with interest since it coincided with my posting of Oil & Water: research and standards. It was the use of the word 'standardisation' that caught my attention, as I think of it quite differently in my day-to-day work.

The clinical modelling domain should never be locked down in a formal standards framework. However it still requires a formal approach that provides a stable foundation while still allowing enough flexibility to cater for the dynamic clinical knowledge domain which grows in breadth, depth and complexity every day. This softer type of artefact governance is what I describe as 'standardisation' - a collaborative process, involving strong and transparent governance, that doesn't lock down the published artefacts so that they can't evolve as clinical requirements are recognised.

Within the clinical models environment we have:

  • a methodology that is evolving and becoming more robust;
  • an intent to create a coherent and integrated set of clinical models with both minimal overlap and minimal gaps
  • a process for governance, maintenance and distribution of the models; and
  • an evolving methodology towards federation and sharing of models.

Wikipedia refers to 'Standardization' (or 'Standardisation') as "the process of developing and implementing technical standards."

Merriam Webster's view is:

:  to compare with a standard; and

:  to bring into conformity with a standard

Whereas my experience of standardisation is with the clinical models ecosystem as a more organic, 'middle in' or grass-roots collaborative process which fits this other Merriam Webster definition more appropriately:

:  to change (things) so that they are similar and consistent and agree with rules about what is proper and acceptable.

It's all about the semantics.

So maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we are creating a form of standard with each clinical model after all, just with rules that differ to those usually found within a standards development organisation.