Do we understand risk?

Risk, uncertainty, reliability, correlation, relationship, causality….

All very important words to a scientist. They help us explain what our results mean and how we can compare our results and the results of others.

But does the public understand in the same way? This question formed a large chunk of my Masters of Science course when we looked at science communication.

This BBC article sums up the issue quite well (pity it wasn’t around last year… it would have been useful to quote from…) It was triggered by the latest OTT writing about mobile phones and cancer…

Does not knowing something for certain (what ever “certain” is) make us more worried or less worried?

The problem we have (as the public and the scientists) is that lack of evidence FOR a link between things does not mean evidence AGAINST a link (though if 2000 experiments said “no” we get fairly well convinced) – this Digital Lifestyles article from  2 008 sums up the evidence – but notice the “hedging of bets” in the very last sentence…

Mr G

Sources – BBC News, Digital Lifestyles