Consensus Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

The accuracy of chemical oceanographic measurements depends on calibration against reference materials to ensure comparability over time and among laboratories. Several key parameters lack reference materials for measurements in seawater, particles in the water column, and sediments. Without reference materials, it is difficult to produce the reliable data sets or long-term baseline studies that are essential to verify global change and oceanic stability. This report identifies the most urgently required chemical reference materials based on key themes for oceanographic research and provides suggestions as to how they can be developed within realistic cost constraints.

Key Messages

  • Any new effort to provide reference materials to the ocean sciences community must also put in place a number of educational and advertising efforts to make researchers aware of the existence of appropriate reference materials and to provide instruction on how to make best use of what is bound to be, at best, a finite resource. The committee, therefore, also identifies education as a critical need.
  • In the past, whenever such data sets have been acquired without using suitable reference materials, a great deal of effort has subsequently been needed to adjust the data to a common scale.
  • Matrix-based reference materials that can be exchanged between different laboratories will enable researchers to better understand their own techniques and the information they provide.
  • Reference materials are costly to produce particularly if they are certified for a number of constituents and it has not always been clear to the ocean science community that this cost will be repaid with significant added value.
  • Seawater studies require certified reference materials for biologically important dissolved components such as carbon (both inorganic and organic), nutrients, and trace metals, as well as for salinity, which is hydrographically important.
  • There is also a striking need for reference materials based on particulate matrices, where many of the analytical techniques used are matrix dependent and differ markedlyin their implementation from laboratory to laboratory.