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Three decades of risk research: accomplishments and new challenges

Ortwin Renn

Journal of Risk Research, 1998, vol. 1, issue 1, 49-71

Abstract: Risk research over the last three decades has been focused on the development of methods of and procedures for risk analysis and risk management. As a consequence of this research, risk management agencies have been trying to make risk assessments a routine operation for evaluating different hazards, chemical agents, or technologies. The problem with the worldwide routinization of the risk assessment methodology is, however, that formal analysis may obscure the conceptual foundations and limitations of this method and may induce a false degree of certainty when dealing with potential side-effects of human actions and interventions. One of the main tasks of the risk community should be to emphasize the necessity of integrated risk assessment and the development of innovative risk management strategies that build upon the insights of the natural, technical and social sciences. In order to integrate risk assessment and risk perception, the article analyses the strengths and weaknesses of each approach to risk analysis and highlights the potential contributions that the technical sciences and the social sciences can offer to risk management. Technical assessments provide the best estimate for judging the average probability of an adverse effect linked to an object or activity. Public perception should govern the selection of criteria on which acceptability or tolerability are to be judged. In addition, public input is needed to determine the trade-offs between criteria. Finally, public preferences are needed to design resilient strategies for coping with remaining uncertainties.

Date: 1998
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