Who should take responsibility for decisions on internationally recommended datasets? The case of the mass concentration of mercury in air at saturation

This paper considers how decisions on internationally recommended datasets are made and implemented and, further, how the ownership of these decisions comes about. Examples are given of conventionally agreed data and values where the responsibility is clear and comes about through of!cial designation or by common usage and practice over long time periods. The example of the dataset describing the mass concentration of mercury in air at saturation is discussed in detail. This is a case where there are now several competing datasets that are in disagreement with each other, some with historical authority and some more recent but, arguably, with more robust metrological traceability to the SI. Further, it is elaborated that there is no body charged with the responsibility to make a decision on an international
recommendation for such a dataset. This has led to the situation where several competing datasets are in use simultaneously. Close parallels are drawn with the current debate over changes to the ozone absorption cross section, which has equal importance to the measurement of ozone amount fraction in air and to subsequent compliance with air quality legislation. It is noted that in the case of the ozone cross section there is already a committee appointed to deliberate over any change. We make the proposal that a similar committee, under the auspices of IUPAC or the CIPM’s CCQM (if it adopted a reference data function) could be formed to perform a similar role for the mass  concentration of mercury in air at saturation.

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