Bridging cultural gaps in quality assurance

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  • The implementation and use of qual-ity assurance measures vary in scien-tific fields, and third parties oftenhave different opinions on how thiswork should be done. Bringing to-gether people from a wide variety ofdisciplines and backgrounds from allover the world has therefore certainrisks, especially when speakers areasked beforehand to be provocative,and when participants are forced tosit together and discuss engaging butsensitive topics. This, however, didnot distract the participants at thejoint EURACHEM/EQALM work-shop on proficiency testing (PT) heldin Bors, Sweden, 2426 Sept. 2000.The quality of the presentations wasuniformly excellent and the workinggroups all presented their findings inan entertaining and informative man-ner, with lively debates. This specialissue contains selected presentationsfrom the workshop and is intended togive a broad overview of the currentstatus, problems and future direc-tions of PT in analytical chemistry,

    microbiology and laboratory medi-cine. EURACHEM has requested theworkshop be followed up within21/2 years. No firm plans have beenmade, but we agree that the nextevent should be equally border-crossing and build on the momentumand goodwill generated by the dele-gates.

    PT providers are currently facedwith many difficult topics, e.g. incor-poration of measurement uncertainty,the use of reference values versusconsensus values, and whether or notto accredit their service. The firsttwo topics are perhaps still treated

    more theoretically than practically.Accreditation of PT providers is,however, reality in several countriesand many delegates were in favourof this, which was slightly surprisinggiven some of the reservations ex-pressed by both EUROLAB and EA.It was also evident that there aremore similarities than differences be-tween PT in analytical chemistry andexternal quality assurance (EQA) inlaboratory medicine, and that bothdisciplines face common problems.Microbiology, on the other hand, isfaced with specific technical and sta-tistical challenges that require partic-

    Accred Qual Assur (2001) 6:138139 Springer-Verlag 2001 EDITORIAL

    Ulf rnemarkNick BoleyJean-Claude Libeer

    Bridging cultural gaps in quality assurance

    Fig. 1 The Chairman and keynote speak-ers at the joint EURACHEM/EQALMworkshop on proficiency testing. From leftto right, Nick Boley, Chair Workshop,(LGC); Manfred Golze (BAM); KeithJewell (CCFRA); Jytte Molin Christensen(AMI); Adriaan van der Veen (NMi-VSL);Alan Squirrell (ILAC); Leopoldo Cortez(EA); Jean-Claude Libeer, Chair EQALM,(IPH) and Paul De Bivre (IRMM).Photo: Ulf rnemark, Chair Scientific/or-ganising committee

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    ular attention. This was made abun-dantly clear by both Keith Jewelland the working group who made thesubject accessible to the many non-microbiologists in the audience.

    Interlaboratory comparisons inpursuit of analytical quality havebeen used for more than a century,and their importance has becomeeven more obvious in recent years.PT by interlaboratory comparison isa simple tool with many possibili-

    ties. It does not matter whether wecall our services PT or EQA, or ifthe services have complementary ob-jectives. What is more important isto clearly define the specific objec-tives of each comparison and makesure all those concerned understandthem so that the reputation of PT asa key quality tool is preserved. Thismay require more focus on the edu-cational aspect, e.g. as with EQA inlaboratory medicine that not only

    evaluates laboratory performance butalso clearly stresses aspects such astraining and help. This approach caninspire PT in other disciplines.

    U. rnemarkSP Swedish National Testing and Research Institute, P.O. Box 857, 501 15 Boras, Swedene-mail: ulf.ornemark@sp.seTel: +46-33-165275, Fax: +46-33-123749