The Office of Weights and Measures (OWM) has a staff of 20 individuals and implements its services through four programs: laws and metric, international legal metrology, legal metrology devices, and laboratory metrology.
ASSESSMENT OF TECHNICAL PROGRAMS
Laws Program and Metric Program
The Laws Program provides “technical information, assistance, and training in the areas of packaging and labelling, methods of sale, uniform laws on legal metrology, net quantity of contents, price verification, and engine fuel quality.”1 The Metric Program “helps implement the national policy to establish the SI (international system of units, commonly known as the metric system) as the preferred system of units for trade and commerce.”2
To assist U.S. consumers in cost savings, researchers in the Laws Program and the Metrics Program have produced a best practices guide for the layout and design of unit price labels. The guide assists retailers and governments in improving the accuracy and usability of unit pricing.
The Metric Program presents information to stakeholders through yearly attendance at U.S. conferences and provides teacher’s metric kits. The use of social media may provide routes to increase the visibility of the OWM’s metric outreach program.
The Metric Program has experienced declines in student participation in outreach events. OWM attributes the decline to the decision not to participate in NSF’s Science and Technology Education Partnership (STEP) conference in 2014. As a result, OWM decided to attend the 2015 STEP conference and plans to attend STEP in 2016.
International Legal Metrology Program
The International Legal Metrology Program (ILMP) facilitates U.S. participation in the technical work of the International Organization of Legal Metrology (OIML), a treaty organization that develops voluntary standards intended to be used to harmonize national legislation among member states in areas where regulated instruments and measurements are involved.”3
With the publication in April 2015 of its final two sections, International Recommendation OIML R 117, Dynamic Measuring Systems for Liquids Other Than Water, is now considered to be the official
international standard for almost all dynamic liquid measuring systems, including those used for fuel dispensers, oil pipelines, ship loading, and aircraft fueling.
Legal Metrology Devices Program
The Legal Metrology Devices Program (LMDP) promotes “uniformity at the international, federal, state, and local levels in standards and practices for weighing and measuring devices to facilitate trade and protect U.S. businesses and citizens.”4
Plug-in electric vehicles make up a growing share of the nation’s vehicles and are prompting increased demand for the electrical equivalent of the corner gas station. A standard produced by NIST’s U.S. national work group on electric vehicle refueling and submetering was adopted by the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) at its 2015 annual meeting. The standard details how customers should be charged and the requirements operators should meet.
The OWM is recognized as the experts in the area of legal metrology and devices and is frequently engaged to collaborate with various U.S. national working groups and standards development committees.
The OWM’s device-related training has been well received by the states and industry Training effectiveness is assessed at the time the training is completed, and the feedback is used to improve the training methodology. Long-term training effectiveness is assessed by use of a voluntary follow-up to determine how the skills and knowledge acquired are being utilized in the field. It is unclear, however, if the long-term effectiveness of the training is being adequately assessed, and OWM needs to place more emphasis on this aspect. Examples of methods that could be considered are field audits, practical examinations, and partnership agreements.
Laboratory Metrology Program
The laboratory metrology program “provides the basis for ensuring traceability of state weights and measures standards to NIST; conducts fundamentals of metrology, mass, volume; and advances mass training for metrologists working for the states, for industry, and in other countries.”5
Americans rely on many measurements of mass and volume in their daily lives; the accuracy of the devices used in those measurements must be tested at regular intervals. The degree of accuracy achieved for these devices depends on the competence of the metrologists who calibrate over 350,000 measurement standards per year that are then used by weights and measures officials when testing measuring instruments.6
The number of accredited and recognized laboratories has dropped due to inadequate staffing succession at the state levels. Accredited laboratories score highest in proficiency examinations, creating a challenge for OWM as the number of accredited and recognized state laboratories has dropped due to issues with succession planning in some states.
5 NIST PML, “Laboratory Metrology Program,” http://www.nist.gov/pml/wmd/labmetrology/index.cfm, accessed October 28, 2015.
6 NIST PML, “OWM Sees Progress in Proficiency Testing,” December 23, 2013, http://www.bldrdoc.gov/pml/wmd/labmetrology/owm-proficiency-testing-success.cfm.
PORTFOLIO OF SCIENTIFIC EXPERTISE
The OWM has a staff of 20 individuals who work as a team. The OWM appears to be adequately staffed to achieve its objectives.
Within the next 5 years approximately 50 percent of the present staff of the OWM will be eligible to retire. The organization has recognized the need for succession planning and has a number of knowledge transfer systems in place to assist with such planning. Continued vigilance is required to ensure there is a transfer of knowledge as retirements take place.
ADEQUACY OF FACILITIES, EQUIPMENT, AND HUMAN RESOURCES
A review of training facilities at NIST determined that the facilities meet the training needs of the OWM. The OWM training facility that is used for mass calibrations training could benefit from improved storage space.
DISSEMINATION OF OUTPUTS
The OWM does an excellent job of disseminating information through its training program, the NIST website, and the publication of technical documents such as handbooks, newsletters, and standard operating procedures. The office conducts proficiency testing and a 45-day follow-up survey with attendees at the OWM training courses.