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Significance and Use
To describe the uncertainties of a standard test method, precision and bias statements are required. The formulation of these statements has been addressed from time to time, and at least two standards practices (Practices E177 and E691) have been issued. The 1986 Compilation of ASTM Standard Definitions (1) devotes several pages to these terms. This guide should not be used in cases where small numbers of test results do not support statistical normality.
ANSI N15.5 attempts to provide “a standard on statistical terminology and notation [that] can benefit communication” among nuclear materials managers. Precision, accuracy, and bias are all discussed. Although these various documents are quite valuable, a simpler document written for analysts appears needed. The intent of this guide is to help analysts prepare and interpret precision and bias statements. It is essential that, when the terms are used, their meaning should be clear and easily understood.
Appendix X1 provides the theoretical foundation for precision and bias concepts and Practice E691 addresses the problem of sources of variation. To illustrate the interplay between sources of variation and formulation of precision and bias statements, a hypothetical data set is analyzed in Appendix X2. This example shows that depending on how the data was collected, different precision and bias statements are possible. Reference to this example will be found throughout this guide.
There has been much debate inside and outside the statistical community on the exact meaning of some statistical terms. Thus, following a number of the terms in Section 3 is a list of several ways in which that term has been used. This listing is not meant to indicate that these meanings are equivalent or equally acceptable. The purpose here is more to encourage clear definition of terms used than to take sides. For example, use of the term systematic error is discouraged by some. If it is to be used, the reader should be told exactly what is meant in the particular circumstance.
This guide is intended as an aid to understanding the statistical concepts used in precision and bias statements. There is no intention that this be a self-contained introduction to statistics. Since many analysts have no formal statistical training, it is advised that a trained statistician be consulted for further clarification if necessary.
1.1 This guide covers terminology useful for the preparation and interpretation of precision and bias statements. This guide does not recommend a specific error model or statistical method. It provides awareness of terminology and approaches and options to use for precision and bias statements.
1.2 In formulating precision and bias statements, it is important to understand the statistical concepts involved and to identify the major sources of variation that affect results. Appendix X1 provides a brief summary of these concepts.
1.3 To illustrate the statistical concepts and to demonstrate some sources of variation, a hypothetical data set has been analyzed in Appendix X2. Reference to this example is made throughout this guide.
1.4 It is difficult and at times impossible to ship nuclear materials for interlaboratory testing. Thus, precision statements for test methods relating to nuclear materials will ordinarily reflect only within-laboratory variation.
1.5 No units are used in this statistical analysis.
1.6 This guide does not involve the use of materials, operations, or equipment and does not address any risk associated.
2. Referenced Documents (purchase separately) The documents listed below are referenced within the subject standard but are not provided as part of the standard.
E177 Practice for Use of the Terms Precision and Bias in ASTM Test Methods
E691 Practice for Conducting an Interlaboratory Study to Determine the Precision of a Test Method
ANSI StandardANSIN15.5 Statistical Terminology and Notation for Nuclear Materials Management Available from American National Standards Institute (ANSI), 25 W. 43rd St., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10036, http://www.ansi.org.
ICS Number Code 27.120.01 (Nuclear energy in general)