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Sally Birch

Our birthday Standards Heroes have been nominated by their peers to represent all our contributors - individuals we consider to be the real heroes of standards, in Australia and internationally. We thank those who contribute their knowledge and expertise, service, and time to Standards Australia for the benefit of the Australian community.  

Sally Birch is a Principal Experimental Scientist in the Characterisation Program in Mineral Resources at CSIRO.    

How did you become involved in standards development? 

I became involved in standards development when I accepted a two-year position at CSIRO in 1989.  

My supervisor was already working with Standards Australia and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to develop methods for chemical analysis of mineral materials using x-ray fluorescence (XRF). I joined as a research assistant to carry out the experimental work required to develop the methods for iron ore and mineral sands products.

Two years seemed a long time back then, but more than three decades later, I am still with CSIRO and still engaged with Standards Australia and ISO committees.  

What role have standards played in your career?   

Standards development has been the major component of my career over 33 years. I am an active member of MN-002-02 (Iron ores - Chemical Analysis) and MN-002-01 (Iron ores -Sampling). I am currently the Chair of ISO/TC 102/SC 2 (Iron ores - Chemical Analysis) and have worked in many working groups and study groups within SC 2.  

In 2013 I was awarded a Standards Australia meritorious contribution award (International) for my work in the iron ore committee.  

What is a project you’ve been particularly proud to have helped deliver? 

The publication of ISO 9516-1, Iron ores - Determination of various elements by X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, was a highlight as it took more than a decade to gain international acceptance. The method is used throughout the Australian iron ore industry and is well-regarded internationally. Another highlight was the revision of AS 2563, Iron ores — Wavelength dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometers — Determination of precision. I was pleased to be able to bring together many experts to collaborate on this project to produce a method that is used internationally.  

Outside of standards development, what have been some highlights of your career? 

In 2020 I was awarded the AXAA Keith Norrish award for significant contributions to XRF. As Keith Norrish was my initial supervisor at CSIRO, it was a great privilege to receive the award in his name.

What do you think the future of standardisation looks like? 

I think that the future of standardisation is bright. The committees I am involved with have much more diversity than was previously present and advances in technology have improved our ability to communicate more readily interstate and overseas to progress standards development.  

Is there anything you’d like to say or mention about Standards Australia’s centenary year? 

Congratulations to Standards Australia in providing the structure and leadership for development of standards in so many areas of Australian life.