The Realities of Decision Making on Risks

  • Jim McQuaid
Conference paper


The interaction of man with natural and manmade hazards is subject to many uncertainties. Risk assessment in its general sense is the study of that interaction in order to inform decisions about what should be done in any given context. Advances in risk estimation methodologies have been paralleled by equally important changes in society’s response to risk issues. For a long time, risk was seen as no more than an objective measure of the possibility of identified physical harm and exclusively a matter for expert assessors. Any reluctance to accept the expert view was dismissed as irrational. But several factors have combined to make decision making on risk a fertile and complex subject of debate. These include:
  • growing understanding of the influences that colour people’s perception of risks;

  • heightened awareness of the dependency of expert assessments on judgement;

  • consequent demands for greater openness and inclusion of stakeholder values in framing the issues and arriving at a balanced decision, and

  • incessant media clamour driven by the difficult politics of the equitable distribution of costs and benefits.

  • In threading a way through this minefield, the decision maker can succeed only with expert advice that is robust and tractable to public scrutiny. Various developments relevant to that aim will be discussed.


Risk Issue Risk Governance Societal Concern Social Amplification Expert Assessor 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jim McQuaid
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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