I can call myself a lot of different things. For example, currently I am an engineer, a neurophysiologist, a public servant, an investigator, and exercise scientist, etc. However, if I try to collect all my roles together and look for a common theme, I find that I am an expert in measurement and data analysis. It seems that no matter where I work, or who I work for, at some level I am providing advice regarding the design or quality of measurements.
On reflection this makes a lot of sense. Pretty much everything in business and government is dependant upon measurement. Australia has the National Measurement Act to govern how measurements are made, and we have the National Measurement Institute to maintain and develop our standards and develop policy around measurement.
Since realising my role as a measurement expert, I have been testing the reaction when I introduce myself as such. The result is usually similar to if I tell my grandmother that I am a human neurophysiologist, or computer systems engineer. However, if I introduce myself as an expert in ‘measurement and data’, everyone is excited. Data is a big thing at the moment. Measurement? What is that?
Measurement is where data comes from.
Plenty has been written recently on using data correctly. However, do you know how your data was measured? Do you know what assumptions were made during those measurements? Do you know the constraints that apply to your data? If not, you are limited in what you can learn.
There seems to be a poor understanding of how good measurement contributes to good data, learning, and quality of evidence. This applies in healthcare, medicine, sport and exercise as much as anywhere else. We are currently surrounded by information on what is healthy and what isn’t, what is safe and what isn’t. It can be hard to determine what is backed up by legitimate evidence, and what is ‘expert opinion’, but it often comes down to how the measurements were made.
So today Platypus Technical launches the Measuring People blog, to discuss, disseminate and share anything about measuring human performance. Measuring people is a broad field encapsulating the measuring strength and speed of athletes, and the response of patients to medicine. It includes invasive techniques like intramuscular wires, as well as written questionnaires. How the experiments are designed and how the data is analysed are also critical to good measurement of humans.
These things and more will be covered in the future posts of Measuring People!
Dr Lee Walsh the founder and director of Platypus Technical Consultants. Lee is an electrical and biomedical engineer, physiologist, technical consultant and science communicator. He has over a decade of experience in measurement, instrumentation and analysis, particularly in clinical settings, physiology and medical device testing.