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FAQs - NIST OWM and NCWM Roles

The National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) was first held as the “First Annual Meeting of Sealers of Weights and Measures of the United States” in 1905 and as part of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS; now NIST). The NCWM separated its operations from NBS and became a not-for-profit weights and measures association in 1998.

No, the NCWM is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit corporation and NIST is a non-regulatory agency within the Department of Commerce. However, both NCWM and NIST work closely together and share the mutual goal and responsibility of developing the standards in the NIST Handbooks (44, 130, and 133) and facilitating uniformity in weights and measures laws, regulations, standards, and practices in the U.S.

Learn more about the history of the NIST Handbooks and NCWM here.

Staff from NIST’s OWM serve on each NCWM committee as both members and technical advisors. These “NIST technical advisors” provide technical analysis and guidance of all proposals and can also raise new proposals for consideration. They provide expert advice throughout the consensus-based process to assist NCWM in reaching sound decisions.

These are a series of documentary standards that serve as “model” laws, regulations, and procedures to be adopted as legal requirements by Federal, state, and local regulatory agencies. They are used to regulate and ensure equity for consumers and sellers in commercial transactions based on weight and measure.

Learn more about the history of the NIST Handbooks and NCWM here.

The NCWM is the principal standards development organization used to develop the “model” laws, regulations, and procedures within NIST Handbooks 44, 130, and 133. NIST is an active member of the NCWM (albeit a non-voting member) and participates in the standards development process. However, the standards within the NIST Handbooks reflect what is adopted by the NCWM each year.

Learn more about the history of the NIST Handbooks and NCWM here.

NIST does not decide what standards to include in this series of technical handbooks. Specific only to NIST Handbooks 44, 130 and 133, new standards are proposed to the NCWM and developed via a committee-based consensus process involving NCWM members with technical advice from NIST.

A proposal for a new standard is sufficiently developed through the regional weights and measures associations. Then it is submitted to the appropriate committee of the NCWM and further developed with participation of all its members (both voting and non-voting). Voting members include the regulators for each state and territory. Non-voting members include NIST, and representatives from industry, other governmental agencies, and other private organizations. The new standard is then voted on at the NCWM annual meeting in July of each year. If adopted by consensus, NIST publishes the Handbooks with those new standards that are approved the following year.

NIST OWM published and maintains these standards and provides electronic copies free of charge for each NIST Handbook (44, 130, 133, among others) via our website.  We provide the documents in both *.pdf and *.docx formats.  NIST OWM will provide a printed copy of requested NIST Handbook (44, 130, 133, among others) free of charge. You may also contact our office at 301-975-4004 or request a copy at OWM [at] (OWM[at]nist[dot]gov).

An NCWM member receives a complimentary copy of the NIST Handbooks with their membership.

Created May 11, 2023, Updated June 26, 2023