Systematic Error

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Systematic Error - short version

An error that affects all the measurements similarly. Systematic errors do not tend to average out.

Systematic Error - long version

Systematic errors are biases in measurement which lead to the situation where the mean of many separate measurements differs significantly from the actual value of the measured attribute. All measurements are prone to systematic errors, often of several different types. Sources of systematic error may be imperfect calibration of measurement instruments (zero error), changes in the environment which interfere with the measurement process and sometimes imperfect methods of observation can be either zero error or percentage error. Systematic errors may also be present in the result of an estimate based on a mathematical model or physical law.

Systematic errors can be either constant, or be related (e.g. proportional or a percentage) to the actual value of the measured quantity, or even to the value of a different quantity. Constant systematic errors are very difficult to deal with, because their effects are only observable if they can be removed. Such errors cannot be removed by repeating measurements or averaging large numbers of results. A common method to remove systematic error is through calibration of the measurement instrument. In a statistical context, the term systematic error usually arises where the sizes and directions of possible errors are unknown.


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