Tool standards help potential audiences understand and manage expectations around what a tool can and cannot do “as-is”, versus what it could be able to do with investment in development and deployment. In this 20 minute video, Joe Wheaton introduces how the Riverscape Consortium sets standards for tool development and the idea of tool-grade.
Meaning Behind a Standard
The RC’s tool grades, as an example of standards, can make claims as to utility. However, who makes that claim or has the authority to do so matters.
When it comes to agricultural products, most consumers would agree that “organic” is something generally desirable and producers and retailers recognize it is something customers will pay more for. Both badges make the same claim as to something desirable - i.e. organic. Those products bearing the badge on the left may well be “organic” or the producers may generally be adhering to “organic” principles. However, the “organic seal” on the right has more explicit meaning in that it is both certified by an organization (USDA), and in this instance it has a legal definition backed by explicit standards and is a certification issued by a government agency.
The Riverscapes Consortium is NOT a government agency nor it is a legal entity. However, the RC is working to earn the trust of the riverscapes community it supports, through clear standards, transparency and making sure our badges should mean something to end-users. When the Riverscapes-Compliant badge has been issued, it communicates that a standard has been met, and verified by the Riverscapes Consortium.
We define what we mean by these “tool grades” here and we use Report Cards and independent, peer-review to elaborate expectations. These standards make it clear what is expected of tool developers wishing to use the badge, and it makes it clear to users what they can expect from such tools. Moreover, we provide easier pathways for researchers and tool developers to achieve such status (with clear guidelines and technical references) as well as making it easier for lower-grade (e.g. operational-grade and research-grade) tools to leverage professional-grade and commercial-grade tools (e.g. Riverscapes Viewer and Riverscapes Warehouse) and reach broader audiences.