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Keywords:

  • forensic science;
  • isotope ratio mass spectrometry;
  • inter-laboratory trial;
  • traceability;
  • nitrogen isotope;
  • carbon isotope;
  • isotope ratios

Abstract:  Comparability of data over time and between laboratories is a key issue for consideration in the development of global databases, and more broadly for quality assurance in general. One mechanism that can be utilized for evaluating traceability is an inter-laboratory trial. This paper addresses an inter-laboratory trial conducted across a number of Australian and New Zealand isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) laboratories. The main objective of this trial was to determine whether IRMS laboratories in these countries would record comparable values for the distributed samples. Four carbon containing and four nitrogen containing compounds were distributed to seven laboratories in Australia and one in New Zealand. The laboratories were requested to analyze the samples using their standard procedures. The data from each laboratory was evaluated collectively using International Standard ISO 13528 (Statistical methods for use in proficiency testing by inter-laboratory comparisons). “Warning signals” were raised against one participant in this trial. “Action signals” requiring corrective action were raised against four participants. These participants reviewed the data and possible sources for the discrepancies. This inter-laboratory trial was successful in providing an initial snapshot of the potential for traceability between the participating laboratories. The statistical methods described in this article could be used as a model for others needing to evaluate stable isotope results derived from multiple laboratories, e.g., inter-laboratory trials/proficiency testing. Ongoing trials will be conducted to improve traceability across the Australian and New Zealand IRMS community.