Project MERIT was an international programme to Monitor Earth Rotation and Intercompare the Techniques of observation and analysis. It was conceived by a working group that was set up by the International Astronomical Union in 1978 and was carried through with additional support from the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics. The first objective was to encourage the development of the use of new techniques, such as laser ranging and radio interferometry, for the regular determination of universal time and polar motion. A successful ‘short campaign’ of observations by six techniques was carried out during the period 1980 August to October. Operational and analysis centres were set up for each technique and a coordinating centre was established at the Bureau International de l’Heure (BIH). The results were reported and discussed at the first MERIT Workshop in 1981.
The preparations for the ‘main campaign’, which was held from 1983 September 1 to 1984 October 31, and the plans for the activities that were to follow it were reviewed at the second MERIT Workshop in 1983. Important additional features of the campaign included the use of ‘MERIT Standards’ for the reduction and analysis of the data, the use of electronic techniques for the distribution of data, the comparison of the results with the changes in the angular momentum of the atmosphere and special emphasis on the improvement of the terrestrial reference frame. Proposals for a new International Earth Rotation Service were prepared at the third MERIT Workshop in 1986. The MERIT programme was continued from 1984 until the new service formally started on 1988 January 1. Over the decade the accuracy of the Earth-rotation parameters improved considerably.