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OCR for page 335
Issues in Risk Assessment assessment is being prepared. Interested and affected groups should be informed in advance about the risk assessment. They should have the opportunity to express their concerns and contribute information to the risk assessment process while the process is being carried out. Issues that seem obvious to the expert scientists participating in the risk assessment might not be obvious to laypersons, but it is important for both to understand each other if there is to be effective bridging between the scientific knowledge available to the experts and the concerns of the public. As one working-group participant expressed it, "if risk assessment opens up a dialogue, then it serves an appropriate objective." Communication between modelers, risk assessors, and managers should be mutual, iterative, timely, and flexible. Risk assessments will be valuable as support to the risk management process only if the assessments address the right problem and if the managers who are the users of the products of risk assessment understand them. One suggestion offered at the workshop is that an agency assign someone the task of being the translator, or liaison, between the group that has carried out the risk assessment and the users of the risk assessment. Credibility is Crucial Risk assessments will be useful to the extent that they are perceived to be effective in accomplishing a difficult task: summarizing what science can tell us about the possible consequences to an ecological system. If a risk assessment is perceived to be incomplete or biased toward a particular point of view, it will not be trusted for risk management decision-making. It is therefore essential that a risk assessment be a comprehensive and balanced summary of the applicable science. How can comprehensiveness and balance be achieved? The recommendations on health risk issues from the 1983 report appear equally applicable to ecological risk issues: Regulatory agencies should take steps to establish and maintain a clear conceptual distinction between assessment of risks and the consideration of risk management alternatives; that is, the scientific findings and policy judgments embodied in risk assessments should be explicitly distinguished from the politi-
OCR for page 336
Issues in Risk Assessment cal, economic, and technical considerations that influence the design and choice of regulatory strategies. Before an agency decides whether a substance [ecosystem stressor] should or should not be regulated, … a detailed and comprehensive written risk assessment should be prepared and made publicly accessible … An agency's risk assessment should be reviewed by an independent science advisory panel before any major regulatory action or decision not to regulate. In those recommendations, it might be appropriate to replace "regulatory" language with more general terms relevant to the broad range of decision alternatives available for the management of ecological risks. However, the principles embodied in the recommendations can be applied essentially unchanged: to promote credibility, establish and maintain the conceptual distinction between risk assessment and risk management; place risk assessments in a written, publicly accessible form; and subject them to peer review by outside scientists.