Risk assessment, management and communication: highlights from the 20th Society for Risk Analysis Europe Meeting

The Annual  Meeting of the Society for Risk Analysis Europe took place this year, for its 20th edition, in Stuttgart (Germany) from 6th to 8th of June and I have had the chance to attend the conference, contributing with an oral presentation within one of the symposia organised. More specifically, I have given a presentation within the symposium “Food Risks and Benefits” which was focused on the results achieved so far by FoodRisc project (for more information visit www.foodrisc.org). FoodRisC is an FP7 funded project, currently running, focused on food risk and benefit communication and Hylobates Consulting is one of the partners of the projects consortium.

Many topics were covered during the oral sessions and symposia  running in parallel throughout the whole conference. The most interesting ones, bearing in mind the work we carry on at Hylobates, were risk assessment, risk management and risk communication in different fields, such as food, nanotechnologies, climate change, nuclear power as so on. In particular, risk communication was of interest for us considering our involvement in FoodRisC project as already mentioned.

In relation to the issue of perception of risk communication, Ellen Peters (Ohio State University, US) explained in her presentation, during the first plenary session of the conference, the concept of “numeracy” and its implications in risk perception. “Numeracy” refers to the ability of individuals in processing numeric information contained in a message. This skill influences decisions people take about various kinds of risks, such as environmental, health or financial ones, when exposed to information on related issues.

Moving on to risk assessment and risk management, two presentations were dedicated to this complex topics followed by a lively debate between the speakers. The first presentation was from Terje Aven (University of Stavanger, Norway) who focused on the misconceptions of risk which are present in the methods used in risk assessment and risk management. The speaker provided some examples as well as some ideas for improvement. Subsequently, Charles Vlek (University of Groningen, Netherlands) gave a talk on uncertainty in risk evaluation and on the rational balancing the precaution and venture principles, using different examples to explain the theory behind these principles, from the Trojan horse to E.coli crisis in Germany.

Finally, I would like to mention the presentation of Atsuo Kishimoto (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan) who provided a thorough explanation of the risk governance in a multiple risk situation such as the one that occurred in Japan on last March, with the earthquake, the tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident all at the same time. The speaker talked about the consequences of the unexpected height of the tsunami and complete loss of electricity in the nuclear power plant at Fukushima in relation to what were considered to be the deficits of the managing system emergency.

 

Antonella Guzzon – Research Team

 

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