The Reliability of an Instrument

Marcel J. Boumans

Utrecht University School of Economics


Social Epistemology, Vol. 18, No. 2-3, pp. 215-246, 2004

Scientific measurements are made objective through the use of reliable instruments. Instruments can have this function because they can - as material objects - be investigated independently of the specific measurements at hand. However, their materiality appears to be crucial for the assessment of their reliability. The usual strategies to investigate an instrument’s reliability depend on and assume possibilities of control, and control is usually specified in terms of materiality of the instrument and environment. The aim of this paper is to investigate the problem of reliability for non-material instruments, the instruments being applied in the social sciences. Any possible lack of reliability of the instrument hinders the measurements of ever becoming objective.

Keywords: Accuracy, Calibration, Precision, Reputation, Secrets

JEL Classification: B4

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Date posted: July 18, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Boumans, Marcel J., The Reliability of an Instrument (2004). Social Epistemology, Vol. 18, No. 2-3, pp. 215-246, 2004. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1433780

Contact Information

Marcel J. Boumans (Contact Author)
Utrecht University School of Economics ( email )
Kriekenpitplein 21-22
Adam Smith Building
Utrecht, +31 30 253 7373 3584 EC
+31 30 253 6287 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.uu.nl/leg/staff/MJBoumans
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