Using an ordinary spreadsheet to calculating a combined uncertainty saves a great deal of time and is particularly useful for checking and updating with new data whenever available.

The Eurachem/CITAC Guide (3rd edition) Quantifying Uncertainty in Analytical Measurement has given a number of spreadsheet calculation examples. The approach using the MS Excel spreadsheet is summarized as described below.

Assume that the test result y is a function of three input parameters *p, q* and *r*, i.e. *y = f (p, q, r)*, such as: *y=(p x q)/r*.

Let’s set up a basic spreadsheet as in Figure 1:

In Figure 1, enter the values of *p, q, r* and the formula for calculating *y* in cell A6 of the spreadsheet and the respective values of standard uncertainties *u(p), u(q)* and *u(r)* in column B. Copy cell A6 across to C6:E6.

Figure 1: Entries of raw data

Add *u(p)* to *p* in cell C2, *u(q)* to *q* in cell D3, and *u(r)* to *r* in cell E4 as in Figure 2 below. Upon recalculating the spreadsheet automatically by the software, cell C6 then becomes *f(p+u(p),q, r)* [denoted by *f(p’,q,r)*], and so are the others.

Figure 2: Entries of individual standard uncertainty contributions

The row 8 of Figure 2 calculates the difference between the calculated *y* values in columns C, D and E individually and the originally calculated *y* value in A6. The row 9 shows the squared differences of columns C, D and E.

To obtain the combined standard uncertainty in *y*, i.e. *u(y)*, just sum up all these individual squared differences in row 9 and take a square root of the sum, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Calculation of combined standard uncertainty

In fact, the contents of the cells C8, D8 and E8 show the contributions *ui(y)=ciu(xi)* of the individual uncertainty components to the uncertainty in *y*, making it easy to see which components are significant. It may be noted that *ci* is called the sensitivity coefficients of standard uncertainty *u(xi)*.

A screen picture captured from the Eurachem/CITAC Guide on an example of the calculation table is shown below.

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