Society For Risk Analysis Annual Meeting 2013

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

Symposium: Panel Discussion: Communicating Risk Uncertainty: What Have We Learned and Where Are We Going?

Room: Key Ballroom 6   3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Chair(s): Cindy Jardine

Sponsored by RCSG

M4-F.1  15:30  Strategies to engage knowledge users in understanding best practices for communicating about risk characterized by uncertainty. Driedger SM*, Jardine CG; University of Manitoba

Abstract: Risk communication research must be responsive to the needs of various health and environment agencies and organizations. Likewise, it is critical that communication best practices gleaned from research be adequately and effectively translated into practice. Risk researchers spend a great deal of time designing studies to try and measure what may work (or not) in communicating uncertainty to the public. Some studies aim to assess aspects of testing theory, refining variables, or working with experimental scenarios with large numbers of participants to evaluate issues from an exploratory perspective. However, these studies are not always able to conclude what strategies will be most effective. Likewise, the context specific nature of risk communication – varying highly by the issue itself (i.e., is the degree of outrage potentially high, is the risk known/voluntary or not, etc) as well as the audience (i.e., is it a broader public or a specific community directly affected) – are also important in identifying which communication mechanisms, strategies or processes will be helpful as opposed to harmful. The objective of this presentation is to examine the practice of communicating the science/best practices from a systematic review to policy influencers and personnel in environment, public health and health system agencies. To connect our research findings to this group of policy knowledge end-users, we incorporated novel strategies to create dialogue regarding difficult and contentious subjects, including how admitting uncertainty (i.e., not knowing the answer) can increase rather than undermine trust. These strategies included using humor and specific visual illustrations of ineffective means of communicating uncertainty. We provide reflections from the ‘trenches’ as well as feedback obtained throughout the knowledge translation process with the aim to encourage dialogue and debate among risk communication specialists and practitioners in the ensuing panel commentary and open discussion of this symposium session.

M4-F.2  15:50  Communicating Environmental Health Risk Uncertainty: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Jardine CG*, Driedger SM; UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA

Abstract: Communicating the uncertainty associated with environmental health risks is a continuing challenge within risk communication theory and practice. A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative empirical research published between 1985 and 2008 was conducted to consolidate and integrate the knowledge currently available in this area. The review involved searching more than 30 databases, representing various health-related and communication disciplines, using multiple combinations of keywords and synonyms. In addition, a search was made of key journals (such as Risk Analysis and Journal of Risk Research) and 109 key risk communication authors. Of the initial 29,499 potential articles identified, 28 met the inclusion criteria (22 of which were empirical evaluations conducted since the year 2000). Lessons learned for best practice include: (1) the importance of describing the nature, source, and consequences of the uncertainty; (2) the need to avoid vague or ambiguous descriptions of uncertainty; (3) the influence of different risk communication formats on understanding and uptake of uncertainty information; (4) the importance of the spokesperson; (5) how to work with the media to avoid inaccurate information being put ‘into the information void’; and (6) the critical importance of communicating risk uncertainty at the beginning of a developing risk issue. Notable gaps in the literature include the lack of research on different cultural understandings of uncertainty and the impact of new channels and sources of information (such as social media) on communicating uncertainty. The findings from this review will provide insights on needs for risk communication research in this area that will help guide new paths forward.

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