ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and its partner IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) have published a new guide on the vocabulary of metrology – the science of measurement and its application.

ISO/IEC Guide 99:2007, International vocabulary of metrology – Basic and general concepts and associated terms (VIM), which is an English-French publication, gives guidance on the concepts and terms used in various approaches to measurement.

Before people can communicate, they need to know and understand the words they wish to use. This is equally true in metrology, where concepts and terms such as "measurement result", "measurement error" and "measurement uncertainty" need to be agreed upon if they are to be used in a consistent manner.

Since metrology is in an evolving state concerning what is the best approach (e.g. classical versus uncertainty), it is especially important to have an international vocabulary that allows metrologists to communicate clearly about the measurement approach that they are using.

ISO/IEC Guide 99 cancels and replaces the second edition of the International vocabulary of basic and general terms in metrology (VIM). It is equivalent to the third edition of the VIM.

The need to cover measurements in chemistry and laboratory medicine for the first time, as well as to incorporate concepts such as those that relate to metrological traceability, measurement uncertainty, and nominal properties, led to this third edition. Its title is now International vocabulary of metrology — Basic and general concepts and associated terms (VIM), in order to emphasize the primary role of concepts in developing a vocabulary.

In ISO/IEC Guide 99, it is taken for granted that there is no fundamental difference in the basic principles of measurement in physics, chemistry, laboratory medicine, biology, or engineering. Furthermore, an attempt has been made to meet conceptual needs of measurement in fields such as biochemistry, food science, forensic science, and molecular biology.

ISO/IEC Guide 99 was developed by a joint committee comprising representatives of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), IEC, ISO, the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC), the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP), the International Organization of Legal Metrology (OIML) and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).

ISO/IEC Guide 99:2007, International vocabulary of metrology – Basic and general concepts and associated terms (VIM), costs 192 Swiss francs and is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat through the ISO Store or by contacting the Marketing & Communication department (see right-hand column).