NIST stands for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It was originally founded in 1901 as the National Bureau of Standards, but was rebranded in 1988. It is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
This institute is a non-regulatory agency of the US Department of Commerce. Its goal is to help promote industrial competitiveness and innovation within the United States. They have programs that offer standards and best practices related to nanoscale science and technology, information technology, physical measurement, material measurement, neutron research, engineering, and other areas. These areas of focus change over time based on advancements and changes in the way industries run.
One of the most significant things that the NIST is responsible for is publishing a handbook, known as Handbook 44, that specifies the current standards for weights and measures. These are often used in manufacturing and other industries to help ensure that companies are all using the same standards.
While the NIST does put out a lot of information and standards focused on helping companies follow set standards, they are not a regulatory agency. This means that their guidance and recommendations are not mandatory for companies to follow. Since most organizations do follow these standards, however, failing to do so can cause a variety of problems and leave a company less competitive. In addition, regulatory agencies such as OSHA will often take the information or guidance offered by NIST and incorporate it into their policies, which will make them mandatory.
With the main goal of helping to promote competitiveness in the United States, the information released by this institute is generally trusted and highly valued. It is available to organizations throughout the United States and is typically seen as an unbiased source of standards that can be used by all companies. Many of the standards and recommendations are also followed by companies around the world since we live in a largely global economy.
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