Ethical Issues in Risk Communication: Continuing the Discussion

Abstract

Proposed in this article is one possible framework for classifying multiple types of ethical issues in risk communication research and practice to help continue a discussion initiated in 1990 by Morgan and Lave. Some of the questions that each stage of the process for planning risk communication strategies appears to pose for ethics are discussed (e.g., selecting issues to be communicated, knowing the issue, dealing with constraints). Also discussed briefly are some issues raised by the possibility that risk communicators aspire to the status of a profession. The purpose is to foster discussion rather than issue a conclusive statement on the topic, because its very nature makes a definitive pronouncement indefensible.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

REFERENCES

  1. 1.

    M. G. Morgan and L. Lave, "Ethical Considerations in Risk Communication Practice and Research," Risk Anal. 10355-358 (1990).

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    H. Jungermann, "Ethical Dilemmas in Risk Communication," in D. M. Messick and A. E. Tenbrunsel (eds.)Codes of Con-duct: Behavioral Research into Business Ethicspp. 300-317 (Russell Sage, New York, 1996).

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    J. Valenti and L. Wilkins, "An Ethical Risk Communication Protocol for Science and Mass Communication," Public Un-derstand. Sci. 4177-194 (1995).

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    O. Ehart, "Can Risk Analysis Ethics Improved Public Policy?" (Society for Risk Analysis, 7-10 December, Washing-ton, D.C.) (1997).

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    K. K. Pflugh, J. A. Shaw, and B. B. Johnson, Establishing Dialogue: Planning for Successful Environmental Manage-ment; A Guide to Effective Communication Planning(Division of Science and Research, New Jersey Department of Environ-mental Protection and Energy, Trenton, 1992).

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    B. B. Johnson, "Institutional Constraints on Evaluating Risk Communications" (Society for Risk Analysis, Savannah, Georgia, December 5-8) (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    B. B. Johnson, "Accounting for the Social Context of Risk Communication," Sci.Technol.Stud. 5103-111 (1987).

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    P. Sandman, Personal communication (1998).

  9. 9.

    A. P. Fiske and P. E. Tetlock, "Taboo Trade-offs: Reactions to Transactions That Transgress the Spheres of Justice," Political Psychology 18255-297 (1997).

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    K. E. Rowan, "The Technical and Democratic Approaches to Risk Situations: Their Appeal, Limitations, and Rhetorical Alternative," Argumentation 8391-409 (1994).

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    R. Briggs, "An Ethical Dilemma," Philadelphia Inquirer10 October (1995).

  12. 12.

    B. J. Hance, C. Chess, and P. M. Sandman, Improving Dialogue with Communities: A Guide for Government Risk Communica-tion(New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Trenton, 1988).

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    B. Tracy, "DEPE Taught How to Manipulate Public Opinion" [letter to the editor]. Gloucester Times3 November (1993).

  14. 14.

    J. F. Stratman, C. Boykin, M. C. Holmes, M. J. Laufer, M. Breen, "Risk Communication, Metacommunication, and Rhe-torical Stases in the Aspen-EPA Superfund Controversy," J Bus Tech Commn 95-41 (1995).

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    M. R. English, Siting Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facilities: The Public Policy Dilemma(Quorum Books, New York, 1992).

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    O. Renn, T. Webler, and P. Wiedemann, Fairness and Compe-tence in Citizen Participation: Evaluating Models for Environ-mental Discourse(Kluwer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 1995).

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    C. L. Soskolne and A. Light, "Towards Ethics Guidelines for Environmental Epidemiologists," Sci.Total Environ. 184137-147 (1996).

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    C. E. Metcalf, "Presidential Address: Research Ownership, Communication of Results, and Threats to Objectivity in Cli-ent-Driven Research," J.Policy Anal.Manage. 17153-163 (1998).

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    B. B. Johnson, "Advancing Understanding of Knowledge's Role in Lay Risk Perception," RISK: Issues Health Safety 4189-212 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    B. B. Johnson and P. Slovic, "Explaining Uncertainty in Health Risk Assessment: Initial Studies of Its Effects on Risk Percep-tion and Trust," Risk Anal. 15485-494 (1995).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    T. Webler, D. Levine, H. Rakel, and O. Renn, "The Group Delphi: A Novel Attempt at Reducing Uncertainty," Technol. Forecasting Soc.Change 39253-263 (1991).

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    B. Fischhoff, "Public Values in Risk Research," AAA Political and Social Science 54575-84 (1996).

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    A. Bostrom, C. J. Atman, B. Fischhoff, and M. G. Morgan, "Evaluating Risk Communications: Completing and Correct-ing Mental Models of Hazardous Processes, Part II," Risk Anal. 14789-798 (1994).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    F. R. Johnson, A. Fisher, V. K. Smith, and W. H. Desvousges, "Informed Choice or Regulated Risk? Lessons from a Study in Radon Risk Communication," Environment 3012-15, 30-35 (1988).

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    P. Thompson, "The Ethics of Truth Telling and the Problem of Risk" (Society for Risk Analysis, New Orleans, 10 Decem-ber) (1996).

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    R. E. Fox, "Charlatanism, Scientism, and Psychology's Social Contract," Am.Psychol. 51777-784 (1996).

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    J. R. Walton, J. M. Stearns, and C. T. Crespy, "Integrating Ethics into the Public Administration Curriculum: A Three-Step Process," J.Policy Anal.Manage. 16470-483 (1997).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Johnson, B.B. Ethical Issues in Risk Communication: Continuing the Discussion. Risk Anal 19, 335–348 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007084108903

Download citation

  • ethics
  • risk communication