recognize the limitations and constraints of the media. Although little research has been carried out on the best means of providing journalists with such a perspective, providing agency personnel with training on how to communicate effectively with media representatives about uncertainties may prove helpful to journalists, as might providing journalists with access to the agency officials who were involved in the decision making. Providing the media with summaries of the uncertainties in the risk assessment and risk management in a variety of formats may also help ensure that the uncertainties are conveyed accurately.

Social Trust

An important concept related to stakeholder values and perceptions is social trust. Trust has long been considered of central importance to risk management and communication (Earle, 2010; Earle et al., 2007; Kasperson et al., 1992; Löfstedt, 2009; Renn and Levine, 1991). Slovic (1993) noted an inverse relationship between the level of trust in decision makers and the public’s concern about or perception of a risk—that is, the lower the trust, the higher the perception of risk. The importance of organizational reputation is not unique to EPA; in Reputation and Power: Organizational Image and Pharmaceutical Regulation at the FDA, Carpenter (2010) emphasized the importance that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s reputation plays in its regulatory authority.

Frewer and Salter (2012) point out that beliefs about the underlying causes of trust or distrust and about the best approaches for increasing trust have changed over the past few decades. In contrast to the old idea that increasing knowledge will increase trust, Frewer et al. (1996) found that certain inherent aspects of the source of information—such as having a good track record, being truthful, having a history of being concerned with public welfare, and being seen as knowledgeable—lead to increased trust. Similarly, Peters et al. (1997) found that the source of the information being seen as having “knowledge and expertise, honesty and openness, and concern and care” was an important contributor to trust (p. 10). In a study looking at attitudes toward genetically modified foods, however, Frewer et al. (2003) found that neither the information itself nor the strategy for communicating the risks had much effect on people’s attitudes toward genetically modified foods; in this case, people’s attitudes toward genetically modified foods tended to determine their level of trust in the source of information, rather than the trust in the source determining their attitudes toward the foods. It is important to remember, however, that there are reasons to communicate uncertainties beyond the potential to increase social trust (Stirling, 2010).



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement