Digital Representation of Units of Measure (DRUM)

Names of the co-chairs

  • Robert Hanisch, NIST, USA (Chair)
  • Jeremy Frey, University of Southampton, UK (Member)
  • Simon Cox, CSIRO, Australia (Member and TG Liaison)
  • Stuart Chalk, University of North Florida, USA (Secretary)

Issue to be addressed

The current state of the digital representation of units of measure (DRUM) across domains is a significant problem relative to the interoperability of data and it needs to be addressed immediately.
 
Across the scientific disciplines there is a wide variety of knowledge about, focus on, and care with the recording of a unit of measure with each piece of experimental, calculated, modeled or derived data. Much information is available for annotation of units for humans, however there is no authoritative source for how to represent and store units of measures (in any units’ system) in digital systems.  This is a fundamental problem for data science currently and a major problem for the future integration of large, heterogeneous datasets both within and across disciplines.  It is the most important single issue for the development of general or domain repositories, for the ideas behind Big Data and Open Data and the implementation of systems that support Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) data.
 

Significant and important

Every measurement made where a numerical value is generated requires the recording of and association with a unit of measure.  In the current research environment, where the paradigm is shifting to the digital publication of research data in openly accessible formats, researchers annotate a unit of measure by adding a string of characters to a numeric value in a computer system (database, spreadsheet, text file etc.). While the researcher may well report the unit in a common unit system (e.g. the SI) there are no guidelines about the string of characters to use in a computer system. As a result, there is a significant problem in normalization of units and this is a significant barrier to the interoperability of data.
 

Outputs that the Task Group will produce

Across the International Unions (IU) (and affiliated organizations) there is a variety of expertise in this area in addition to technical resources on units available online.  This task group will focus on identifying, aggregating, and evaluating resources on digital unit presentation such that the following outputs can be generated:
  • - A recommended specification for FAIR compliant, machine actionable encoding of units of measure
  • - Guidelines for the annotation of data with a unit of measure in digital systems
  • - Best practices for adopting and implementing the recommended DRUM system
  • - ‘Metrology 101’ educational resource to present the concepts in metrology
  • - Units of Measure Interoperability Service – hosted by NIST 

Outcomes of this activity  (impact and effect)

  • Convergence on the representation of units of measure that will allow greater interoperability of data
  • Guidance and a tool to enable:
  • International Unions to develop paths toward normalization of units within a discipline
  • Digital repository developers to provide users services around units for data ingest/exposure
  • Research scientists to annotate data with a unit ‘at birth’ that is unambiguous
  • Software vendors and developers to use consistent and compatible units in scientific data file formats
  • Journal publishers to automate the checking of units in scientific papers and datasets
  • Educational publishers to systematically represent units in texts

Envisaged outputs that the TG intends to deliver over the two years. 

  • Publish a recommended specification for FAIR compliant, machine actionable encoding of units of measure
  • Guidelines for the annotation of data with a unit of measure in digital systems
  • Best practices for adopting and implementing the recommended DRUM system
  • ‘Metrology 101’ educational resource to present the concepts in metrology
  • Units of Measure Interoperability Service – hosted by NIST
  • Recommendation to BIPM on the digital representation of metrology concepts
 

Key activities that the TG will conduct over the two years 

The following are activities the TG intends to run based on the funding available.  However, many events require participation from liaisons to each of the IUs which will have to be self-funded.  As a result the speed of the development of the outcomes of the TG may be impacted by the attendance of TG meetings.
 
  • Monthly VMs
  • TG Meeting at the CODATA Conference 2019 (Sep) with IU representatives
  • TG Meeting at UNF February/March 2020
  • TG Meeting and Workshop at the CODATA Assembly 2020 with IU representatives (location TBA)

Members of the Task Group

  • Robert Hanische, NIST, USA (Chair)
  • Jeremy Frey, University of Southampton, UK (Member)
  • Simon Cox, CSIRO, Australia (Member, CODATA Liaison)
  • Stuart Chalk, University of North Florida, USA (Secretary)
  • Richard Hartshorn, University of Canterbury, NZ (CODATA Liaison)
  • Jarek Tomczak,, Pistoia Alliance (Italy) (Member)
  • International Unions Liasions (TBD)
  • BIPM Liaison (TBD)