Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 23-3 - 34

◗◗ is fully aware of the relevance of data for decision-making,
but he/she also knows the limits of the information data
provide and that data-based conclusions are not granted
to be flawless;
◗◗ is capable of quantifying the confidence level that can be
assigned to data and related models;
◗◗ grounds his/her conclusions not only on data, but also
on experience, a priori knowledge, critical analysis capability, intuition, and attention to possible cognitive
biases;
◗◗ is fully aware of the limits of technology he/she uses
to solve practical problems and enhance (not replace)
human intellect capabilities.
Thus, the basic principles and concepts of metrology
should represent common knowledge and must be well
known to people involved in critical decision-making processes. Unfortunately, the fundamentals of metrology are
seldom included in both undergraduate and graduate degree
programs, including those in the scientific and technological
fields. Therefore, we should not be surprised if a tsunami of
improperly used data is submerging us.
We may wonder why the scientific and educational communities have such low consideration for metrology despite
its crucial relevance. Perhaps a motivation can be found in
Popper's demarcation problem [13], according to which the
scientific disciplines are grouped in two great classes: the
empirical ones-aimed at producing theories that explain
how the empirical world works-and the formal ones-that
are intended to derive formal theories starting from a limited set of axioms. Metrology-whose body of knowledge
consists of an organized set of concepts, principles and methods aimed at building bridges between empirical and formal
disciplines-is not considered in this classification. This is
probably the reason why many scholars do not acknowledge that metrology possesses the dignity of an autonomous
discipline and consider it only a set of techniques and instruments for the acquisition of empirical data.
In the age in which measurements pervade all areas and every level of society-from relations between States and large
corporations to the simplest daily actions-underestimating
the relevance of metrology is likely to have serious and often
irreversible consequences.

Author's Note
A first version of this paper (written in Italian) has been published in Tutto_Misure, a publication of the Italian Association
Gruppo Misure Elettriche ed Elettroniche.

34	

References
[1]	 W. Kula, Measures and Men. Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton
University Press, 1986.
[2]	 V. Mayer-Schönberger, K. Cukier, Big Data: A Revolution That
Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. London, UK: John
Murray, 2014.
[3]	 I. Goldin and C. Kutarna, Age of Discovery. London, UK: Bloomsbury,
2017.
[4]	 Y. N. Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. London, UK:
Vintage, Penguin Random House, 2016.
[5]	 Y. N. Harari, "Big data, Google and the end of free will." [Online].
Available: https://www.ft.com/content/50bb4830-6a4c-11e6ae5b-a7cc5dd5a28c.
[6]	 G. Travis, "How the Boeing 737 Max disaster looks to a software
developer," IEEE Spectrum, Apr. 2019. [Online]. Available:
https://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/aviation/how-the-boeing737-max-disaster-looks-to-a-software-developer.
[7]	 A. Ferrero, "Imputato software: assolto," Tutto Misure, (in Italian),
no. 1, pp. 43-44, 2019.
[8]	 C. O'Neil, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases
Inequality and Threatens Democracy. New York, NY, USA:
Broadway Books, Penguin Random House, 2016.
[9]	 J. Z. Muller, The Tyranny of Metrics. Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton
University Press, 2019.
[10]	L. Mari and D. Petri, "The metrological culture in the context
of big data: managing data-driven decision confidence," IEEE
Instrum. Meas. Mag., pp. 4-20, 2017.
[11]	"Data Science Research Area, Intelligent and Effective Use of
Data," National Physical Laboratory. [Online]. Available: https://
www.npl.co.uk/data-science.
[12]	"Big Data at NIST," NIST Big Data, National Institute of Standards
and Technology. [Online]. Available: https://bigdatawg.nist.gov.
[13]	L. Mari and D. Petri, "Measurement science: constructing bridges
between reality and knowledge," IEEE Instrum. Meas. Mag., vol.
17, no. 6, pp. 6-11, 2014.

Dario Petri is a Full Professor in Measurement Science and
Electronic Instrumentation at the Department of Industrial Engineering of the University of Trento, Italy. He received the M.Sc.
and Ph.D. degrees in electronics engineering from the University of Padua, Italy, in 1986 and 1990, respectively. He is an IEEE
Fellow member and the recipient of the 2020 IEEE Joseph F.
Keithley Award for "contributions to measurement fundamentals and signal processing techniques in instrumentation and
measurement." Dr. Petri's research activities are focused on digital signal processing applied to measurement problems, data
acquisition systems, and fundamentals of measurement theory.

IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine	

May 2020


https://www.ft.com/content/50bb4830-6a4c-11e6-ae5b-a7cc5dd5a28c https://www.ft.com/content/50bb4830-6a4c-11e6-ae5b-a7cc5dd5a28c https://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/aviation/how-the-boeing-737-max-disaster-looks-to-a-software-developer https://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/aviation/how-the-boeing-737-max-disaster-looks-to-a-software-developer https://www.npl.co.uk/data-science https://www.npl.co.uk/data-science https://bigdatawg.nist.gov

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