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Bruce E. Peoples, defending his PhD work : Center of gravity standards analysis in multiple contexts

On Friday April 8th, 2016, Mr. Bruce E. Peoples has defended his PhD dissertation at Paris 8 university. His work obtained the mention “very honorable distinction with unanimous congratulations from the jury (Très honorable avec félicitations du jury). The least we can say about his dissertation is that it is an original and innovative contribution to researchers and standards experts working in the field of e-Learning and ITLET standards (Information Technologies for Learning, Education and Training). Despite the big number of studies, reports and projects of all kinds that are published or conducted constantly in this research field, ITLET standardization remains in need for the kind of analysis that Bruce E. peoples provided in his thesis work entitled "Center of gravity standards analysis in multiple contexts".

The problem addressed by Bruce E. Peoples deals with the methodology applied to analyze how International Standards interrelate through normative references to build interoperability. The analysis methodology applied by Bruce identified center of gravity of international standards published until 2012 by subcommittee 36 (ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36). Bruce E.People defines Center of gravity standards as follows: “Identification of center of gravity standards enables the creation of other technical research opportunities for standards analysis such as: creation of recommender systems, time sequence analysis to identify how centers of gravity form, expand and contract over time, management of the standard production process, mapping of standards and their normative references to the Open Systems Interconnection Reference Model stack, and the addition of ancillary information, such as Project Editor contact information” 

Bruce E. Peoples PHD Jury. (Courtesy: Amy & Bruce E.Peoples, 2016)

The challenge of Bruce E. Peoples was beyond the ideal to just make a theoretical and academic step backward from his technical charges as an international standardization expert. His objective was also to provide a measuring model to be applied in different research fields. He aimed first at SC36 main field to support ITLET standards experts disposing of an analytical method that could analyze their work through two interoperability levels, horizontally across SC36 and vertically within working groups.

Some of the most relevant outcomes from Bruce’s research are mainly that:

  • the most Shared Centers of Gravity standards at a vertical technology level across ISO/IEC JTC1 SC 36 WGs are ISO/IEC 10646:2003 Information Technology - Universal Coded Character Set, and ISO 639-2:1998 Codes for the representation of names and languages – Part 2: Alpha-3 code;
  • the most normative references used in international standards published by SC36 are primarily from sources outside SC36;
  • the only SC36 published standards where at least another SC36 produced standard is normatively referenced are:
    • ISO/IEC 19778-3:2011 produced in WG2, referencing ISO/IEC 24703:2004 produced in WG3,
    • ISO/IEC 24703:2004 produced in WG3, referencing ISO/IEC 2382-36:2008 produced in WG1
  • only WG2, WG4, WG5 and WG7 have published standards that normatively reference their own other published standards. 

© Bruce E.Peoples, 2016

The primary purpose of this thesis is, ultimately, a metric analysis of visibility indicators that can enrich interoperability standards in any field. The major lesson that Bruce E. Peoples wanted to demonstrate was the strategic value that gravity centers can have in standardization activity.

To have a better presentation of Bruce’s thesis work, we better refer to an excerpt from the thesis introduction:

"There is a need to develop and document a process to identify how standards inter-relate to form a basis of interoperability in multiple contexts; at a general horizontal technology level that covers all domains, and within specific vertical technology domains and sub-domains.   By analyzing which standards inter-relate through normative referencing, key standards can be identified as technical centers of gravity, allowing identification of specific standards that are required for the successful implementation of standards that normatively reference them, and form a basis for interoperability across horizontal and vertical technology domains.

This Thesis focuses on defining a methodology to analyze ICT standards to identify normatively referenced standards that form technical centers of gravity utilizing Data Mining (DM) and Social Network Analysis (SNA) graph technologies as a basis of analysis.  As a proof of concept, the methodology focuses on the published International Standards (IS) published by the International Organization of Standards/International Electrotechnical Committee; Joint Technical Committee 1, Sub-committee 36 Learning Education, and Training (ISO/IEC JTC1 SC 36).  The process is designed to be scalable for larger document sets within ISO/IEC JTC1 that covers all JTC1 Sub-Committees, and possibly other Standard Development Organizations (SDOs)".

Finally, I can admit that in a context often presented as esoteric and rigid, it is not very common, in fact, to have analytical reports and theoretical studies coming out from standardization bodies, and less from technical experts’ work, like Bruce E. Peoples, because they are constantly captured by time-consuming processes of industrial standards production. But Bruce did it and that was outstanding. The choice he made to work on such a topic is inherent to his experience gained over many years as a standard developer and engineer in international industrial bodies. Combining many other scientific and professional qualities as reported in his Curriculum Vitae, his thesis work will probably constitute a useful reference work both to conduct further research work, but also to help promoting the technical work of e-learning and education technology standards. SC36 gains to optimize Bruce’s researh findings and integrate them into the scope of work of the Business planning and communications working group (SC36/AG1).