Challenges for the estimation of uncertainty of measurements made in situ

Ramsey, Michael (2020) Challenges for the estimation of uncertainty of measurements made in situ. Accreditation and Quality Assurance. ISSN 0949-1775

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In situ measurements are made without the removal of a physical sample and have many advantages over traditional ex situ measurements, made on a removed sample usually in a remote laboratory. The quality of ex situ measurements is usually expressed primarily in terms of their measurement uncertainty, including that arising during the sampling process. However, estimates of uncertainty for in situ measurement values have not usually included this uncertainty from sampling (UfS). It is argued that the making of an in situ measurement inevitably includes the taking of an ‘undisturbed sample’ that generates UfS, which should be included in the estimate of measurement uncertainty. Because undisturbed samples are not prepared or mixed, as is usual for removed samples, the heterogeneity of the analyte concentration in the sampling target is the primary source of UfS. Existing methods for estimating UfS for ex situ measurements can broadly be applied to in situ measurements. However, four extra challenges that limit the design and uptake of uncertainty estimation for in situ methods are identified, and possible solutions and actions required are discussed. Examples of in situ measurements considered include Pb in top soil by hand-held PXRF, 137Cs at a nuclear site by portable gamma-ray spectrometry, and bilirubin in new-born infants by hand-held reflectance photometry.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: in situ measurement, uncertainty, sampling, heterogeneity
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Biology and Environmental Science
Subjects: Q Science > QD Chemistry > QD0071 Analytical chemistry
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Depositing User: Michael Ramsey
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2020 11:08
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2020 11:15

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