Society For Risk Analysis Annual Meeting 2017

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: Risk Meets Communication: a fork in the road or a road less travelled?

Room: Salon 2   3:30 pm–5:10 pm

Chair(s): Cami Ryan

Sponsored by Risk Comminicaton Specialty Group

In a world where science and discovery are moving along at a rapid pace, societies are challenged to keep up. The divide between risk realities and risk perceptions widens. This creates uncertainties for technology developers and consumers alike. Add to that the complexities of risk in a global world where terms, concepts, ideas may take on different meanings in different geopolitical environments. We, as risk communicators and technology developers, are challenged to operate in this complex environment; mobilizing technologies that benefit societies while at the same time protecting those societies. How do we meet the public in an anticipatory way that mitigates negative risk perceptions? We are tasked to 1) better understand how various publics recognize and react to risks, and; 2) find ways of proactively and effectively communicating in an environment of growing skepticism. This symposium will bring together risk theorists and practitioners to discuss the complexities of managing risk perceptions. Examples will be presented across case studies. The panel will be introduced by a risk theorist (Paul Slovic) who will frame the symposium around the notion of risk and how language (rhetorics) can shape perception. Questions to be addressed: How does language shape perceptions of risk? How does perceived risk shape realities of technology adoption? How can we proactively anticipate public responses to new and emerging technologies? How has risk communication been mobilized in real world situations? What are the lessons learned? (Case studies) What is acceptable uncertainty? (Eg, risk tolerance) And how do we communicate acceptable uncertainty to a skeptical public? How can we communicate risk with skeptical publics in meaningful ways? (who, what, when) How can we shape policy that both protects societies and allows them to benefit from new innovative technologies?

W4-K.1  3:30 pm  The Complexity of Risk: Implications for Communication. Slovic P*; University of Oregon

Abstract: Psychological research has aimed to aid risk analysis by (i) providing a basis for understanding and anticipating public responses to hazards and (ii) improving the communication of risk information among lay people, technical experts, and decision-makers. Among the questions I shall address are: How do people think about risk? What psychological, social, cultural, and political factors determine the perception of risk and the acceptance of risk? What role do emotion and reason play in risk perception? What are some of the social, economic and political implications of risk perceptions in today’s global world?

W4-K.2  3:50 pm  Monsanto’s Evolving Communication Strategy in the Age of Mass Information . Ryan C*; Monsanto Company

Abstract: We live in world where people are geographically and generationally removed from food and agriculture production; one where science and technology outpaces society’s capacity to keep up. This creates uncertainties for the public. This broad uncertainty has only been exacerbated in delays by science and industry to educate and engage with skeptical public about modern ag technologies such as genetically engineered crops. We at Monsanto have discovered that traditional communication strategies no longer work in an increasingly complex environment of mass information, ‘fake news’, and false experts. Humanizing science and mobilizing key narratives have now become key ways in which to reach skeptical audiences in meaningful ways. In the age of mass information, the information is less important that how it is delivered. In this presentation, we will provide an overview of Monsanto’s beleaguered reputational history, and how the company has made concerted efforts to engage with the public in recent years. Monsanto has and continues to show up differently in unexpected places: IQ2 debates, online blogs, and by empowering its employees to engage in social media, etc. But is it enough? What can we anticipate in terms of follow-on innovations moving forward? How can we work to further reduce public skepticism about key technologies that show so much promise from a socioeconomic perspective?

W4-K.3  4:10 pm  Communicating Real Risk in a Complex World . Holsapple M*; Director and Endowed Chair of Center for Research on Ingredient Safety, Michigan State University and Director, CRIS Bits

Abstract: Michigan State University’s Center for Research on Ingredient Safety is an independent academic center that was established to serve as a hub for objective science that adds rigor and data to the highly visible discourse on consumer product and ingredient safety. As such, an important purpose for CRIS is to make science accessible to enable evidence-informed decisions. Included among the principle target audiences for CRIS are consumers. Broadly speaking, consumers think of chemicals in food as any ingredient added to foods. Consumers are generally unfamiliar with ingredient safety, and are becoming increasingly interested in learning more about the potential risks of chemicals in food. Even though scientists note that food itself consists of chemicals, the phrase, ‘chemicals in food’ has a negative connotation. In today’s complex world, the majority of consumers think that the absence of artificial additives is important, that they don’t want ingredients in their foods that they can’t pronounce, and that fewer ingredients is associated with healthier food. This presentation has two goals: 1) to summarize the results from a number of recent surveys aimed at gauging how consumers view the potential risks of chemicals in our food supply, 2) to provide insights as to how to most effectively communicate to an audience which doesn’t generally differentiate between ‘hazard-based approaches’ and ‘risk-based approaches’. Consumers should be informed about why certain chemicals make their way into our food supply, and, most importantly, at what levels chemicals in food could potentially cause adverse health effects. Consumers should be encouraged to ask, ‘is this chemical supposed to be in our food?’ As risk assessors, we need to reassure consumers that the risks to health mostly depend on the duration, frequency, and level of exposure to a chemical, that low level exposures are often of no or negligible risks, and that the mere presence of a chemical in a food does not constitute a risk.

W4-K.4  4:30 pm  The Language of Law: When Risk is Tried in the Court of Public Perception. Schachtman N*; Schachtman Law

Abstract: Two issues in the field of statistics and probability plague judicial and jury decisions and fact finding in the United States. The first is use of risk ratios from clinical trials or epidemiologic studies to determine the probability of causation of a given claimant’s injury or disease from a putative cause. The use of attributable risk and the probability of attribution has been widely criticized, but many of the criticisms are overstated, and result in untoward outcomes when adopted. The second issue arises from the careless use of statistical significance testing and the misinterpretation of p-values and confidence intervals in judicial proceedings. Although both issues have been widely discussed in the statistical and legal literature, the problems persist to undermine the integrity of judicial judgments in a wide range of cases, especially in health effects litigation, but in other cases as well. Both issues obscure risk communications in the courts. Examples from recent cases are used to illustrate how these issues continue without resolution in the United States, and some suggestions will be considered for improving current practice in the courts.

W4-K.5  4:50 pm  Understanding the Role of Trust in Risk Perception. Evans B*; Odisee University College and Université Saint-Louis in Brussels   

Abstract: As technologies develop beyond our understanding and risk perceptions alienate a vulnerable and increasingly technophobic population, we find ourselves in a world where complex risks are being imposed on communities demanding simple solutions. Social media communities, rejecting the authority of the experts, are rallying around gurus who build trust through reassurance of certainty and simplicity of solutions: we can feed the world without agri-technology, cure cancer through juicing and solve climate change with efficient lightbulbs. Risk perception is a non-rational process, normatively driven with a justified illogic built around benefits identification. People afraid of pesticides will readily toss back large mugs of coffee; those who refuse vaccinations will happily inject Botox into their faces; and chemophobes terrified of endocrine disrupting chemicals take birth control pills or HRTs every morning. As our benefit-driven narratives influence our risk acceptance, we need to better understand how benefit perceptions are integrated. A proper management of risk perception requires a clear process of benefit communications. This entails a proper understanding of trust-building concepts and the public need for fear narratives. In the end, it all comes down to trust, an emotional concept whose tools will need to be better defined.

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