Biological variation (BV) data have many applications in laboratory medicine. However, concern has been raised that some BV estimates in use today may be irrelevant or of unacceptable quality. A number of initiatives have been launched by the European Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (EFLM) and other parties to deliver a more harmonized practice in the generation, reporting and application of BV data. Resulting from a necessary focus upon the veracity of historical BV studies, critical appraisal and meta-analysis of published BV studies is possible through application of the Biological Variation Data Critical Appraisal Checklist (BIVAC), published in 2017. The BIVAC compliant large-scale European Biological Variation Study delivers updated high-quality BV data for a wide range of measurands. Other significant developments include the publication of a Medical Subject Heading term for BV and recommendations for common terminology for reporting of BV data. In the near future, global BV estimates derived from meta-analysis of BIVAC appraised publications will be accessible in a Biological Variation Database at the EFLM website. The availability of these high-quality data, which have many applications that impact on the quality and interpretation of clinical laboratory results, will afford improved patient care. © 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.