In 1977, recognizing the lack of international consensus on the expression of uncertainty in measurement, the world's highest authority in metrology, the Comité International des Poids et Mesures (CIPM), requested the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM) to address the problem in conjunction with the national standards laboratories and to make a recommendation.
The BIPM prepared a detailed questionnaire covering the issues involved and distributed it to 32 national metrology laboratories known to have an interest in the subject (and, for information, to five international organizations). By early 1979 responses were received from 21 laboratories .1) Almost all believed that it was important to arrive at an internationally accepted procedure for expressing measurement uncertainty and for combining individual uncertainty components into a single total uncertainty. However, a consensus was not apparent on the method to be used. The BIPM then convened a meeting for the purpose of arriving at a uniform and generally acceptable procedure for the specification of uncertainty; it was attended by experts from 11 national standards laboratories. This Working Group on the Statement of Uncertainties developed Recommendation INC‑1 (1980), Expression of Experimental Uncertainties . The CIPM approved the Recommendation in 1981  and reaffirmed it in 1986 .
The task of developing a detailed guide based on the Working Group Recommendation (which is a brief outline rather than a detailed prescription) was referred by the CIPM to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), since ISO could better reflect the needs arising from the broad interests of industry and commerce.
Responsibility was assigned to the ISO Technical Advisory Group on Metrology (TAG 4) because one of its tasks is to coordinate the development of guidelines on measurement topics that are of common interest to ISO and the six organizations that participate with ISO in the work of TAG 4: the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the partner of ISO in worldwide standardization; the CIPM and the International Organization of Legal Metrology (OIML), the two worldwide metrology organizations; the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP), the two international unions that represent chemistry and physics; and the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry (IFCC).
TAG 4 in turn established Working Group 3 (ISO/TAG 4/WG 3) composed of experts nominated by the BIPM, IEC, ISO, and OIML and appointed by the Chairman of TAG 4. It was assigned the following terms of reference:
To develop a guidance document based upon the recommendation of the BIPM Working Group on the Statement of Uncertainties which provides rules on the expression of measurement uncertainty for use within standardization, calibration, laboratory accreditation, and metrology services;
The purpose of such guidance is
- to promote full information on how uncertainty statements are arrived at;
- to provide a basis for the international comparison of measurement results.
1) See the Bibliography.
* Footnote to the 2008 version:
In producing this 2008 version of the GUM, necessary corrections only to the printed 1995 version have been introduced by JCGM/WG 1. These corrections occur in subclauses 4.2.2, 4.2.4, 5.1.2, B.2.17, C.3.2, C.3.4, E.4.3, H.4.3, H.5.2.5 and H.6.2.