Trueness – calibration and traceability

Lecture:* Trueness – calibration and traceability


Zanzibar effect


The famous story of the retired sea-captain on the island who takes his time from the watchmaker in town only to find out that the watchmaker uses the sea-captain’s cannon shots at 12 noon each day to set his own clocks! [Attributed to Harrison (MIT) by Petley.]

Examples of this kind of circular traceability in measurement are more common than one would hope.

This is the essence of the concept of trueness.

Quality-assured measurement

We have said much about ’quality-assured’ measurement: but what does it mean exactly? Basically, two components:

  • Metrological traceability
  • Measurement uncertainty

Metrological traceability


One key component of quality-assured measurement is traceability: this concept means and has the following consequences:


“Property of a measurement result whereby the result can be related to a reference through a documented unbroken chain of calibrations, each contributing to the measurement uncertainty (2.41 VIM)”

Traceability leads to measurement results that can be compared:

  • Under both repeatability and reproducibility
  • Even different measurement quantities

This gives processes and products which have :

  • Interoperability
  • Improved communication
  • Can be traded, are safe and lie within specifications


Calibration – gives trueness!

Calibration is an:

“operation that, under specified conditions, in a first step, establishes a relation between the quantity values with measurement uncertainties providedby measurement standards and corresponding indications with associated measurement uncertaintiesand, in a second step, uses this information to establish a relation for obtaining a measurement resultfrom an indication (2.39 VIM)”

  • European Association of National Metrology Institutes (EURAMET) and Swedish metrology
  • Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM)
  • IUPAP Red Book 1987 “Symbols, Units, Nomenclature and Fundamental Constants in Physics”


Measurement uncertainty

Another key component of quality-assured measurement is measurement uncertainty:

Uncertainty in a measurement value“Unknown measurement errors”

*Password: Contact


2 Responses

  1. Hi.
    I’m howard lee in Korea working in QA team of memory card packaging process.
    It is very helpful to understand measurement uncertainty including zanzibar effect, calibartion, traceabiity etc.

    Thanks You

    Best Regards
    Howard Lee

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