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NIST Launches Initiative to Take Pulse Of U.S. Measurement Capabilities, Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, D.C—An initiative to "roadmap" the nation's future measurement needs was announced today by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Necessary advances in measurement capabilities are basic to technological innovation, U.S. industrial competitiveness, safety and security, and quality of life.

"The nation's measurement system is a vital element of our innovation infrastructure," NIST Acting Director Hratch Semerjian said during testimony before the House Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards. "The goal of this very important initiative, which will be undertaken in close cooperation with the private sector and other agencies, is to ensure that the nation's highest-priority measurement needs are identified and met. We need to be certain that the U.S. measurement system is robust so that it can sustain America's economy and citizens at world-class levels in the 21st century."

Semerjian was testifying on the use of standards as barriers to export markets. Test and measurement methods are critical for businesses to demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements and standards, which are the specifications that define the features, performance levels, compatibility and other attributes of products. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has estimated that standards influence up to 80 percent of world trade.

The comprehensive, NIST-facilitated initiative, Roadmapping America's Measurement Needs for a Strong Innovation Infrastructure, will result in a first-ever evaluation of the breadth, depth and overall health of the U.S. measurement system. The final report, expected in early 2007, will identify priority measurement infrastructure needs across industry and the economy, recommend steps to address them and point out the consequences of inaction.

NIST and other organizations will convene industry- and technology-specific workshops to define emerging measurement needs crucial to future performance and capabilities. Currently, NIST staff members are actively developing plans for a dozen workshops that will engage industry, government and academia in documenting measurement needs. Examples of likely topics include manufacturing and reliability of nanotechnology systems, measurements for broadband communications, data storage technologies, proteomics and non-destructive evaluation methods for homeland security applications.

In addition, NIST is collecting and reviewing previously published roadmapping and workshop reports focused on future science and technology challenges and opportunities. Staff members are evaluating the reports' coverage of associated measurement needs and preparing brief summaries of their findings. NIST already has collected more than 200 such reports, which span technologies and industries ranging from fuel cells to aerospace to electronics.

During the information-gathering phase of the measurement-system initiative, NIST also is encouraging businesses, trade associations, professional groups and other organizations to identify and advise NIST of pressing measurement infrastructure needs and gaps in their particular areas.

In early 2006, NIST will convene a U.S. Measurement Summit. This meeting will provide a venue for focused cross-sector, cross-technology discussion and debate among key customers and stakeholders on priority measurement system needs and how to address them.

For more information on the initiative, go to Comments and suggestions can be sent to usms [at] (usms[at]nist[dot]gov).

As a non-regulatory agency, NIST develops and promotes measurement, standards and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate trade, and improve the quality of life.

Released May 11, 2005, Updated February 2, 2023