Dominance and Signs of Potential Dominance
Addresses questions about the IEEE definition of Dominance, signs of potential dominance, how to discourage dominant behavior, and what to do if one becomes aware of potential dominance.
What is dominance in the context of IEEE Standards development?
The IEEE SA Standards Board Bylaws (clause 184.108.40.206) specifies that the standards development process shall not be dominated by any single interest category, individual, or organization.
This means no participant may exercise authority, leadership, or influence by reason of superior leverage, strength, or representation to:
- The exclusion of fair and equitable consideration of other viewpoints; OR
- Hinder the progress of the standards development activity.
This rule applies equally to those contributing technically to an IEEE SA standards development project and to the project’s leadership.
What are common signs of potentially dominant behavior?
Dominance might exist when sustained and substantive opposition from relevant stakeholders on technical issues appears to be ignored or dismissed without proper and reasonable consideration.
Dominance might also exist when:
- There is not proper debate on a potentially contentious topic:
- Debate is not allowed or is cut short prematurely.
- Debate is allowed but there is no substantive engagement on technical issues.
- Participants are not given a reasonable time to consider a proposal before it is decided.
- A technical position experiences an inexplicable groundswell of endorsement from a group of participants, with no substantive new technical argument being made.
- It is unclear whether all participants in a debate are providing knowledgeable input:
- There are a very large number of people listed as an author of a technical paper.
- People are listed as the author on a paper for which they have limited expertise.
- Decisions are made by participants who may not be informed:
- They vote on topics having not paid any attention to the debate.
- They enter the room late to vote having not heard the debate.
- Decisions are made by participants who are potentially directed by third parties:
- Participants vote after observing the vote of a “leader”.
- Groups of participants always vote together.
- A large proportion of voters have the same affiliation.
These signs of potential dominance are not exhaustive or definitive, although the existence of these signs may indicate the need either to:
- Make special efforts to discourage dominance (see FAQ3).
- Further evaluate whether there is a reasonable suspicion of dominance (see FAQ 4).
How should dominance be discouraged?
It is the responsibility of all participants of a Standards Committee (or any subgroups), and particularly its leadership, to discourage dominance.
Mechanisms to discourage dominance include:
- The Chair ensuring that participants have adequate time to consider proposals, particularly more complex proposals.
- The Chair ensuring debate is not prematurely curtailed by procedural mechanisms.
- The Chair inviting participants to explain their position and any votes.
- The Chair reminding participants of their obligations to vote as individual technical experts (in individual based groups), and only vote if they consider themselves to be sufficiently informed in the matter under consideration.
- The Chair recording the votes of participants in the minutes.
- Participants requesting that the Chair makes use of these mechanisms.
What should a Standards Committee (or one of its subgroups) do when it becomes aware of potential dominance?
A Standards Committee (or one of its subgroups) that becomes aware of a concern, allegation or suspicion of potential dominance should determine if the concern, allegation or suspicion is reasonable:
- The Standards Committee may use a variety of methods to assist making such a determination, including consulting with its IEEE SA Program Manager on appropriate actions.
- A Standards Committee that believes it does not have the experience or knowledge to make such a determination shall refer the question of potential dominance to its IEEE SA Program Manager.
- As provided in the IEEE Code of Ethics, members of the Standards Committee should avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest whenever possible, and to disclose them to affected parties when they do exist.
If the Standards Committee determines the concern, allegation or suspicion of potential dominance is reasonable then it shall notify its IEEE SA Program Manager:
- The Standards Committee shall not make any determination of actual dominance or any decisions on actions in response to actual dominance.
- The Standards Committee may propose corrective actions to the IEEE SA Standards Board.
- The Standards Committee is encouraged to provide brief summaries of all dominance concerns to the Secretary of the IEEE SA Standards Board to assist it in refining the process of addressing dominance.
The IEEE SA Program Manager shall refer the concern, allegation or suspicion of potential dominance to the IEEE SA Standards Board to determine whether dominance exists and, if so, what corrective actions are appropriate.
What should a participant do when they become aware of potential dominance?
The participant should first learn what might constitute dominance (e.g., by reviewing these FAQs or consulting with other volunteers or with IEEE SA staff).
A participant in a Standards Committee (or subgroup) who has concerns about potential dominance should normally notify the leadership of the Standards Committee (or subgroup).
A participant who is uncomfortable submitting concerns about potential dominance to the relevant Standards Committee or disagrees with the Standards Committee’s actions (or inactions) may submit the concerns directly to the Secretary of the IEEE SA Standards Board or the applicable IEEE SA Program Manager.