Securing the Empirical Value of Measurement Results

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Staley, Kent
preprint description
Reports of quantitative experimental results often distinguish between the statistical uncertainty and the systematic uncertainty that characterize measurement outcomes. This paper discusses the practice of estimating systematic uncertainty in High Energy Physics (HEP). The estimation of systematic uncertainty in HEP should be understood as a minimal form of quantitative robustness analysis. The secure evidence framework is used to explain the epistemic significance of robustness analysis. However, the empirical value of a measurement result depends crucially not only on the resulting systematic uncertainty estimate, but on the learning aims for which that result will be used. Philosophically important conceptual and practical questions regarding systematic uncertainty assessment call for further investigation.