International Development, Community, and Environment

Title

Through a Glass Darkly: How Natural Science and Technical Communities Looked at Social Science Advances in Understanding Risk

Document Type

Article

Abstract

This article is one piece in a series of articles that reflect on advances in ideas about risk made by social science over the past 40 years and more. It differs from the other articles: its focus is not on specific advances themselves, but rather on how those advances were received and were encouraged or discouraged by the natural science and technical members of the risk community. Thus, the principal goal of this article is to provide some context for the other articlers in this series. Those articles describe work and intellectual developments that consider human responses to particular sorts of issues, concerns, and needs that relate to risk. The framing of this work was partly driven and shaped by natural science and engineering communities. It is illuminating to reflect on how these technical communities viewed the social science developments and on the perspectives they brought to the framing of issues and concerns. Their views are described in three minihistories of risk developments pertaining to nuclear accidents, high level radioactive waste disposal, and toxic chemicals. After considering common themes among the stories, the article considers characteristics of expert communities and their implications. It then concludes with discussions of its secondary goals, (i) a look at some opportunities for future social science studies relating to risk, (ii) a consideration of the extent to which risk analysis and broader considerations of risk can be considered a truly interdisciplinary field rather than a loose assemblage of perspectives.

Publication Title

Risk Analysis

Publication Date

3-1-2021

Volume

41

Issue

3

First Page

414

Last Page

428

ISSN

0272-4332

DOI

10.1111/risa.13627

Keywords

expert perspectives, risk analysis history, social science and risk

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