Archive for the ‘Climate action’ Category

Measurement Choices in Sustainable Development

June 28, 2020

Dividing Us, or Unifying Us?

Showing the Way, or Leading Astray?

Sustainable development measurement choices have significant effects on our capacities to coordinate and manage our efforts. The usual approach to sustainability metrics requires that all parties comparing impacts use the same indicators. Communities or organizations using different metrics are not comparable. Applications of the metrics to judge progress or to evaluate the effects of different programs focus on comparing results from individual indicators. The indicators with the biggest differences are the areas in which accomplishments are rewarded, or failings provoke rethinking.

A number of scientific and logical problems can be identified in this procedure, and these will be taken up in due course. At the moment, however, let us only note that advanced scientific modeling approaches to measuring sustainable development do not require all parties to employ the same indicators, since different sets of indicators can be made comparable via instrument equating and item banking methods. And instead of focusing on differences across indicators, these alternative approaches use the indicators to map the developmental sequence. These maps enable end users to locate and orient themselves relative to where they have been, where they want to go, and where to go next on their sustainability journey.

Separating sustainable development efforts into incommensurable domains becomes a thing of the past when advanced scientific modeling approaches are used. At the same time, these modeling approaches also plot navigable maps of the sustainability terrain.

Scientific modeling of sustainability measures offer other advantages, as well.

  • First, scientific measures always contextualize reported quantities with a standard error term, whereas typical metrics are reported as though they are perfectly precise, with no uncertainty.
  • Second, scientific measures are calibrated as interval measures on the basis of predictive theory and experimental evidence, whereas sustainability metrics are typically ordinal counts of events (persons served, etc.), percentages, or ratings.
  • Third, scientific measures summarize multiple indicators in a single quantity and uncertainty term, with no loss of information, whereas sustainability metrics are often reported as large volumes of numbers.

The advantages of investing in a scientific measurement modeling approach follow from its combination of general comparability across data sets, the mapping of the thing measured, the reporting of uncertainty terms, the interval quantity, and the removal of the information overload.

For more information, see other entries in this blog and:

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2007, Summer). Living capital metrics. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 21(1), 1092-1093 [].

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2012, June 1). What the world needs now: A bold plan for new standards [Third place, 2011 NIST/SES World Standards Day paper competition]. Standards Engineering, 64(3), 1 & 3-5 [].

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2012). Measure and manage: Intangible assets metric standards for sustainability. In J. Marques, S. Dhiman & S. Holt (Eds.), Business administration education: Changes in management and leadership strategies (pp. 43-63). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2013). Imagining education tailored to assessment as, for, and of learning: Theory, standards, and quality improvement. Assessment and Learning, 2, 6-22.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2020). Measurements toward a future SI: On the longstanding existence of metrology-ready precision quantities in psychology and the social sciences. In G. Gerlach & K.-D. Sommer (Eds.), SMSI 2020 Proceedings (pp. 38-39). Wunstorf, Germany: AMA Service GmbH. Retrieved from

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2020). Measuring genuine progress: An example from the UN Millennium Development Goals project. Journal of Applied Measurement, 21(1), 110-133

Fisher, W. P., Jr., Pendrill, L., Lips da Cruz, A., Felin, A., &. (2019). Why metrology? Fair dealing and efficient markets for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 1379(012023). doi:10.1088/1742-6596/1379/1/012023

Fisher, W. P., Jr., & Stenner, A. J. (2016). Theory-based metrological traceability in education: A reading measurement network. Measurement, 92, 489-496. Retrieved from

Fisher, W. P., Jr., & Stenner, A. J. (2017, September 18). Towards an alignment of engineering and psychometric approaches to uncertainty in measurement: Consequences for the future. 18th International Congress of Metrology, 12004, 1-9. Retrieved from

Fisher, W. P., Jr., & Stenner, A. J. (2018). Ecologizing vs modernizing in measurement and metrology. Journal of Physics Conference Series, 1044(012025), [].

Fisher, W. P., Jr., & Wilson, M. (2015). Building a productive trading zone in educational assessment research and practice. Pensamiento Educativo: Revista de Investigacion Educacional Latinoamericana, 52(2), 55-78. Retrieved from

Fisher, W. P., Jr., & Wilson, M. (2020). An online platform for sociocognitive metrology: The BEAR Assessment System Software. Measurement Science and Technology, 31(034006). Retrieved from

Fisher, W. P., Jr., & Wright, B. D. (Eds.). (1994). Applications of probabilistic conjoint measurement. International Journal of Educational Research, 21(6), 557-664.

Lips da Cruz, A., Fisher, W. P. J., Felin, A., & Pendrill, L. (2019). Accelerating the realization of the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals through metrological multi-stakeholder interoperability. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 1379(012046).

Mari, L., & Wilson, M. (2014, May). An introduction to the Rasch measurement approach for metrologists. Measurement, 51, 315-327. Retrieved from

Mari, L., & Wilson, M. (2020). Measurement across the sciences [in press]. Cham: Springer.

Pendrill, L. (2019). Quality assured measurement: Unification across social and physical sciences. Cham: Springer

Pendrill, L., & Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2015). Counting and quantification: Comparing psychometric and metrological perspectives on visual perceptions of number. Measurement, 71, 46-55. doi:

Pendrill, L., & Petersson, N. (2016). Metrology of human-based and other qualitative measurements. Measurement Science and Technology, 27(9), 094003. Retrieved from

Wilson, M., & Fisher, W. (2016). Preface: 2016 IMEKO TC1-TC7-TC13 Joint Symposium: Metrology across the Sciences: Wishful Thinking? Journal of Physics Conference Series, 772(1), 011001. Retrieved from

Wilson, M., & Fisher, W. (2019). Preface of special issue, Psychometric Metrology. Measurement, 145, 190. Retrieved from

Wilson, M., Mari, L., Maul, A., & Torres Irribara, D. (2015). A comparison of measurement concepts across physical science and social science domains: Instrument design, calibration, and measurement. Journal of Physics Conference Series, 588(012034),

Current events in metrology for fun, profitable, and self-sustaining sustainability impacts

September 18, 2018

At the main event I attended last week at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, the #giveyouthachance philanthropic gathering at the Aquarium of the Bay, multiple people independently spoke to aligning social and environmental values with financial values, and explicitly stated that economic growth does not automatically entail environmental degradation.

As my new buddy David Traub (introduced as a consequence of the New Algorithm event in Stockholm in June with Angelica Lips da Cruz) was the MC, he put me on the program at the last minute, and gave me five minutes to speak my piece in a room of 30 people or so. A great point of departure was opened up when Carin Winter of spoke to her work in mindfulness education and led a guided meditation. So I conveyed the fact that the effects of mindfulness practice are rigorously measurable, and followed that up with the analogy from music (tuning instruments to harmonize relationships),  with the argument against merely shouldering the burden of costs because it is the right thing to do, with the counter-argument for creating efficient competitive markets for sustainable impacts, and with info on the previous week’s special session on social and psychological metrology at IMEKO in Belfast. It appeared that the message of metrology as a means for making sustainability self-sustaining, fun, and profitable got through!

Next up: Unify.Earth has developed their own new iteration on blockchain, which will be announced Monday, 24 September, at the UN SDG Media Center (also see here) during the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit. The UEX (Unify Earth Exchange) fills the gap for human capital stocks left by the Universal Commons‘ exclusive focus on social and natural capital.

So I’ve decided to go to NY and have booked my travel.

Back in February, Angelica Lips da Cruz recounted saying six months before that it would take two years to get to where we were at that time. Now another seven months have passed and I am starting to feel that the acceleration is approaching Mach 1! At this rate, it’ll be the speed of light in the next six months….

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