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Do remediation experts have what it takes to explain empirical uncertainty?

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doi: 10.1002/rem.21544
Authors:Hughes, Kate
Author Affiliations:Primary:
University of Technology, Institute for Sustainable Future, Sydney, N.S.W., Australia
Volume Title:Remediation (New York, NY)
Source:Remediation (New York, NY), 28(1), p.73-86. Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY, United States. ISSN: 1051-5658
Publication Date:2017
Note:In English. 114 refs.; illus., incl. 6 tables
Summary:Words matter in risk communication, and experts' choice of words is critical when remediation risks are being explained to nonexperts. In risk communication studies, communication gaps between experts and nonexperts are investigated but there is lack of primary research. An Australian project addresses this shortcoming through research into communication about the risks of contaminated land remediation, and this paper provides some of its findings. Seventeen experts completed a questionnaire about the meaning of some scientific terms, and analysis found that they have capacity to improve communication through their selection and use of language. When experts undertake risk communication, the language they use may increase or reduce communication gaps. When the topic is uncertainty about health risks, communication gaps about the extent of uncertainty may reduce the effectiveness of social engagement, leading to unintended consequences such as cost overruns. This situation makes for a good case study since remediation is about benefit as well as risk, and communication about benefit, while desirable, may not always be achievable. The study suggests how to improve risk communication by exploring the accuracy, clarity, and depth of expert language. It identifies attributes of language that can bridge gaps in knowledge and understanding and characterizes them as integration mechanisms. These are defined as knowledge forms and mental processes that support cooperation between different epistemic communities to achieve mutually agreed outcomes. Two integration mechanisms are suggested. Bridging content addresses communication gaps through the selection of content (what knowledge is selected). Bridging process addresses communication gaps through the use of language (how knowledge is explained). Bridging content and bridging process can be expressed through cognitive and experiential platforms, or a blending of both, so whether words are positioned in the science-based or mental model of risk communication, a utility value can be found in their quality, whether reflected by accuracy or the power to communicate meaning. Abstract Copyright (2017), Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Subjects:Aromatic hydrocarbons; Case studies; Chlorinated hydrocarbons; DDT; Decision-making; Decontamination; Halogenated hydrocarbons; Hydrocarbons; Insecticides; Land use; Mitigation; Organic compounds; Organochlorine pesticides; Pesticides; Policy; Pollution; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Public health; Regulations; Remediation; Risk assessment; Risk management; Toxic materials; Toxicity; Uncertainty; Australasia; Australia; New South Wales Australia; Sydney Australia
Record ID:814133-9
Copyright Information:GeoRef, Copyright 2021 American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, United Kingdom
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