On August 1, 2023, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to reaffirm a long-existing mutual cooperation to develop uniform and equitable weights and measures standards and enhance and strengthen the promotion of uniformity in State and local weights and measures laws, regulations, standards and practices. NIST OWM will continue to actively engage with NCWM through its Executive Secretary (OWM Chief) on the Board of Directors (BOD), numerous Technical Advisors serving on NCWM’s Standing Committees and National Marketplace surveys, and through the cooperative development of professional development and training video products.
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), which was the predecessor non-regulatory agency to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of the United States Department of Commerce (DOC). The NCWM separated its operations from NIST and became a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit weights and measures association in 1998.
As part of a Congressional mandate to promote uniformity in weights and measures standards among the States and local jurisdictions, NIST continues to collaborate with and participate in the NCWM as the most effective means to fulfill this responsibility. While NIST and NCWM work independently, it is of mutual benefit to both to combine their efforts to better serve their constituency (i.e., the U.S. weights and measures community).
Each organization has its respective roles and responsibilities but work cooperatively to propose, develop, and ultimately adopt uniform code and technical requirements for legal metrology. NCWM and NIST OWM also share the mutual goal and responsibility of developing the standards in the NIST Handbooks (44, 130, and 133). As we continue our long history of collaboration, we aim to strengthen our partnership towards the same goal of promoting marketplace equity and uniformity in weights and measures laws, regulations, standards, and practices in the U.S.
NIST and NCWM recently signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to reaffirm our desire to continue the mutual cooperation between NCWM and NIST to support the development of uniform and equitable weights and measures standards and enhance and strengthen the promotion of uniformity in State and local weights and measures laws, regulations, standards and practices. The MOU will be based on the foundational relationship between NCWM and NIST but will also serve as guide to our future collaborative and strategic activities over the next 5 years. This includes elements such as the unique roles of NIST technical advisors and NCWM Committee Coordinators, the continued development of the NCWM Committee Handbook, collective weights and measures training opportunities, and NIST’s plans to maintain both the existing electronic format and develop digital versions of the NIST Handbooks 44, 130, and 133.
We were pleased to have NIST Director Locascio (and NCWM Honorary President) attend the 108th Annual NCWM meeting and provide remarks ahead of the MOU signing:
“Continued partnership with the National Conference on Weights and Measures will be critical to meeting our mutual goal and responsibility of facilitating uniformity in weights and measures laws, regulations, standards, and practices. The future will require all of us working together to meet the challenges of developing relevant standards for new technology. As systems are getting more complex, it is crucial that the weights and measures community leverages our cooperative strengths to plan for these changes and align with these emerging technologies.
In line with this, the new MOU that we will signing today provides a new framework for NIST and NCWM to work together more effectively to meet such challenges. Our renewed partnership will provide the U.S. legal metrology community with the measurements and standards that it requires to effectively meet current and future challenges.”
The NIST-NCWM MOU was officially signed on August 1, 2023 by NIST Director Laurie Locascio, OWM Chief Katrice Lippa, NCWM Chair Mahesh Albuquerque, and NCWM Executive Director Don Onwiler.
The NIST OWM Chief has a standing position, on a continuing basis, as the NCWM Executive Secretary and serves on the NCWM Board of Directors (BOD). The Executive Secretary serves in an advisory role without voting rights and provides perspectives related to NIST OWM operations, updates related to NIST relationships with other weights and measures stakeholders (e.g., federal agencies, industry, international organizations), and any technical guidance to current issues (as appropriate). The standing position of the Executive Secretary also provides a constancy for strategic planning and knowledge sharing between NIST OWM and the leadership of NCWM.
As active members of the NCWM, OWM staff currently serve as NIST Technical Advisors to its various technical and standards development committees. NIST Technical Advisors provide weights and measures technical comments, advice, guidance, and assistance to all NCWM membership, including the members and Chairs of the committee, subcommittees, and work groups. This includes technical advice during committee work sessions, open hearings associated with the NCWM Interim and Annual meetings, and via publicly accessible OWM Technical Analyses of selected items submitted to the standing committees.
NCWM hosts annual Committee Development training sessions that includes the Chairs, Vice-Chairs, and Committee Coordinators that also include all NIST Technical Advisors and the Executive Secretary (OWM Chief). The primary focus is to have open discussion on roles, responsibilities, policies, and how to improve procedures to support effective and efficient standards development within the NCWM processes.
OWM staff also serve as Technical Advisors to the four regional Weights and Measures Associations (Central, Western, Southern, and Northeastern) that are comprised of member states. Technical Advisors attend regional, and NCWM Annual and Interim meetings, to provide technical guidance. The technical advisors provide assistance and guidance as proposals and technical items are deliberated during open hearings and committee work sessions. The regional meetings provide a forum for the further development of regional consensus for these items and serve as the gateway for moving any new items onto the national agenda of the NCWM.
NCWM and NIST OWM have also partnered to leverage OWM’s Video Studio capability to video-capture the happenings at NCWM Annual and Interim meetings and then produce an informational video “Why Should I Attend the NCWM?” NIST OWM’s AV Production Specialist Rich Montgomery has recorded footage of various meeting activities, including task group technical sessions, committee work sessions, and open hearings that will be used to produce a series of NCWM marketing videos. This video will assist first-time attendees and associated decision makers with an introduction to the NCWM and why it is important to attend and participate in the standards development process.
As a key stakeholder in standards development, NIST OWM is pleased to partner with NCWM to present consistent guidance to the entire weights and measures community and support NCWM’s strategic goal to strengthen and improve the standards development process. Other cooperative efforts between NIST OWM and NCWM may include developing training content to promote future leaders in standards development and to assist weights and measures professionals create effective career development plans.
NCWM and NIST OWM collaborated in 2022 to conduct a National Survey on 20 lb LPG (Propane) Cylinders. The survey was a multi-state and multi-purpose effort involving collaboration between NCWM, NIST’s OWM and Statistical Engineering Division, and several state and local weights and measures jurisdictions. Data was collection for point of pack locations, direct sale refilling stations and cylinder exchange locations. Results were ultimately used by NCWM to petition to the U.S. Department of Transportation to revisit 2022 rule-making that supersedes the weights and measures standards for tare of 20 lb cylinders in NIST Handbook 130. The outcomes of the study also benefited the LPG industry by demonstrating the need for improved quantity control to protect their profits, and consumers to help ensure they get what they pay for.
Currently, NIST OWM and NCWM are partnering with state and local jurisdictions to conduct a 2023-2024 nation-wide Price Verification marketplace survey on price verification and accuracy across a range of retail store formats (e.g., food, drugstores, convenience, big-box, and dollar stores). OWM will provide training to the weights and measures inspectors on a “Price Verification Examination Procedure” based on NIST Handbook 130. The ultimate goal is to provide reliable information on price accuracy and ensure equity in the marketplace for commercial transactions for both businesses and consumers alike.
In closing, our renewed MOU with NCWM affirms our current engagements and cements our plans for future collaboration, partnership, and support for each other’s organization. We are pleased to kick off this next chapter in our long history together.