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Economies of Uncertainty: Epistemological Perspectives on the Reform of the Metric System (PRESUME)
Start date: Jul 1, 2014, End date: Jun 30, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Metrology, the science of measurement and standardization, is today almost completely ignored by philosophers of science, although its impact on basic science, commerce, industry and daily life can hardly be overstated. Metrologists are responsible for the standardization of physical measurement in accordance with the International System of units (SI), colloquially known as the ‘metric system’. In 2011, the International Bureau of Weights and Measures called for a fundamental reform of the metric system, to be implemented by 2018. This reform will see the current standard kilogram – a platinum–iridium cylinder kept at a vault near Paris – retire from service, and four of the basic metric units (the kilogram, ampere, mole and Kelvin) redefined in terms of four fundamental constants of nature. The impending reform of the metric system provides a valuable and timely opportunity for the philosophical study of the concepts, goals and methods of metrology, and for the development of a comprehensive epistemology of standardization. These goals will be achieved by combining the tools of conceptual analysis together with informal interviews held at Europe’s three leading national standardization institutes (in the UK, France and Germany). The resulting insights will be employed to enhance the visibility and appreciation of metrology among scientists, humanities scholars and the general public through the organization of a series of public and academic events.
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