risk-based decision making (see Figure 5-1).13 This recommendation echoes the point made in other NRC reports (see, for example, NRC, 1996, 2008) that technical and analytical aspects of the decision-making process be balanced with adequate involvement by interested and affected parties, and it is a point with which this committee concurs.
Concerns about procedural fairness and trust are even more salient when scientific uncertainty is reported (NRC, 2008). Some research has demonstrated that people show a heightened interest in evaluating the credibility of information sources when they perceive uncertainty (Brashers, 2001; Halfacre et al., 2000; van den Bos, 2001), and they are also more likely to challenge the reliability and adequacy of risk estimates and be less accepting of reassurances in such situations (Kroll-Smith and Couch, 1991; Rich et al., 1995). When EPA anticipates more uncertainty in scientific aspects of decision making, the need for stakeholder involvement may often be greater. Other research has spoken to the importance of describing the existence of uncertainties in risk assessments as well, both to facilitate transparency and to increase public perceptions of agency honesty (Johnson and Slovic, 1995; Lundgren and McMakin, 2004; Morgan and Henrion, 1990; NRC, 1989).
Developing provisions for stakeholder involvement in decision making, including guidance on discussing with stakeholders the sources of uncertainty and how uncertainty is being managed, could lead to greater transparency and trust and also has the potential to result in better decision making. Stakeholders might be interested in how uncertainty can be dealt with in the analysis, the implications of uncertainties, and what can or cannot be done about the uncertainties. Stakeholders may also suggest new uncertainties not previously under consideration by EPA and, by expressing their values and concerns (cultural, religious, economic, and so on), help decision makers prioritize how the uncertainties are factored into decision making.
In discussions with stakeholders about uncertainty, it is important that EPA be proactive in engaging the range of stakeholders for whom a decision may have an impact. Science and Decisions (NRC, 2009) recommended that EPA provide incentives to allow for balanced participation of stakeholders, including affected communities and those stakeholders for whom participation is less likely because of competing priorities, fewer resources, a lack of knowledge, or other factors. Boeckmann and
13 The three phases are (1) problem formulation and scoping, (2) planning and conduct of risk assessment, and (3) risk-management phases (see Figure 5-1). As part of the framework, the report also suggests that stakeholder involvement should have time limits so as not to delay decision making and that there should be incentives so that participation is more balanced and includes impacted communities and less advantaged stakeholders (NRC, 2008).