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Communicating risk and science Many high-profile issues revolve around risk, science and technology. Competing parties involved in the issue may interpret risk in very different ways and may disagree completely about what is presented as an indisputable ‘fact’. A good example would be whether mobile phone towers affect the health of the nearby community. Think about the factors that make science-based issues more difficult to manage. Why do scientists and experts sometimes find it hard to communicate and persuade? Why do experts and nonexperts often reach different conclusions about risk?
Scientists and other experts are usually trained to focus on facts and data that can be proven. Their training encourages them to find the ‘right answer’. But many issues also involve emotions and opinions, and many risks are judged by concepts such as degree of control, trust, dread, fairness, familiarity and whether it is voluntary or enforced. Organisations should never ignore or misrepresent the facts, but they must recognise that many issues cannot be resolved by facts alone.
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