Modeling Measurement: Error and Uncertainty

In Marcel Boumans, Giora Hon & Arthur Petersen (eds.), Error and Uncertainty in Scientific Practice. Pickering & Chatto. pp. 79-96 (2014)
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Abstract

In the last few decades the role played by models and modeling activities has become a central topic in the scientific enterprise. In particular, it has been highlighted both that the development of models constitutes a crucial step for understanding the world and that the developed models operate as mediators between theories and the world. Such perspective is exploited here to cope with the issue as to whether error-based and uncertainty-based modeling of measurement are incompatible, and thus alternative with one another, as sometimes claimed nowadays. The crucial problem is whether assuming this standpoint implies definitely renouncing to maintain a role for truth and the related concepts, particularly accuracy, in measurement. It is argued here that the well known objections against true values in measurement, which would lead to refuse the concept of accuracy as non-operational, or to maintain it as only qualitative, derive from a not clear distinction between three distinct processes: the metrological characterization of measuring systems, their calibration, and finally measurement. Under the hypotheses that (1) the concept of true value is related to the model of a measurement process, (2) the concept of uncertainty is related to the connection between such model and the world, and (3) accuracy is a property of measuring systems (and not of measurement results) and uncertainty is a property of measurement results (and not of measuring systems), not only the compatibility but actually the conjoint need of error-based and uncertainty-based modeling emerges.

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Alessandro Giordani
UniversitĂ  Cattolica di Milano

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