Proliferative epithelial lesions in the smaller caliber pancreatic ducts and ductules have been the subject of numerous morphologic, clinical, and genetic studies; however, a standard nomenclature and diagnostic criteria for classifying these lesion have not been established. To evaluate the uniformity of existing systems for grading duct lesions in the pancreas, 35 microscopic slides with 35 representative duct lesions were sent to eight expert pathologists from the United States, Canada, and Europe. Kappa values for interobserver agreement could not be calculated initially because more than 70 different diagnostic terms were used by the eight pathologists. In several cases, the diagnoses rendered for a single duct lesion ranged from "hyperplasia," to "metaplasia," to "dysplasia," to "carcinoma in situ." This review therefore demonstrated the need for a standard nomenclature and classification system. Subsequently, during a working group meeting, the pathologists agreed to adopt a single standard system. The terminology pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (or PanIN) was selected, and diagnostic criteria for each grade of PanIN were established (http://pathology.jhu.edu/pancreas_panin). This new system was then evaluated by having the eight pathologists rereview the original 35 cases. Only seven different diagnoses were rendered, and kappa values of 0.43, 0.14, and 0.42 were obtained for PanINs 1, 2, and 3 respectively. Cases assigned other diagnoses (e.g., squamous metaplasia) collectively had a kappa value of 0.41. These results show both the potential of the classification system, and also the difficulty of classifying these lesions even with a consistent nomenclature. However, even when there is lack of consensus, having a restricted set of descriptions and terms allows a better understanding of the reasons for disagreement. It is suggested that we adopt and apply this system uniformly, with continued study of its reliability and use, and possibly further refinement. The acceptance of a standard classification system will facilitate the study of pancreatic duct lesions, and will lead ultimately to a better understanding of their biologic importance.