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Society For Risk Analysis Annual Meeting 2008

Risk Analysis: the Science and the Art

Session Schedule & Abstracts

* Disclaimer: All presentations represent the views of the authors, and not the organizations that support their research. Please apply the standard disclaimer that any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations in abstracts, posters, and presentations at the meeting are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other organization or agency. Meeting attendees and authors should be aware that this disclaimer is intended to apply to all abstracts contained in this document. Authors who wish to emphasize this disclaimer should do so in their presentation or poster. In an effort to make the abstracts as concise as possible and easy for meeting participants to read, the abstracts have been formatted such that they exclude references to papers, affiliations, and/or funding sources. Authors who wish to provide attendees with this information should do so in their presentation or poster.

Common abbreviations

High uncertainty is a challenge to risk management not just an unfortunate aspect of risk assessment: A roundtable discussion of research and policy implications

Room: Grand Ballroom D   12:00 PM

Chair(s): Rob Goble

RT2.1    Risk research and policy implications of a management perspective on uncertainty. Goble R*, Bier V, Hassenzahl D, Hattis D, Kasperson RE, Larson H, Tuler S; Clark University, University of Wisconsin, UNLV, SERI

Abstract: Adaptive management, problem reframing, and maintaining vigilance make substantial demands on the capabilities of the institutions responsible for managing uncertain risks. Those demands are not easy to meet under the daily pressures of business as usual. Furthermore, these modes of response require considerable attention to acquiring and interpreting new information: adaptive management requires feedback on system change and on response to management actions; reframing generally involves using new knowledge (often from taking a broader perspective) and identifying missing knowledge; maintaining vigilance has as its cornerstone the paying attention to the appearance of and discovering new information. We offer for discussion an agenda of research and policy proposals that could respond to new demands for knowledge about uncertain risks and to strengthen capabilities for applying such knowledge.

RT2.2    Competing revolutions for the management of uncertainty in risks from environmental chemicals. Hattis D*; Clark University

Abstract: An NRC report “Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century” calls for a long term project to replace much in vivo animal testing for apical endpoints of concern with a large ensemble of high-throughput in vitro test systems involving short term changes in gene expression intended to identify concentrations of environmental chemicals that “sufficiently perturb” particular toxicity pathways (in tissue culture cells derived from humans) to be of concern. This would essentially direct a large portion of future toxicity testing resources to inform choices on the use of large numbers of poorly studied chemicals within the traditional no-effect-level toxicological paradigm, and without explicit quantitative assessment of likely benefits in the form of reductions in health risks and associated uncertainties. By contrast, a competing revolutionary proposal would expand the reach of quantitative assessment of health risks. This would involve replacing the current set of safety/uncertainty factors for noncancer risk assessment with distributions based on empirical data, and extensive quantitative assessment of likely interactions chemical exposures with background processes involved in existing human pathological conditions. Rather than a vision of static homeostatic systems, it emphasizes analysis of dynamic changes in protective feedback systems, including errors in initial set up and eventual degradation of homeostasis with ageing. Explicit quantitative treatment of uncertainties in this alternative paradigm would facilitate “value of information” analysis for the addition of specific types of test results in clarifying the consequences of alternative regulatory options for human health protection.

RT2.4    Three modes of management response to highly uncertain risks. Goble R*, Bier V, Hassenzahl D, Hattis D, Kasperson RE, Larson H, Tuler S; Clark University, University of Wisconsin, UNLV, SERI

Abstract: Different sorts of situations involving high uncertainty pose different sorts of challenges to risk management depending on the nature of the information available. Sometimes there is little or no information, “unknown” hazards; sometimes there is a sudden discovery, a “surprise”. Or much information may be available, but the information base may be in flux with new aspects acquiring prominence. Or instead key issues may have been extensively studied, but seem consistently to defy resolution. We have identified three modes of management response that can be appropriate in such settings: 1) adaptive management, 2) reframing (or redefining) the presenting problem (often this means embedding it in a broader problem), and 3) maintaining vigilance to seek out new findings and things that can go wrong. We introduce illustrative examples of such uncertain situations and possibilities for management response. The three modes make demands on institutional capabilities that may or may not be met. Other papers in this symposium explore such demands in more depth and with further examples.

RT2.5    Implications of Uncertainty for Stakeholders. Hassenzahl DM*; University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Abstract: Incorporating uncertainty an integral part of decision and management processes is a central theme of this session. It is critical, then, to understand whether, how and to what extent different participants in a decision or management arena react to uncertainty, and similarly, to understand how discussion of uncertainty affects the relationships among stakeholders. This set of dynamics is poorly understood; I explore possibilities through two cases. The first qualifies as a "surprise": recetn attention to household accumulation and disposal of unused pharmaceuticals. The second is an ongoing controversy: nuclear power, and in particular, nuclear waste management. I compare and contrast the types and sources of information, the uncertainties, and the perspectives of various stakeholders on the importance and implications of that uncertainty. From this, I propose some norms / expectations for the implications of uncertainty for adaptive management, reframing problem definitions, and maintaining vigilance.

RT2.6    Institutional challenges and adaptability in pandemic planning. Bier VM*, Zach LS, King SB, O'Sullivan T, Burgos I; University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Southern California, University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez

Abstract: The potential for an influenza pandemic creates significant challenges for safety management. First, responding effectively to a pandemic requires not just the involvement of public health and emergency management, but also significant inter-agency and public-private collaboration, which may not be the primary responsibility of any one entity. For example, a project performed for the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services had implications for the Department of Workforce Development, the Department of Public Instruction, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Administration. Even just achieving effective communication between such different agencies can be challenging; people whose primary expertise is in epidemiology may not be able to quantify the impacts of a pandemic in terms that are easily comprehensible to an unemployment administrator. Coordinating such disparate functions obviously requires significant advanced planning. However, some decisions regarding response to a pandemic may be better made in an adaptive manner after the pandemic has already begun. For example, deciding ahead of time whether to close schools may lead to unnecessary cost and hardship (if schools are closed but the pandemic is not especially severe), or to significant morbidity and mortality (if schools are not closed, but the pandemic is extremely infectious or lethal). Therefore, such decisions might be better postponed until after information is available on the infectiousness, lethality, and age profile of the pandemic. If waiting for the availability of such information does not create too much of a penalty (e.g., because the actions required for school closure have been preplanned), then value of information suggests that an adaptive approach would be beneficial; with contingency plans already in place, the decision of when and whether to act may be safely and even beneficially postponed.

RT2.7    Institutional Capabilities for Coping with Uncertainty. Kasperson RE*; Clark University

Abstract: The more difficult risk management decisions typically involve serious health or environmental risks, value differences, and significant scientific uncertainties. This presentation inquires into the last of these--scientific uncertainties--and the distinct challenges they pose to management institutions. Uncertainties, it may be argued, generate significant reluctance to confront risks by management practitioners and publics alike. They also call for institutional capabilities and resources that may be in short supply. Such capabilities include permeable institutional boundaries, incremental decisionmaking, well-developed monitoring systems, ambitious public engagement, and varying and diverse centers of expertise, as discussed herein.

RT2.8    Risk and uncertainty in long term planning for the AIDS epidemic . Larson H*, Goble R; aids2031, Clark University

Abstract: aids2031 is a global initiative dedicated to taking a critical look at what we need to do now in order to change the face of AIDS by 2031, 50 years since AIDS was first reported. Thus the effort is an attempt to inject a long term view in planning responses to the epidemic. aids2031 has nine working groups in the following areas: leadership, financing, social drivers, modeling the epidemic, programmatic response, science and technology, communication, the special needs of hyper-endemic countries, and of countries in rapid economic transition. The web-site provides more detailed information. The initiative uses a risk, vulnerability, uncertainty perspective to better synthesize findings from the nine working groups and to aid in the identification of practical management activities to improve the response to the epidemic. It focuses on communities rather than individuals as the unit of analysis. Of particular concern are institutional capabilities for making sustained commitments, for coping with surprises, and for building and maintaining trust.

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