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David Ropeik: Risk Communication is NOT (just) About the Facts
Risk is defined, generally, as the chance that something bad could happen. 'Chance' is quantifiable. 'Bad' is not. It is entirely subjective. So the challenge for risk communication is to appreciate the psychological factors that determine how a risk feels, and to demonstrate a sincere respect for those feelings in both actions and messages designed to build trust and therefore enhance the impact of the information the communicator wants to convey.
David P. Ropeik is a retired Harvard University Instructor, author, and international consultant and speaker on risk perception, risk communication, and risk management. He was an Instructor of risk communication at the Harvard School of Public Health, and was co-director and principal faculty member of the school’s professional education course ‘The Risk Communication Challenge’. He taught the course Critical Thinking about Environmental Issues in the Harvard School of Continuing Education from 2006-2016.
He is author of How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don’t Always Match The Facts, (2010, McGraw Hill). He is co-author of RISK, A Practical Guide for Deciding What’s Really Safe and What’s Really Dangerous in the World Around You, (2002, Houghton Mifflin). He is author of the forthcoming Rethinking Our Fear of Cancer, How excessive worry about a dread disease does great harm all by itself.