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Interoperable Units of Measure, Open Discussion – Session at the International FAIR Convergence Symposium

Date and Time: Thu Dec. 3, 2020, at 11:00-13:00 UTC
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Session Description:

The current state of the digital representation of units of measure (DRUM) across domains is a significant problem relative to the interoperability of data and it needs to be addressed immediately.
Across the scientific disciplines there is a wide variety of knowledge about, focus on, and care with the recording of a unit of measure with each piece of experimental, calculated, modeled or derived data. Much information is available for annotation of units for humans, however there is no authoritative source for how to represent and store units of measures (in any units’ system) in digital systems.  This is a fundamental problem for data science currently and a major problem for the future integration of large, heterogeneous datasets both within and across disciplines.

There are a number of important activities underway, including the major work of the Digital SI, as well as the UCUM service and the QUDT ontologies.  Many domains have their own longstanding recommendations and references.  The Digital Representation of Units of Measure Task Group aims to raise the profile of this fundamental issue and to encourage and facilitate cooperation between various initiatives.
This session will feature informative presentations from the DRUM Task Group on the current landscape of units of measure and then an open discussion of issues relating to the interoperability of units of measure.
Questions for discussion may include:

  • What is the most novel unit you have come across?
  • Do you use unit systems other than the SI?
  • What issues with representation or conversion of units do you regularly encounter?
  • Do you have an example where a failure to properly represent or convert units of measure led to serious problems?

Is there an equivalent international document to the IUPAC Green Book or the Astronomy IVOA units document? Are there any comparable national documents that are relevant?
Has your community developed tools or infrastructure to support interoperability amongst different representations of units of measure?  If so, how were these tools developed and how are they sustained?
Participants may be interested in the statement of mission ‘Units of Measure for Humans and Machines’, and the documents and recording of a briefing session on DRUM originally given for representatives from the International Scientific Unions and Associations.


One page briefing note
One page FAQ document
The World of Units Diagram (Presentation, Bob Hanisch)
The CIPM Task Group on the Digital SI (Presentation, Stuart Chalk)