The effective use of evidence and its resultant knowledge is increasingly recognized as critical in risk analysis. This, in turn, has led to a growing concern over issues of epistemology in risk communication, and, in particular, interest in how knowledge is constructed and employed by the key players in risk—scientists, policy makers, and the public. This article uses a critical theoretical approach to explore how evidence is recognized and validated, and how limits are placed on knowledge by scientists, policy makers, and the public. It brings together developments in the sociology of science, policy and policy development, public understandings of science, and risk communication and analysis to explicate the differing forms of rationality employed by each group. The work concludes that each group employs different, although equally legitimate, forms of rationality when evaluating evidence and generating knowledge around risky environment and health issues. Scientists, policy makers, and the public employ scientific, political, and social rationality, respectively. These differing forms of rationality reflect underlying epistemological distances from which can develop considerable misunderstandings and misinterpretations.
Risk Analysis – Wiley
Published: Jun 1, 2001
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