NIST Numbers… What Are They?

What are NIST numbers

What is the official NIST Number on my report?

The official NIST number, or the number that NIST uses to keep track of reports, is a long number containing the number for the Division performing the service, the number the NIST Calibration Program Office generates, and the year the service is performed. This number should be on every page of the report. For example, a typical number for our Division (821) is 821/123456-97.

Many reports will also have other reference numbers. Our Group, for example, uses M numbers, in the form: M followed by four digits 0-9, to keep track of calibrations we perform.  Why do we use M numbers? Well, looking back, we used to use L numbers, in the form: L followed by four digits 0-9, and after L9999, we went to M0001. Before L numbers, there was another series of L numbers that stretch back to the 1920’s. Why was L numbers repeated? We really do not know, but perhaps long ago there were fewer letters in the alphabet.

A2LA’s policy on the use of NIST numbers as evidence of traceability is also in line with the policy of the National Conference of Standards Laboratories (NCSL). “It is the position of the National Conference of Standards Laboratories (NCSL) that:

Test report numbers issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of the United States Department of Commerce are intended to be used solely for administrative purposes. Although they are often used to uniquely identify documents which bear evidence of traceability, test report numbers should not be used nor required as proof of the adequacy or traceability of a test or measurement. 

It should be noted that nationally and internationally recognized standards dealing with test and measurement quality requirements such as ANSI/NCSL Z540-1-1994, ISO 10012, ISO/IEC Guide 25, and the ISO9000 series do not require the use or reporting of NIST test report Numbers to establish traceability…

I need NIST numbers on my Certificates of Calibration.  Can you provide that for me?

jmtest110912-242No.  Test report numbers issued by NIST are used solely for administrative purposes. Test report numbers themselves do not address traceability and should not be considered as the sole evidence of traceability. Test report numbers should not be used nor required as proof of the adequacy or traceability of a test or measurement. It should be noted that nationally and internationally recognized
standards dealing with test and measurement quality requirements such as ISO/IEC 17025 and ISO 9000 series do not require the use or reporting of test report numbers to establish traceability

Click here to be directed to the NIST policy on traceability numbers
Click here to view the NCSL International policy on NIST Numbers

Article by Dallas Ballmer, Metrologist; JM Test Systems

Calibration Service
Since 1982 JM Test Systems has been providing NIST traceable calibrations to our customers. We are dedicated to a single goal: provide the best possible service for both our products and our customers.

ISO/IEC 17025 Accredited by A2LA
ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation is your assurance that our work meets the highest standards including:

  • Documented and controlled procedures
  • Controlled calibration environment
  • Trained technicians
  • NIST traceability and standards of suitable accuracy

Our A2LA audits include compliance with ANSI/NCSL Z-540, ISO-10012-1, and Mil Std 45662A
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