Ensuring Traceability

  • Leslie Pendrill
Part of the Springer Series in Measurement Science and Technology book series (SSMST)


This chapter deals with traceability and comparability: the first of the two major hallmarks of metrology (quality-assured measurement). (The second hallmark—uncertainty—is covered in the final chapters of the book.)

Metrological traceability through calibration enables the measurement comparability needed, in one form or another, to ensure entity comparability in any of the many fields mentioned in the first lines of Chap.  1. The “Zanzibar” parable, illustrating the concept of measurement comparability, recalled in this chapter, captures the essence of the concept of trueness, that is, what defines being “on target” when making repeated measurements in the “bull’s eye” illustration of measurement accuracy. Examples of circular traceability in measurement are more common than one would hope.

Despite its importance, international consensus about traceability of measurement results—both conceptually and in implementation—has yet to be achieved in every field. Ever-increasing demands for comparability of measurement results needed for sustainable development in the widest sense require a common understanding of the basic concepts of traceability of measurement results at the global level, in both traditional and new areas of technology and societal concern.

The present chapter attempts to reach such a consensus by considering in depth the concept of traceability, in terms of calibration, measurement units and standards (etalons), symmetry, conservation laws and entropy, in a presentation founded on quantity calculus. While historically Physics has been the main arena in which these concepts have been developed, it is now timely to take a broader view encompassing even the social sciences, guided by philosophical considerations and even politics. At the same time as the International System of Units is under revision, with more emphasis on the fundamental constants of Physics in the various unit definitions, there is some fundamental re-appraisal needed to extend traceability to cover even the less quantitative properties typical of measurement in the social sciences and elsewhere.


Traceability Comparability Zanzibar parable Circular traceability Measurement units Standards (etalons) Symmetry Conserved quantities Entropy Quantity calculus 


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Leslie Pendrill
    • 1
  1. 1.PartilleSweden

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