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  • Marianne Calilhanna

The Standard's Standard: NISO STS

Publication Standards

With the ubiquity of computers, digital documents, and file sharing, the publishing industry relies on standards for workflow, interoperability, and document creation and management. XML, developed in the mid '90s, is the predominant markup language in publishing, defining rules to encode content in a format that both humans and machines can read.

In addition to enabling the transfer of content that includes both data and format, XML allows disparate systems to communicate with each other, facilitates online discoverability, and makes content interchange between publishers and readers possible.

In the 25 years since XML's creation, non-standardized XML models have proliferated and been put into use. These include multiple models based on Journal Article Tag Suite (JATS, an XML format used to describe scientific literature published online) and myriad others developed independently.

Standards Enable Seamless Functionality

Industry standards are a set of criteria within an industry relating to the standard functioning and carrying out of operations in their respective fields of production. In other words it is the generally accepted requirements followed by the members of an industry.

A variety of electric plug examples
Standards make modern life possible, but there are still problems.

Standards make modern life possible. But there are still issues that one must understand or at least be aware of when dealing with modern standards. Perhaps the best example involves international travel when you need to pack an international converter along with a sensible pair of walking shoes.

Standards improve the lives of millions of people everyday.

  • ASTM manages more than 12,000 standards

  • IEEE has more than 1,250 active standards and more than 700 standards under development

  • AWWA has more than 180 standards

  • and there are many more managed by industry-specific associations

What About Standards Content?

Documentation around standards is different than what's involved in a scientific journal article. While JATS XML is the de facto standard for journal publishing, it does not fit the needs of standard content.

In 2015, in an attempt to preserve the intellectual content of standards, industry stakeholders agreed to standardize ISO STS (Standards Tag Suite) to one specific tag set that would be officially linked to JATS. The two standards would remain coupled so an XML solution for standards could be easily adopted industry-wide. The goal was to increase interoperability and create a foundation for standards that would benefit stakeholders and end-users and improve the overall future of standards publishing.


For standards publishing there are compelling benefits to convert to NISO STS. Many standards publishers have already implemented JATS or ISO XML and moving to STS is a natural extension.

The Next Evolution in Standards

SES - The Society for Standards Professionals is a not-for-profit professional membership society dedicated to furthering the knowledge and use of standards and standardization. SES is unique in that it is the only organization in North America committed exclusively to this effort.

Next week's SES Annual Conference will provide a neutral forum where standards users and developers can come together to address mutual issues, opportunities, and interests in ways that work to the benefit of everyone involved with, or affected by, standards

“Standardizations towards a better quality of life” involves making sure downstream consumption of standards’ content is frictionless. This requires a different strategy than making PDFs available for download. Organizations need to think long and hard about content creation and production processes. Content creators and front-end people need to understand best practices to prepare standards content so people AND systems can consume it.

DCL's Brian Trombley will host a panel discussion on the next evolution of standards at the SES Annual Conference. If you are interested in chatting with Brian about standards, NISO STS, or content mark up in general, send us an email at


Related Customer Case Study

NISO STS XML Conversion for the American Water Works Association



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