Society For Risk Analysis Annual Meeting 2017

Session Schedule & Abstracts

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Common abbreviations

Roundtable: Communicating about Risk: Why Doesn't Scientific Evidence Convince People and Political Leaders?

Room: Salon B   10:30 am–12:00 pm

Chair(s): Chuck Haas, Sharon Friedman

Sponsored by Risk Communication Specialty Group

Victor Hugo once said: “Science says the first word on everything, and the last word on nothing.” While many factors influence how citizens and political leaders respond to controversial risk issues, why is it that scientific evidence is often downplayed or even disbelieved by many? Examples of such risk issues include climate change, childhood vaccines, genetically modified foods and nuclear waste, among many others. The paradox of Americans saying in public opinion polls that they have a great deal of confidence in science while intensely questioning scientific evidence, led to a recent newspaper headline: “People trust science. So why don’t they believe it?” Perhaps some of the answers lie in the complex risk communication patterns that evolve around controversial scientific issues, including conflicting roles played by scientists and scientific societies, the mass and social media, government officials, and lobbying and nonprofit organizations. This roundtable proposes to explore various issues related to communicating about scientific evidence and risks. Can scientific evidence about risks provide rapid and timely responses to important risk questions as they arise in the public? Does engaging the public directly in town halls, science juries or other events facilitate better acceptance of risk science? Can scientific uncertainty be presented to the public as an acceptable response, particularly when evidence is changing rapidly? Can risk evidence be presented without also presenting a point of view? Is there any form of risk communication that can overcome deeply held public views about a risk controversy?

Sharon Friedman, George Gray, Michael Greenberg, Roger Kasperson, Katherine McComas and Kim Thompson.

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