Risk Communication and Perception

Aim of the course

Toxicologists are becoming increasingly aware that the perception of risks by the general public may deviate from scientific evidence as people take other aspects into account as well. Recent examples include the public concern regarding electromagnetic fields and the anti-vaccination lobby. The aim of this course is to provide training in risk communication and perception for toxicologists, to enhance public understanding in risk assessment.

Both in online sessions and in a classroom setting lectures will be given by various experts from the field. Special attention will be paid to the possibilities and limitations of risk communication in practice. Through assignments the participants will gain practical experience in risk communication.

List of subjects:

  • Risk communication: theory; different models of risk communication
  • Factors determining risk perception (experts vs. general public)
  • Role of the (social) media (incl. press releases, speaking with reporters)
  • Participatory processes
  • Practice of risk communication and strategies by different actors (e.g., general public, NGOs, policy makers and scientists)
  • Presenting risk information: comparing the effect of different formats (words, numbers, graphs, comparisons, framing)
  • Theory on influencing behaviour and attitudes

Outcomes (competences, skills)
After following this course, the participant will be able to

  • describe several ways by which experts, civilians, police makers, media and interest groups approach risks
  • choose for a more informative or more persuasive communication strategy, based on arguments
  • understand and facilitate risk communicationprocesses

This course is explicitly NOT a communication skills training.

Coordinator: Dr. Marianne Bol-Schoenmakers and Dr. Mieke Lumens

Student individual assignment (risk communication/layman’s pitch on own daily practice/research) will be assessed by experts and peers.

Please note that the course can be cancelled up to one month before its starting date, when the number of applications is below the minimum required. For general inquiries please contact the PET Office.

Risk Assessment