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Raissa Carey


Event: World Metrology Day—May 20

Metrology in science—a bridge to innovation

Published: Monday, April 5, 2010 - 15:00

On May 20, measurement scientists and professionals worldwide celebrate World Metrology Day, established May 20, 1875, the day the Treaty of the Meter was signed. The treaty formed the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) and set the framework for global collaboration in measurement science and its applications.

Andrew J. Wallard, director of the BIPM first launched World Metrology Day in 2005, which began as a low-key event. Today, more than 80 countries celebrate the effects of measurement on daily life.

This year’s theme concentrates on how measurement influences science and stimulates innovation. As the world strives to move on from its recent financial problems, and as governments work to regenerate economies, science and technology should be viewed as the engines of economic growth and prosperity. These, in turn, rely on being able to measure correctly and to refer measurements to the same international reference standards.

In 2010, Wallard highlights the role played by precise measurement. He challenges measurement scientists to be more active in promoting the topic among decision makers, as well as with young people, pointing out the value of accurate and reliable measurement to their daily tasks and to the world as it deals with today’s challenges.

“Metrology has always had its eyes firmly fixed on practical steps in order to provide a ‘bridge to innovation,’” says Wallard. “Whitworth, that great British Victorian engineer said, ‘You can only make as well as you can measure’' and we are still faced with solving a measurement challenge so as to make a better product or to stimulate innovation.”

National systems of measurement, wherever they are, must, therefore, all rely on agreed standards and units as well as agreed techniques to make consistent, reproducible, and accurate measurements. Each national system is linked into a worldwide network of national measurement standards and laboratories coordinated by the IBWM. This network gives society access to accurate measurements to meet today’s challenges in health care, within the environment, and in all new technologies. In industry and commerce, it helps ensure product quality, eliminate waste, and raise productivity and trade based on agreed measurements and tests. It also enables scientists to use a common language to underpin their collaboration across the world and ensure that their measurements can be taken up by companies where ever they operate.

Last year’s theme was Measurements in Commerce: Metrology Underpinning Economic Development. To celebrate the day, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) held presentations that included: “When is a Pound of Fish Only Fourteen Ounces?” and “U.S. Metric Transition: Maximizing Opportunities and Reducing Barriers to Increase SI Use.” This year, it has not yet been decided whether an event will be held at NIST, the U.S. agency that develops and oversees measurement and technology.

Previous themes of World Metrology Day have included topics such as measurements in sports, the environment, medicine, and trade.

The director’s address, as well as the posters and other material can be found at the dedicated web site www.worldmetrologyday.org.


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Raissa Carey