Burgess Analytical Consultancy Limited, “Rose Rae”, The Lendings, Startforth, Barnard Castle, Co. Durham DL12 9AB, UK
Starna Scientific Ltd, 52–54 Fowler Road, Hainault Business Park, Hainault, Essex IG6 3UT, UK
Spectroscopy and spectrometry have been around for a long time. In the “modern” era, spectroscopic instruments have been with us in one form or another for over 70 years. This is particularly true for those old “workhorse” techniques, UV-visible and infrared. So by now it might be reasonable to think that we would enjoy a standardisation and calibration environment that would make the assurance of our spectral data quality a matter of routine. Perhaps or perhaps not! Nothing stands still in the application of analytical science to assuring quality. As the column title rightly suggests Quality does Matter.
The rate of change of instrumentation and its application base accelerated during the 1980s with the availability of substantial data processing power and new technologies being incorporated into the humble spectrometer. Suddenly some of the reference materials we relied upon for qualifying and calibrating our spectrometers were no longer “fit for purpose”. Not only were end users in the laboratory faced with these issues but also the instrument manufacturers. At the same time as these technological changes were occurring so too were regulators. Regulatory bodies in a variety of fields, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, environmental, food to name but a few were becoming increasingly interested in the quality of the data coming from our laboratories to ensure compliance with national and international standards.
When discussing the need and role of standards, we need to consider the major changes that have taken place over the last 50 years in four key areas: The National Metrology Institutes (NMIs), the instrument manufacturers, the user base and the globalisation of regulation through international regulatory bodies.