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Engineering, Electronics, Materials science and Mathematics

What are standards?

Standards are documents that establish a common technical specification, so products and processes can work safely, reliably and consistently. Some standards provide a common terminology or set of symbols for a particular field, to make sure different organisations are talking about the same thing when they use a given term or symbol. Standards are very commonly used in all branches of engineering.

Standards are published by a variety of different organisations, which often have a focus on a specific country or area of engineering.

Standards do not have the force of law in themselves: however, laws and regulations will often require you to meet certain standards, and so you may well have to follow those standards if you wish to manufacture or sell a product or service in a given country.

Main sources for standards

We have major collections of broad-ranging standards from three organisations. You can access all current standards from each organisation as PDFs, as well as some withdrawn and draft material.

ISO & CEN standards

We do not subscribe to ISO or European CEN standards. However, BSI frequently adopt these standards as their own, with the result that the equivalent British Standard  will be exactly the same as the ISO or CEN standard: in those cases, standards will have a standard number which begins BS ISO, BS EN or BS ISO EN . As a result, it is often worth searching for the standard number of an ISO or CEN standard on British Standards Online.

Some European standard organisations, such as the French AFNOR or German DIN standards, also adopt the same CEN standards as BSI: it is also worth searching for their standard numbers on British Standards Online.

Other sources for standards

What to do if a standard is not available in the Library?

Regrettably, it is generally impossible to order a standard through normal document supply services. However, if a particular standard is vital to your work, it may be possible to order a copy, especially for a dissertation project: please contact the library to ask about this.

What are patents?

Off-shore wind turbine by Sandy Buchanan

Photo credit: 'Off-Shore Wind Turbine' by Sandy Buchanan

A patent is a licence from a government which gives an inventor exclusive rights to create, sell or use an invention they have developed. As patents must describe how the invention functions, they are excellent sources of technical data on how products and processes work.

Sources for patents