13 Sep 2021

What is the National Institute of Standards and Technology?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the federal agency that develops and promotes globally-recognized measurement standards. NIST advises the U.S. Government on technical matters, develops and deploys measurement tools, tests materials to develop national standards, provides technical support to U.S. industries, and participates in international standards development work of ongoing interest to the United States as a member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

NIST was established in 1901 by President William McKinley as the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) with a mandate to promote American business interests abroad through its efforts in developing global industrial standards—a mission that continues today under its new name, NIST

What are some of the things NIST does?

NIST is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce that works to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life

NIST has six primary missions:

  • Developing standards for measurements
  • Undertaking research to advance measurement science; developing test methods for materials, products, systems, and services
  • Providing technical support in the use of measurement
  • Fostering innovation in commerce through collaborations with industry, academia, and government partners
  • Educating the public about NIST’s work

What are the types of standards that NIST creates?

The NIST creates standards for all sectors that are related to information and communication technology. The standards that they create can be categorized in the following groups:

Security Standards: For example, the Digital Signature Standard is a standard developed by NIST. It is used to ensure the integrity and authenticity of digital signatures.

Standards for Government Agencies: For example, NIST develops a standard for agencies that require strong authentication.

Standards for Industrial Sectors: For example, in 2018 NIST released a standard about blockchain-based electronic health records systems.

Who is responsible for monitoring the integrity of NIST’s measurements?

There are a number of people and procedures in place that ensure the integrity of NIST’s measurements. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has over 25,000 employees who work in close collaboration with other federal agencies to maintain the integrity of the measurements.

A number of government organizations as well as private partners support NIST in their work. These include:

  • The Department of Commerce, which provides funding for the research and development activities at NIST.
  • The Department of Defense, which assists with measurement research related to cybersecurity, military technology, and chemical weapons.
  • The Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees food standards and measurements for dairy products, poultry products, eggs, feed ingredients used in animal diets; agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers;

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