National Academies Press: OpenBook
Suggested Citation:"GLOSSARY." National Research Council. 1996. Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5138.
Suggested Citation:"GLOSSARY." National Research Council. 1996. Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5138.
Suggested Citation:"GLOSSARY." National Research Council. 1996. Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5138.

Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Glossary Affected parties. People, groups, or organizations that may experience benefit or harm as a result of a hazard, or of the process leading to risk characterization, or of a decision about risk. They need not be aware of the possible harm to be considered affected. Analysis. The systematic application of specific theories and methods, including those from natural science, social science, engineering, decision science, logic, mathematics, and law, for the purpose of collecting and interpreting data and drawing conclusions about phenomena. It may be qualitative or quantitative. Its competence is typically judged by criteria developed within the fields of expertise from which the theories and methods come. Broadly based deliberation. Deliberation in which participation from across the spectrum of interested and affected parties, by policy makers, and by specialists in risk analysis is sufficiently diverse to ensure that the im- portant, decision-relevant knowledge enters the process, that the impor- tant perspectives are considered, and that the parties' legitimate concerns about the inclusiveness and openness of the process are addressed. Such deliberation involves the participation or at least the representation of the relevant range of interests and values as well as of scientific and technical expertise. NOTE: When definitions refer to other defined terms, the latter appear in italics. 214

GLOSSARY 215 Deliberation . Any process for communication and for raising and col- lectively considering issues. In the process leading to risk characterization, deliberation may involve various combinations of scientific and technical specialists, public officials, and interested and affected parties, and may be formalized (as in mediation) or occur in informal settings. It may be used both to increase understanding and to arrive at substantive deci- sions. In deliberation, people discuss, ponder, exchange observations and views, reflect upon information and judgments concerning matters of mutual interest, and attempt to persuade each other. Deliberations about risk often include discussions of the role, subjects, methods, and results of analysis. Bargaining and mediation are specific deliberative processes, as are debating, consulting, and commenting. Hazard. An act or phenomenon that has the potential to produce harm or other undesirable consequences to humans or what they value. Haz- ards may come from physical phenomena (such as radioactivity, sound waves, magnetic fields, fire, floods, explosions), chemicals (ozone, mer- cury, dioxins, carbon dioxide, drugs, food additives), organisms (viruses, bacteria), commercial products (toys, tools, automobiles), or human be- havior (drunk driving, firing guns). Hazards can also come from infor- mation (e.g., information that a person carries a gene that increases sus- ceptibility to cancer may expose the person to job discrimination or increased insurance costs). Interested parties. People, groups, or organizations that decide to be- come informed about and involved in a risk characterization or decision- making process. Interested parties may or may not also be affected parties. Problem formulation. An activity in which public officials, scientists, and interested and affected parties clarify the nature of the choices to be considered, the attendant hazards and risks, and the knowledge needed to inform the choices. Problem formulation sets the agenda for the other steps leading to a risk characterization: process design, selection of options and outcomes to consider, gathering and interpreting information, and synthesis. Risk. A concept used to give meaning to things, forces, or circumstances that pose danger to people or to what they value. Descriptions of risk are typically stated in terms of the likelihood of harm or loss from a hazard and usually include: an identification of what is "at risk" and may be harmed or lost (e.g., health of human beings or an ecosystem, personal property, quality of life, ability to carry on an economic activity); the

216 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONSINADEMOC~TIC SOCIETY hazard that may occasion this loss; and a judgment about the likelihood that harm will occur. Risk analysis. The application of methods of analysis to matters of risk. Its aim is to increase understanding of the substantive qualities, serious- ness, likelihood, and conditions of a hazard or risk and of the options for managing it. Although risk analysis is sometimes conceived to be rel- evant only to gathering, interpreting, and summarizing information about certain possible consequences of a hazard, analysis has other uses in risk characterization. .Risk characterization . A synthesis and summary of information about a hazard that addresses the needs and interests of decision makers and of interested and affected parties. Risk characterization is a prelude to deci- sion making and depends on an iterative, analytic-deliberative process.

Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society Get This Book
Buy Paperback | $55.00 Buy Ebook | $43.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

Understanding Risk addresses a central dilemma of risk decisionmaking in a democracy: detailed scientific and technical information is essential for making decisions, but the people who make and live with those decisions are not scientists. The key task of risk characterization is to provide needed and appropriate information to decisionmakers and the public. This important new volume illustrates that making risks understandable to the public involves much more than translating scientific knowledge. The volume also draws conclusions about what society should expect from risk characterization and offers clear guidelines and principles for informing the wide variety of risk decisions that face our increasingly technological society.

  • Frames fundamental questions about what risk characterization means.
  • Reviews traditional definitions and explores new conceptual and practical approaches.
  • Explores how risk characterization should inform decisionmakers and the public.
  • Looks at risk characterization in the context of the entire decisionmaking process.

Understanding Risk discusses how risk characterization has fallen short in many recent controversial decisions. Throughout the text, examples and case studies—such as planning for the long-term ecological health of the Everglades or deciding on the operation of a waste incinerator—bring key concepts to life. Understanding Risk will be important to anyone involved in risk issues: federal, state, and local policymakers and regulators; risk managers; scientists; industrialists; researchers; and concerned individuals.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook,'s online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!