What is a Standard?
“A Standard is a published document which sets out specifications and procedures designed to ensure that a material, product, method or service is fit for its purpose and consistently performs in the way it was intended. Standards establish a common language, which defines quality and establishes safety criteria.” (from Standards Australia.)
"A standard is a universally agreed upon guideline, which usually facilitates safety or ease of use.
ASTM F717-89(2006) Standard Specification for Football Helmets ensures that all helmets manufactured for use in competitive football meet the needs of the NFL and the stringent testing requirements of the American Society for Testing & Materials.
Engineers, inventors, manufacturers and contractors, insurers, governmental bodies, attorneys and consumers (like homeowners) all rely on standards to assure that buildings, bridges, cars, roads, and all sorts of products and goods are safe and usable—and that the people responsible for their design, production, and construction can be held accountable."
(from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Standards and Specifications Web page)
An important use of standards is to ensure a direct and unambiguous comparison of experimental data to published data. For instance, standards can be used to examine the mechanical properties of current metal alloys. These standards are then used to test a new metal alloy thus ensuring the most accurate comparison; this avoids the many possible ways to determine mechanical properties which leads to slightly different results with different limitations and strengths.