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Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making
[M]any risk management failures can be traced to not including stakeholders in decision making at the earliest possible time and not considering risks in their broader contexts. In contrast, the Commission’s Risk Management Framework is intended to:
Provide an integrated, holistic approach to solving public health and environmental problems in context
Ensure that decisions about the use of risk assessment and economic analysis rely on the best scientific evidence and are made in the context of risk management alternatives
Emphasize the importance of collaboration, communication, and negotiation among stakeholders so that public values can influence risk management strategies
Produce risk management decisions that are more likely to be successful than decisions made without adequate and early stakeholder involvement
Accommodate critical new information that may emerge at any stage of the process
The commission’s final report is a strong call for a shift to an altered approach. However, it does not prescribe detailed methods for accomplishing such goals as “adequate and early stakeholder involvement.” Also, despite the fact that most commission members are scientists, the report did not provide much detail on how scientific information should be assembled or evaluated for the iterative analytic-deliberative approach it proposed. For example, the commission’s report does not clarify the phrase “best scientific evidence” or address the role of judgment in determining what is best, particularly when the science available for predicting the consequences of policy alternatives involves pervasive uncertainty.
techniques, and practices for implementing the principles, and many of them can be helpful. As we also note, numerous guidebooks are available that describe the formats and practices and offer advice on how and when to use different ones.
Practical experience makes clear, however, that implementing the principles can be much more difficult in some contexts than others, and that different contexts present different challenges for public participation. In Chapters 7 and 8 we review available evidence on which aspects of context matter, how they matter, and how it is possible to examine the context of public participation to diagnose the situation, that is, to identify and anticipate specific difficulties that are likely to arise in the context at hand, when trying to implement principles of good practice. This kind of diagnostic process has prescriptive value in that it can help practitioners and