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Questions and answers

What’s the difference between metrology and measurement?

A subtle but profound difference

Measurement is the process of experimentally obtaining one or more values that can reasonably be attributed to a quantity or property.  Measurement is fundamental to almost all human activity and so it is important that the accuracy of any measurement is fit for its intended purpose.

Metrology is the science of measurement and its application. Metrology is not just about the routine making of measurements, it’s about the infrastructure that ensures that we have confidence in the accuracy of the measurement. It establishes a common understanding of units and measurement processes, crucial to human activity.

Metrology covers the accuracy, precision and repeatability of a measurement. It involves traceability or comparison with a “standard” or between different measuring systems. Metrology includes all theoretical and practical aspects of measurement, whatever the measurement uncertainty or the field of application.

Richard Brown, NPL’s Head of Metrology explains: “If philosophy is ‘thinking about thinking’, then metrology is ‘measuring measurement’.” In short, many people do measurement, but few do metrology.  

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