Procedures for Review and Approval of an SAA-Developed Standard

I. Submission of a Proposal for a Project to Create, Revise, or Review an SAA-Developed Standard

Proposals must be submitted by official groups within the SAA. Individuals interested in the development of a standard may consult with the Standards Committee about groups that are appropriate for submission of a standards proposal.

I.A. The proposing group shall:

Complete and submit the PROPOSAL FOR STANDARDS DEVELOPMENT form. The form shall include:

  • Name of sponsoring group and name of individual to contact;
  • Concise statement of identified need for standard;
  • Expected effect/impact on individuals and institutions;
  • Scope of coverage/application;
  • Anticipated format and content of the standard;
  • Known existing standards that are closely related to or affected by the proposed standard;
  • List of other SAA subgroups, outside organizations, and experts who will be consulted during the development or will be asked to review the standard before it is submitted for adoption by the SAA Council;
  • Time table for development process; and
  • Budgetary implications for SAA, including direct costs for meetings, travel, copying, and postage as well as indirect costs for SAA staff time.

I.B. The Standards Committee co-chairs shall:

I.B.1. Acknowledge receipt of the STANDARD PROPOSAL FORM to the proposing body and notify the Standards Committee of the proposal submission.

I.B.2. Distribute copies of the STANDARD PROPOSAL FORM to the other members of the Standards Committee, including the subgroup chairs and the SAA Council liaison. Subgroup chairs may distribute the proposal to their technical subcommittee or development and review team for comment.

I.B.3. Collect comments and suggestions from members of the Standards Committee and other subgroups to which the proposal was distributed.

I.B.4. If comments warrant further discussion, arrange for communications to determine if there is a consensus to endorse the proposal.

II. Standards Committee Action in Response to Proposal

The Standards Committee will take a formal vote in response to the proposal, and will take one of the following actions in response to a proposal, as appropriate:

II.A. Return for revision

The Standards Committee will return to the proposing group a STANDARD PROPOSAL FORM that is incomplete or that requires revision and request that it be revised and resubmitted.

II.B. Decline proposal

The Standards Committee may decline to recommend undertaking a standards project because

  1. A similar standard already exists;
  2. The proposed standard is in direct conflict with an SAA-adopted standard or policy;
  3. Another group is already working on a similar standard (in which case the Standards Committee will suggest that the two parties work together toward common ends);
  4. There is insufficient demand or potential benefit to SAA members to warrant the expense of its development;
  5. The proposed standard does not fall within the scope of the Standards Committee.

The Standards Committee will forward all declined proposals to the SAA Council along with the reason why the Standards Committee does not recommend the proposal. The proposing group may file an appeal with the SAA Council within 60 days of notification by the Committee.

II.C. Submit request for Council approval to undertake project

If the Standards Committee is satisfied with the proposal, it will be submitted with a recommendation by the Committee to the Council for final approval. The Standards Committee will send the STANDARD PROPOSAL FORM and any accompanying correspondence or other documentation to the SAA Council for approval to undertake the project.

If the SAA Council approves the project, the following actions shall occur:

II.C.I. Announcement of standards project.

The Standards Committee will publish a “Notice of Intention to Initiate a Standards Development Project” via all appropriate SAA media. This step is taken to notify the membership that a project will soon be under way and to solicit comments and participation from interested parties. Official project approval will be granted automatically 30 days after publication of the "Notice" unless the comments received by the Standards Committee co-chairs are such that the proposal warrants reconsideration, in which case the Committee will refer the proposal and comments back to the proposing group for review and response.

II.C.2. Make assignment to primary group for development.

For approved standards development projects, the Standards Committee co-chairs will prepare a draft charge for the development and review team and make recommendations for its membership. In most cases, the members of the proposing group will be included in the recommendation for membership of the development and review team. The charge must then be approved by the SAA Council before the SAA vice president / president-elect appoints the chair(s) and members of the development and review team. Once the standard is adopted, the team will be disbanded by the SAA Council and the Council will create a technical subcommittee to maintain and review the adopted standard (see V.C.I.).

III. Standards Development Process

In the course of developing a new standard, development and review teams shall complete the following actions:

III.A. Consultation with other SAA subgroups and external organizations

The development and review team will engage in extensive consultation with interested parties inside and outside of SAA that are essential to the development of standards, and must submit to the Standards Committee evidence that such consultation has taken place. The development and review team must address all written comments sent to the group and all comments made at an SAA open meeting. The Standards Committee will assist the development and review team in publicizing the project and identifying consultants.

Consultation should be pursued through several means, such as:

III.A.1. Letters sent at the beginning of the project to heads of organizations known to have an interest in the standard under development, inviting their comments and/or participation in the development process, as appropriate.

III.A.2. Publication of notices in the newsletters or on the websites of these organizations about the intention to develop the standard and, later, providing updates on the progress of the development project.

III.A.3. Publication of the draft standard in appropriate SAA media.

III.A.4. Publication of the draft standard in external publications and/or circulation of the draft standard to heads of interested organizations.

III.A.5. Circulation of the draft standard to groups and individuals, inside and outside of SAA, with particular interest or expertise in the topic, including posting on electronic networks.

III.A.6. Joint meetings with interested organizations to discuss common concerns. These meetings could occur at the outset of the project or after circulation of a draft standard.

III.A.7. Open forums or hearings at the SAA annual meeting.

III.B. Preparation of the package containing the final draft of the standard and supporting documentation

Once it has completed the consultation process and prepared the final draft of the standard, the development and review team will compile a package to forward to the Standards Committee for its review. This package will include:

III.B.1. Full text of the proposed standard.

III.B.2. Introductory narrative.

This section must include the scope of application, in particular:

  • The purpose or objective of the proposed standard and
  • The specific audiences, circumstances, or techniques to which it is directed.
  • It should also contain background and other supplementary information, as necessary, that can provide a context for understanding how the standard was developed and when and how it will be used, including
  • Brief history and methodology of its development,
  • Participants in the development process,
  • Relationship to predecessor documents,
  • Significant changes from earlier versions,
  • Glossary or definitions of terms, if necessary,
  • Illustrations or examples of how the standard can be applied, and
  • Bibliography, if necessary.

III.B.3. Documentation of the consultation process.

The development and review team must submit documentation that the consultation process has taken place and that a reasonable agreement has been reached on the contents and intent of the proposed standard. This evidence may take the form of:

  • Copies of correspondence from other organizations supporting the proposed standard;
  • Clippings from publications and/or websites that publicized the development project or published drafts of the standard;
  • Copies of correspondence discussing areas of dispute in the proposed standard;
  • In case of unresolved disputes, explanations from the group responsible for development of efforts made to accommodate the expressed concerns and/or justification for approving the standard in the absence of universal agreement.

III.B.4. Maintenance and review plan.

The development and review team must recommend a plan for maintenance and review of the standard it has developed. Standards developed by SAA will be assigned to a component group, such as a technical subcommittee, for necessary maintenance and review. Each will be either assigned to a review cycle of no more than 5 years, or approved for ongoing review. At the end of a set review cycle, the SAA Council will be asked by the Standards Committee to reaffirm, revise, or rescind the standard. The "Maintenance and Review Plan" will suggest the appropriate subgroup for assignment and type of review process. (See V.C. - V.E.)

III.C. Notice of abandoned project

In the event that the development and review team fails to reach general agreement on a draft standard or, for whatever reason, chooses to discontinue its work on the proposed standard, it shall notify the Standards Committee that it has abandoned the project. The Standards Committee shall publish a notice in appropriate SAA media that the project has been discontinued.

IV. Standards Committee Review of Draft Standard

Upon receiving the final draft package from the development and review team, the Standards Committee will take the following actions:

IV.A. Review package

The Standards Committee will review the package to ensure that it is complete and that adequate consultation and review have taken place. It may return the package to the development and review team if significant elements are missing.

IV.B. Notice of project completion/publication of revised draft standard

IV B.1. Notice of project completion.

When the final draft package is deemed complete, the Standards Committee will publish a notice in the appropriate SAA media announcing that the standards development project has been completed and the draft standard has been forwarded to the Council. (See IV.C.)

IV B.2. Publication of revised draft standard.

Based on the substance of the revisions, the potential breadth of impact, and any apparent remaining substantive conflicts on content, the Standards Committee may determine that the entire revised text should be published via an appropriate SAA medium in order to ensure the broadest possible participation in and awareness of the standards development process. The Standards Committee will accept written comments on the revised draft addressed to the Standards Committee co-chairs within 30 days of publication of the revised draft or notice of the availability of the revised draft.

If additional comments received after publication of the revision indicate widespread disagreement about the revised draft within the SAA membership, the Committee may determine that the draft should be referred back to the development and review team for response. Substantive changes to the draft standard as a result of these additional comments may require publication of a new "Notice of Completion" and notification or publication of a new revised draft.

The Standards Committee may determine that issues raised in the additional comments were already addressed adequately during the development and consultation process. The Standards Committee will then publish the notice of completion and forward the package to the SAA Council.

IV.C. Recommendation to the SAA Council

At the conclusion of the development process, the Standards Committee will send to the SAA Council a report on the process and a recommendation.

IV.C.1. Recommendation to consider adoption.

When the Standards Committee is satisfied that the development and consultation process has been completed satisfactorily it will, after publication of the notice, forward the package to the SAA Council with a recommendation that the Council consider adopting the draft document as an official standard of the Society of American Archivists.

IV.C.2. Report on "irreconcilable differences."

After reviewing all documentation, the Standards Committee may determine that disagreements raised represent substantive irreconcilable differences of views or professional positions. In this situation, the Standards Committee will forward the package to the SAA Council with an explanation of the remaining problems and, depending on the type of standard and breadth of impact, may or may not recommend that the Council consider adopting the draft as an official standard of the Society of American Archivists.

V. Promulgation, Maintenance, and Review of Adopted Standards

The Standards Committee shall ensure that the following actions are taken for each standard that is formally adopted by the SAA Council. Often the group that developed the standard will be actively involved in or have primary responsibility for these activities.

V.A. Publication of the standard

V.A.1. Full text in the SAA newsletter.

The preferred method of publication will be to publish the full text of the adopted standard in the Society’s newsletter and on the SAA website.

V.A.2. Notice of availability in newsletter.

Some standards may be too long to publish in the newsletter. For these, a notice of their approval and a summary of their contents will be published in the next SAA newsletter and/or on the SAA website, along with information about how to obtain a copy from the SAA website.

V.A.3. Added to Standards Portal webpage.

SAA staff will post all formally adopted standards on the Standards Portal webpage with the following information: 1) the name of the standard, 2) a description of the standard, 3) a link to the full text of the standard or a description of where the standard can be obtained, 4) the date on which the standard was adopted, 5) next review date of the standard, 6) information about how comments and feedback for revision can be submitted, and 7) any additional supporting documents or information.

V.B. Promotion of the standard

V.B.1. Notice to heads of allied professional organizations.

The SAA president and/or executive director will send a letter and copy of the adopted standard to all interested outside organizations to notify them of SAA's action. The Standards Committee will assist the group that developed the standard in drafting the letter and identifying which groups to contact.

V.B.2. Press release to editors of professional journals and newsletters.

The executive director will, in cooperation with the Standards Committee and development and review team, ensure that a press release is distributed to editors of allied professional journals and newsletters to announce the development and approval of the standard, providing its full text when possible.

V.B.3. Other publicity.

For standards of interest beyond professional circles, the executive director, Standards Committee, and development and review team will determine how best to publicize their approval. Working in concert with the Program and Education committees and the SAA staff, the Standards Committee will assist the subgroup in developing workshops, conference sessions, or public forums on the new standard.

V.C. Maintenance of the standard

Immediately upon adoption of an SAA standard, the following actions shall occur:

V.C.1. Technical subcommittee responsible for maintenance and review assigned.

As part of the approval process, the SAA Council will assign the standard to an ongoing SAA component group for maintenance and review. An SAA technical subcommittee may be established for this maintenance and review. The Standards Committee co-chairs will prepare a draft charge for the subcommittee and make recommendations for its membership. In most cases, the members of the development and review team who were actively involved in the development of the standards will be included in the recommendation for membership of the technical subcommittee. The charge must then be approved by the SAA Council before the vice president / president-elect appoints the chair(s) and members of the subcommittee.

V.C.2. Review cycle set.

All adopted SAA standards will be either assigned a review cycle of no more than five years, with a formal review commencing no later than three years following adoption or reaffirmation (section V.D.), or approved for ongoing review (section V.E.). However, in both situations, comments and revisions to the standard and proposals to revise adopted standards may be submitted at any time. At the end of an assigned review cycle, the SAA Council will be asked to reaffirm, agree to revise, or rescind the standard.

V.C.3. Monitoring and promulgating use begins.

The maintaining technical subcommittee will be responsible for promoting the proper and effective use of the standard and will regularly obtain comments and feedback on the standard for future review and revision.

V.D. Cyclical review of the standard

At least two years before the review cycle expires, the Standards Committee will notify the maintaining technical subcommittee that it should initiate a formal review of the content and use of the standard. The following actions shall be taken:

V.D.1. Review plan prepared.

In consultation with the Standards Committee, the technical subcommittee will prepare a plan that will ensure consensus using the same kinds of broadly based consultation and review that occurred when the standard was originally developed. The plan may include:

  • Other SAA subgroups and interested organizations outside of SAA that the technical subcommittee plans to consult;
  • Proposed joint meetings with some of these subgroups and/or organizations to discuss proposed revisions;
  • Proposed public hearings at the SAA Annual Meeting;
  • Proposed publications, websites, or other communication media via which comments and proposed revisions will be submitted and be made publicly available; and
  • Financial resources needed for review, such as travel or editorial support.

V.D.2. Standards Committee and SAA Council review plan.

The technical subcommittee will submit the plan to the Standards Committee, at which point the Standards Committee will decide whether the review process is adequate. If significant financial resources are required for review, the Standards Committee will forward the plan to the SAA Council with a recommendation for funding.

V.D.3. Recommendation to revise, reaffirm, or rescind the standard.

Once the review plan has been approved, the technical subcommittee will commence the formal review. When adequate consultation has taken place, the technical subcommittee will recommend one of the following:

Revise the standard: Revision will be necessary if substantial changes to the standard are required.

Reaffirm the standard: The technical subcommittee may decide that a standard does not need revision at this time if comments are relatively minor and the standard is still current and widely used. The technical subcommittee may also delay revision while awaiting the development or revision of another standard or project that may affect the standard under review.

Rescind the standard: The technical subcommittee may recommend rescinding the standard if the standard is no longer relevant or another standard has replaced it.

V.D.4. Recommendation to the SAA Council

The maintaining technical subcommittee will submit a package to the Standards Committee containing its recommendation to reaffirm, revise, or rescind the standard along with documentation about the review process (as in III.). If the technical subcommittee recommends revision, the technical subcommittee will also submit a completed proposal form (as in I.A.2.).

V.D.5. The Standards Committee will review the package to ensure that the review plan was adequate. Assuming that no procedural questions remain unresolved, it will forward the package to the Council with the recommendation to reaffirm, revise, or rescind.

V.D.6. The SAA Council votes on whether to reaffirm, revise, or rescind the standard.

If the Council votes to revise the standard, the technical subcommittee will continue the revision work. Once the revision has been completed, the technical subcommittee will follow the same process for submission and approval of a new standard, as outlined in sections III.B. and later.

If the Council reaffirms the standard, a new review cycle will be set, which may be shorter than five years. A new technical subcommittee may be appointed, if necessary. The technical subcommittee and the Standards Committee will inform all relevant parties that the standard has been reaffirmed and does not require revision at this time.

Should the Council vote to rescind the standard, the technical subcommittee and the Standards Committee will inform all relevant parties that the standard has been rescinded. The Standards Committee will then either remove the standard from the standards webpage or mark the standard as "rescinded."

V.D.7. Notice and publication of reaffirmed, revised, or rescinded standards.

An information dissemination process similar to that outlined under V.A. and V.B. for new standards will be followed to ensure broad awareness of SAA actions concerning reaffirmed, revised, and rescinded standards.

V.E. Ongoing review of the standard.

Proposed revisions to a standard approved for ongoing review are reviewed and addressed as they are received by the assigned technical subcommittee. Ongoing review is particularly conducive to standards that are electronically published and thus easy to update. In order to respond adequately and in a timely manner to proposals for change, the following actions should be taken:

V.E.1. Proposal for changes received.

Proposals may be submitted by SAA component groups (i.e., sections, roundtables, committees, task forces, or working groups), by interested external organizations (e.g., the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section), or may be generated by the technical subcommittee itself. Proposals should include:

  • Name of the sponsoring group;
  • Identification of the component of the standard to be changed;
  • Brief description of the proposed change, and justification;
  • Expected effect/impact on individuals, institutions, and supporting systems;
  • Known related standards affected by the proposed change.

All proposals should be submitted to the chair of the technical subcommittee responsible for the maintenance of the standard.

V.E.2. Technical subcommittee reviews proposals.

Upon receiving a proposal, the chair of the technical subcommittee shall:

  • Conduct a preliminary review of the document to ensure that it is complete. Incomplete proposals will be returned to the submitting body. If there are no problems with the document, the chair will acknowledge receipt to the proposing body.
  • Distribute copies of the proposal to the other members of the technical subcommittee for their review and comment.
  • Determine the extent to which the proposal should be distributed for public comment.

V.E.3. Consultation with other SAA subgroups and external organizations.

External groups, particularly those directly impacted by a proposal, must be consulted during the review process. This should include informing the Standards Committee co-chairs of the proposal submission. Consultation should be pursued through several means, which may include:

  • Publication of the proposal on the technical subcommittee's SAA microsite.
  • Letters sent to heads of organizations or organizations, or to individuals, inside and outside of SAA, known to have an interest in the standard under revision, inviting their comments on a particular proposal.
  • Publication of notices in the newsletters or on the websites of these organizations about the proposed change.
  • Publication of the proposal in appropriate SAA media.
  • Publication of the proposal in external publications.
  • Joint meetings with interested organizations to discuss the proposal.
  • Open forums or hearings at the SAA Annual Meeting.

V.E.4. Recommendation to revise the standard.

Based on comments received from the community, the technical subcommittee may either reject the proposal, or develop a recommendation for revisions to the standard. The draft revisions may be based on both the original proposal and amendments developed during the review process. Revision proposals should document changes in the standard in relation to the current text. Significant changes in the initial proposal by the technical subcommittee may require an additional period of consultation. The review and consultation process should be completed within six months of the submission of a proposal.

Once the draft revisions have been finalized, it should be forwarded to the Standards Committee together with documentation of the submission and consultation process.

V.E.5. Standards Committee review of recommended changes.

The Standards Committee will review the package to ensure that it is complete and that adequate consultation and review have taken place. It may return the package to the development and review team if significant elements are missing.

V.E.6. Recommendation to the SAA Council.

The Standards Committee will send to the SAA Council a report on the process and a recommendation. This may be either a recommendation to consider implementation of the draft revisions, or a recommendation against adoption. The decision to accept changes to official standards of the Society of American Archivists can only be made by the SAA Council.

When the draft revision documentation is deemed complete, the Standards Committee will publish a notice in the appropriate SAA media announcing that the draft revision has been forwarded to the Council.

V.E.6. Promulgation of revised standard.

If a draft revision is accepted by the SAA Council, the Standards Committee will publish a notice of the approval of the changes in the appropriate SAA media.

V.E.7. Major revisions or rescinding the standard.

In addition to managing proposals for revision, the technical subcommittee may also determine that the standard is no longer relevant or has been superseded, and may recommend that the standard be considered for major revisions or rescinded. The guidelines for cyclical review should be followed in developing such recommendations (see section V.D.).  The SAA Council may also establish a deadline for reviewing the applicability and maintenance of standards at their discretion.

VI. Council Fast-Track Procedures

In some cases the SAA Council may initiate, or encourage/approve a component group to initiate, the standards development process for best practices documents without seeking prior approval from the Standards Committee.  In these cases a subgroup of the Council functions as the standard development and review team and the standards approval process begins at step III as described above.

SAA Expert Groups (as identified by the Council) may also create best practice and/or guidelines as supports the mission of the Society and its members. In these cases the Expert Group functions as the standards development and review team and the standards approval process begins at Step III. 

Revised June 1995, February 2010, January 2012, August 2013, May 2014, July 2016