The APA-NCME-AERA Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (now under revision, RMT 9:3 p.440) are unenforceable procedural recommendations that perpetuate a proliferation of incommensurable numerical systems which fall far short of what physicists, merchants and carpenters require of measurement. A different organization, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), is concerned with enhancing communication by establishing quality-controlled universal metrics.
Measurement Standards Require Social Networks.
Both science and commerce demand instrument-free linear (or ratio) measures. As was pointed out in RMT, 9(4) p.466-467, social scientists take the universal reproducibility of physical measuring units for granted, ignoring the global networks of technicians who establish and maintain these units. Social science lacks these networks and so is hobbled by a cacophony of different instruments each purporting to quantify an important variable. But each instrument defines its own variable with an indeterminate relationship to any other instrument's variable. Worse, the reported quantities are idiosyncratic ordinal units of indeterminate quality.
Establishing and maintaining universal metrics for medical outcomes measures, for instance, requires a network of practitioners among whom would circulate reference data and reference instruments for each variable. The network would evaluate different health care facilities' measurement results, and also test and certify different brands of instruments as measuring in the standard metric unit.
A Model Standards Network: ASTM.
Models of, and a place for, such a network exist in the ASTM. ASTM was organized in 1898 and has grown into one of the largest voluntary standards development systems in the world. It provides a forum for producers, users and consumers to meet and write standards for materials, products, systems, and services. From the work of its 134 standards-writing committees, ASTM publishes more than 8,500 standards in 68 volumes of the "Annual Book of ASTM Standards".
What is a Standard?
"Standardization refers to the general acceptance of concepts, quantities, terms, rules, and definitions that serve as reference points for professionals in a given field. Standards provide criteria for a common language, ensuring reliable communication between all parties in the conduct of business. For example, U.S. electric current standards, which cover voltage, amperage, outlets, and plugs, are so widely accepted that manufacturers automatically incorporate them in their designs. These standards streamline product development for manufacturers and ensure consumers hassle-free usage regardless of where they live in the U.S. or what type of appliance they purchase." From Evolving with Technology: Information Systems, Standards, and Public Health, published by the Joint Council of Governmental Public Health Agencies.
An Opportunity in Medical Standards
The ASTM electronic medical record subcommittee, E31.19, is interested in Rasch's models for scale-free measurement because they offer unique advantages for quality control, quantification, and outcomes comparison of rating scale data. The head of E31.19, Gretchen Murphy, who represents the American Health Information Management Association in ASTM, invites us to contribute our expertise to the development of quality and quantity standards for medical outcomes data. In order to coordinate these contributions, I was made head of a working group on health quality measurement standards of the Electronic Medical Records Committee, E31, of ASTM. I welcome your participation in this group.
For more information on ASTM point your Web browser to www.astm.org.
Establishing measurement standards and standard measurements. Fisher WP Jr. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 1996, 10:1 p.476
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