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The University of Southampton

Beating the DRUM (Digital Representation of Units and Measures)

Published: 16 May 2022
Jeremy Frey

Researchers are using different units of measurement which can cause ambiguity and misinterpretation of results. Prof Jeremy G. Frey, Physical and Digital Chemist, along with colleagues from across the globe are trying to change this. They have formed a task group within CODATA (Committee on Data of the international Science Council) to raise awareness, education and enable communities to adopt a single digital unit representation. 

Published in Nature, a recent article uses examples from the Mars Orbiter to cholesterol measurements to demonstrate how exchanging data without clear and consistent units can lead to actual or potential disasters.

Jeremy says: “The re-use of so much data, wrought at high cost, is rendered at best time consuming and at worst useless by others if the units are unclear. In our call to action with DRUM, we want to know about the pain points different disciplines face in communicating precisely within their own areas and especially in interdisciplinary work.  What definitions are needed, what formats are useful, what tools are needed, and how the CODATA DRUM task group can help.”

As we move rapidly into the digital age, with computer mediated exchanges, the need to ensure that quantities have clearly expressed machine readable units is essential and yet we still do not have sufficient agreed standards.

Read the full article here.


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