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Researchers and engineers across fields often assume that their colleagues understand details without specifying them, and are therefore remiss when documenting .

There have been many calls in recent years to make data sets (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable), and to ensure that open data abide by the 5-star deployment scheme suggested by World Wide Web inventor Tim -Lee, which aims to make them findable, free and structured. Many researchers are now committed to depositing data in free and open repositories with appropriate metadata.

Chaos around units undermines these efforts. Already, many scientists invest more time in wrangling data than doing research. When data are not interoperable or machine readable, researchers’ individual informatics approaches are thwarted. The benefits of data sharing shrink.

Unless we take steps to ensure that measurement units are routinely documented for easy, unambiguous exchange of data, information will be unusable or, worse, be misinterpreted. All global challenges, from pandemics to climate change, require high-quality data across multidisciplinary, international sources. Mistakes and lost opportunities will cost humanity much more than hundreds of millions of dollars for a single spacecraft crashed because of metric/imperial units mismatch.

nature.com/articles/d41586-022

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