BOX 6-2
When Greater Attention to Reporting Uncertainties May Be Needed

Reporting uncertainties may be more policy relevant when

•  The outcomes are very uncertain and have a great impact on the policy advice given.

•  The outcomes are situated near a policy target, threshold, or standard set by policy.

•  A wrong estimate in one direction will have entirely different consequences for policy advice than a wrong estimate in another direction.

•  There is a possibility of morally unacceptable damage or “catastrophic events.”

•  Controversies among stakeholders are involved.

•  There are value-laden choices or assumptions that are in conflict with the views and interests of stakeholders.

Greater attention to reporting uncertainties may also be needed when

•  Fright factors or media triggers are involved.

•  There are persistent misunderstandings among audiences.

•  The audiences are expected to distrust outcomes that point to low risks because the public perception is that the risks are serious.

•  The audiences are likely to distrust the results because of low or fragile confidence in the researchers or the organization that performed the assessment.

SOURCE: Kloprogge et al., 2007.

explicitly including the communication of uncertainties in emergency plans can help facilitate communications when an environmental crisis requiring an emergency response occurs. Given the need for a quick decision and the large amount of uncertainty that often occurs in emergency situations, it is important that communication strategies include plans to collect information that might reduce uncertainties or plans to revisit the decision once more data are gathered.

The decision context could also determine whom the agency and its technical staff should communicate with. Furthermore, as discussed below, the characteristics of those with whom EPA is communicating should also affect the strategy for communicating the decision, including the uncertainty in the decision. The communication strategy for a decision that will

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