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[no.20] Some reflections by the Secretary of the CIPM

Next June I shall be retiring from the CIPM after 18 years as a member and 47 years as a metrologist. Dr Hidetaka lmai, Chairman of the APMP, has kindly invited me to share with you some of my memories. I have decided to do this by recalling some of the major developments in international collaboration during the second half of the 20th century. Prior to 1950 progress under the Metre Convention had been steady but rather slow. From 1875 until the 1920s the CIPM had concentrated almost exclusively on length and mass metrology.

However, revision of the Convention in 1921 had enabled the scope of the work to be extended, and in 1927 the CIPM had begun the practice of establishing Consultative Committees (CCs) to assist it in specific fields of metrology.

Since 1950 progress under the Metre Convention has greatly accelerated. An international practical system of units was agreed to during the 1950s and given the title Système International d'Unités (SI) by the 11th CGPM in 1960. The number of CCs has grown from three to ten, one of the newer ones being responsible for the important and very different field of metrology in chemistry. Moreover, each CC has become the main technical meeting ground for the leading national metrology institutes (NMIs) in its field. The CIPM has also recognised a need for improved communication with the NMIs on broader issues and begun convening periodic meetings of the Directors of NMIs with CIPM representatives and senior BIPM staff.

The half-century under review has seen the establishment of the OIML in 1955 to facilitate international collaboration in legal metrology and of ILAC in 1977 to foster international harmonisation in the field of laboratory accreditation. Representatives of CIPM,CIML and ILAC now meet regularly to pursue issues of common concern.

The BIPM now has a broadened mission and hasdeveloped considerably in size and staff qualifications.

However, the greater part of the laboratory work involved in developing international uniformity of measurement is performed in the NMIs. There has been a marked increase in the number of competent NMIs throughout the world, and since the l970s there has been a growth of regional multilateral collaborations among NMIs, often associated with regional economic or trade arrangements. This in turn has led to the formation of regional metrology organisations (RMOs), of which APMP is a notable example.

The CIPM regards RMOs as being vital elements in its global strategy, working Collaboratively with the BIPM and with each other. The task of international coordination is simply too large to be the responsibility of the BIPM alone. Moreover, the RMOs provide an entry point for nations and economies that are not yet signatories to the Metre Convention; they are often best placed to assist developing NMIs with training courses and consultants; and they can deal with issues that are of regional rather than global concern.

The recently developed Mutual Recognition Arrangement is an outstanding example of collaboration by the NMIs, the BIPM and the RMOs. I encourage all member economies of APMP to become signatories to it, either as a member state of the Metre Convention or as an associate of the CGPM. It is a most important initiative and will for the first time make publicly available a comprehensive statement of the degree of equivalence of the standards and certificates of NMIs around the world.

In conclusion, I congratulate the APMP on its impressive contributions to the attainment of regional and global uniformity of measurement, and I wish it continued success in the future.

january,2000

W.R.Blevin

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