The views of scientific experts on how the public conceptualize uncertainty

L.J. Frewer, S. Hunt, M. Brennan, S. Kuznesof, M. Ness, C. Ritson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Scientific experts (drawn from scientific institutions, universities, industry, and government) were interviewed about how they thought the general public might handle information about uncertainty associated with risk analysis. It was found that, for many people within the scientific community, there was a widespread belief that the general public were unable to conceptualize uncertainties associated with risk management processes. Many scientists thought that providing the public with information about uncertainty would increase distrust in science and scientific institutions, as well as cause panic and confusion regarding the extent and impact of a particular hazard. It was concluded that scientists still appear to be subscribing to the deficit model of science communication, and it is vital that effective mechanisms for communicating about risk uncertainty with the public must be developed as a matter of urgency, particularly as increased transparency in risk management processes means that scientific uncertainties associated with risk analysis become more likely to be the subject of public scrutiny and debate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-85
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of risk research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003


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