Abstract of Meeting Paper

Society for Risk Analysis-Europe 1997 Annual Meeting

Democratizing Risk Management: Principles for Successful Public Involvement In Risk Management Contexts. Tim McDaniels, Westwater Research Centre and School of Community and Regional Planning University of British Columbia, telephone 604-822-9288, fax 604-822-3787, e-mail timmcd@unixg.ubc.ca

Two major advisory commissions in the United States have recently recommended that greater emphasis be placed on public involvement in risk management decisions. Yet how to involve the public effectively in public policy decisions regarding health, safety and environment remains an important but unanswered question. Behavioural research findings raise concerns about the ability of the general public to cope with the complexity of risk management choices. These findings also place great emphasis on the role of the analyst in structuring the judgement tasks that people must address in public involvement efforts.

This paper first identifies four concepts (all drawn from decision analytic practice) important for designing public involvement efforts in risk management contexts. These include: value focused thinking, adaptive management, a structured decision process, and an informative decision rule. Then the paper discusses a public involvement process built on these principles that successfully resolved a river management conflict facing an electric utility in British Columbia. The paper concludes with of a discussion of the criteria useful for judging success in public involvement contexts such as this one.

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