Click for next page ( 74


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



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 73
Deliberation successful risk characterization depends on an analytic-deliberative process. This chapter and the next explain what we mean by the terms deliberation and analysis and how both are important in each of the tasks involved in understanding risks. Analy- sis and deliberation can be thought of as two complementary approaches to gaining knowledge of the world, forming understandings on the basis of knowledge, and reaching agreement among people. Analysis uses rig- orous, replicable methods, evaluated under the agreed protocols of an expert community such as those of disciplines in the natural, social, or decision sciences, as well as mathematics, logic, and law to arrive at answers to factual questions. It operates on the assumption that facts can be found through an objective, that is, dispassionate and impartial, ex- amination of phenomena. Deliberation is any formal or informal process for communication and for raising and collectively considering issues. In deliberation, people confer, ponder, exchange views, consider evi- dence, reflect on matters of mutual interest, negotiate, and attempt to persuade each other. Deliberation includes both consensual communica- tion processes and adversarial ones. The adjectival form of the word, deliberate, also implies intentionality, purpose, and a sense of having care- fully thought out the consequences of actions. Thus deliberation implies an iterative process that moves toward clo- sure. It considers each aspect of an issue and it may revisit earlier discus- sion on the basis of new knowledge or insights. A good deliberative process deepens participants' understandings as details emerge and the 73

OCR for page 73
74 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONS IN A DEMO C~TIC SOCIETY relations among different positions become clearer. Effective deliberative processes arrive at understandings that most participants consider ad- equate or acceptable within the existing limits of time or effort and that all recognize to be subject to reconsideration in the future. Participants in deliberations may have divergent interests, but delib- eration need not be a tug of war among these interests. (See Mansbridge, 1983, 1990, for discussion of the distinction between deliberative and adversarial democracy.) Deliberation does not assume consensus; it brings into consideration knowledge and judgments coming from vari- ous perspectives so that participants develop understandings that are informed by other views. At its best, deliberation becomes an interactive learning process for those involved. Deliberation captures part of the meaning of democracy (the norma- tive rationale for participation) and contributes to making decisions more rational and legitimate (the substantive and instrumental rationales) (Fiorino, 19901. It is particularly important for building understanding and acceptance when an issue has more sides than any one participant is likely to consider without input from others. Risk, as we have outlined, is often such an issue: people with different values and interests often de- velop conflicting understandings of the same risk situations (e.g., Whit- temore,1983; Dietz and Rycroft, 1987; lasanoff, 1987; Johnson and Covello, 1987; Lynn, 1986; Clarke, 1988; Dietz, Stern, and Rycroft, 1989; Dake, 1991; Kraus, Malmfors, and Slovic, 1991; Flynn, Slovic, and Mertz, 1994; Peters and Slovic, 1995.) In the process leading to risk characterization, deliberation may in- volve various combinations of scientific and technical specialists, public officials, and interested and affected parties. The role of deliberation for considering conflicts of values and interests is well known and important in risk decision making. Its role in understanding risk has been relatively neglected, however. We use the term analytic-deliberative process to signify the intimate connection between analysis and deliberation and their equal importance for understanding risk. ROLE OF DELIBERATION Deliberative processes are important not only for democratic decision making, but also for developing the understanding required to inform decisions. In fact, deliberation has always been a crucial element in scien- tific progress. Scientific peer review is a form of deliberation involving an exchange of judgments about the methodological appropriateness of re- search methods, the strength of an author's inferences from findings, and even the likely validity of a surprising research result. Reviewers con- sider both scientific data and other kinds of information, such as the

OCR for page 73
DELIBERATION 75 reputation of a researcher who reports surprising results. This is one way in which scientific communities arrive at collective understandings through a combination of analysis and deliberation. The classic statement of the point that science advances by deliberation and not just by analysis is by Kuhn (1970~. Deliberation provides a way to uncover errors and deepen understanding by considering the evidence from various per- spectives. Appropriately structured deliberation complements analysis by adding knowledge and perspectives that improve understanding. In emphasizing the complementarily of analysis and deliberation and the importance of broad participation, this volume is part of an evolution from previous National Research Council studies of risk issues. Some of these have called for increased attention to matters of scientific judgment, suggesting the importance of explicit attention to deliberation. For ex- ample, the 1983 study of risk assessment emphasized "the interplay of science and policy in risk assessment" (National Research Council, 1983: 33) and the class of judgments it labeled "risk assessment policy" (p. 37~. Risk assessment policy implies deliberation involving scientists and pub- lic officials as a way to guide the conduct of analysis. The 1994 report, Science and Judgment in Risk Assessment described in great detail a set of judgments, such as about how to analyze and present various kinds of uncertainties in risk analysis to decision makers. Previous Research Council studies have also emphasized the need to include interested and affected parties at various points at which they are not now routinely consulted. We cite just a few such conclusions, drawn from recent studies. The Science and Judgment report, which reviewed EPA's risk assessment procedures for hazardous air pollutants, concluded (National Research Council, 1994a:267~: EPA should provide a process for public review and comment with a requirement that it respond, so that outside parties can be assured that the methods used in risk assessments are scientifically justifiable. A review of the Department of Energy's environmental remediation pro- gram for nuclear weapons sites concluded (National Research Council, 1994b:3;26~: . . . risk assessment concerning possible future outcomes at DOE weap- ons-complex sites . . . must involve the public (in its many guises) in the whole process, including the planning of the process and the definition of the scope of risk assessment . . . tand] the first and probably most important step in effective risk assessment and risk management is to establish public participation that involves all the stakeholders. A review of procedures used by the Departments of Defense and Energy and the EPA to rank hazardous waste sites for remediation recommended (National Research Council, 1994c):

OCR for page 73
76 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONS IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY The process of developing a model (or any component of a model) [for use in ranking] should be as open as possible, involving both stakehold- ers and the technical community. Value preferences should be explicit in the models, and . . . The process of applying the model to a given site (or to a large installation such as a military base or a DOE facility) should be similarly open, so that there is the greatest understanding of the re- sults of the model. These statements are significant in part because the Research Council's primary concern was to provide advice on improving analysis: despite this emphasis, the reports repeatedly noted the importance of judgment, broader public participation, and the need for public officials to listen more carefully to nonspecialists' concerns about risks. Chapter 2 shows in detail why broad participation is often necessary for sound analysis. The previous studies' conclusions point to a variety of kinds of deliberation that are desirable as part of the effort to inform decisions. This volume takes the next step, offering government agencies and other organizations more specific advice about how to plan and carry out the kinds of deliberations these previous study panels have advocated, how to integrate them with analysis, and how to use them to inform decisions. We emphasize five points at the outset. First, deliberation is impor- tant at every step of the process that informs risk decisions. Second, deliberation needs to be much more extensive in some deci- sion situations and in some steps than in others. The conveners of a process leading to a risk characterization must organize deliberative pro- cesses that steer between two shoals: being so concerned with reaching closure that the process excludes important perspectives, diminishes un- derstanding, and threatens the acceptance of decisions; and being so con- cerned with inclusiveness and completeness that decisions are unneces- sarily delayed. Government agencies sometimes need routines for making decisions quickly, and the deliberative strategies we discuss can be quite useful in establishing these routines. Third, there is little systematic knowledge about what works in pub- lic participation, deliberation, and the coordination of deliberation and analysis. When government agencies and other organizations have pro- moted or created specific deliberative processes, they have rarely reported the results of their efforts. Thus, our analysis and guidance are based largely on case material, scholarly reviews of case-based literature, and the collective experience of committee members and others who have worked in risk decision making. References to the literature on particular methods of deliberation and public participation can be found in Appen- dix B. We discuss coordination further in Chapter 5. We encourage organizations responsible for risk characterization to explore the possi

OCR for page 73
DELIBERATION 77 bilities for improving deliberation and to make a commitment to learn from experience. Fourth, there are significant limitations and pitfalls associated with adopting the strategy of broadening the analytic-deliberative process. Better risk characterizations do not necessarily yield better decisions; moreover, the proposed strategy may take more time, cost more money, or play into the hands of those who would benefit from delay and might demand broader analysis or more deliberation to justify that delay. We discuss these and other problems in more detail in "Limitations and Chal- lenges," below, and in Chapter 6. Fifth, deliberation already occurs throughout the risk decision pro- cess, although not always self-consciously. Organizations deliberate about the best way to define and approach a risk problem before setting the tasks for risk assessment. They may also deliberate about whether to consult outsiders about setting these tasks, whom to consult, and how to design the consultative process. They may deliberate about the agenda for analysis: which options to consider; which harms to investigate (e.g., which human health effects, which ecological effects); or about other, more technical components of analysis. Scientists may deliberate about how best to summarize particular sets of findings from analysis when describing risks to high-level agency officials or to journalists, interest groups, and individual citizens. Managers may deliberate about how to coordinate work or allocate resources and funds. Scientists on expert review panels may deliberate on the appropriateness of making certain assumptions or on the validity of certain data collection designs, the proper interpretation of data, and the best way to summarize it. Indi- viduals and groups representing public officials, scientists, or the various interested and affected parties may also participate in the process. We see each risk decision as having a spectrum of interested and affected parties who vary in the kinds of specific knowledge they have and in their perspectives, concerns, and vested interests. Broadly based deliberations are those in which, in addition to the involvement of appro- priate policy makers and specialists in risk analysis, participation from across this spectrum of parties is sufficiently diverse to ensure that the important, decision-relevant knowledge enters the process, that the im- portant perspectives are considered, and that the parties' legitimate con- cerns about the inclusiveness and openness of the process are addressed. Such deliberation involves the participation or at least the representation of the relevant range of interests, values, and outlooks as well as the relevant range of expertise. The amount, kind, and timing of participa- tion necessary to meet these criteria are necessarily situation dependent. For example, circumstances that provoke public skepticism will require stronger efforts at inclusion. Routine decisions may not require much

OCR for page 73
78 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONS IN A DEMOC~TIC SOCIETY attention to breadth of participation if the routines themselves were de- signed by an appropriate deliberative process. Broadly based deliberation is not equivalent to public participation as that term is generally understood. One difference is the range of partici- pants. Deliberation to improve understanding may require including not only representatives of "the public" generally, but a variety of scientists and other experts, some of whom may speak for public agencies or inter- ested and affected parties. In a broadly based deliberation, the knowl- edge and perspectives of the spectrum of interested and affected parties are represented. Another difference is the venue: deliberation occurs not only in public settings, but also in the course of the ordinary activities of the agency or other organizations developing a risk characterization. A third important difference concerns timing. Public participation conven- tionally refers to the involvement of interested and affected parties in the decision-making task, but we are focusing on the tasks farther "upstream," those that inform decisions. Too often the deliberative process is broad- ened only after a risk characterization has been completed, as with "de- cide, announce, defend" approaches to dealing with interested and af- fected parties. The common practice of eliciting comments only after most of the work of reaching a decision has been done is a cause for resentment of risk decisions. An appropriate critique of this practice is reflected in the public participation practitioners' adage: "involve the public early and often" (e.g., Kasperson, 1986~. This rule of thumb leaves many crucial questions unanswered, however: Who is "the public"? Should everyone participate, or only representatives of each segment of "the public"? If the latter, how does one identify the segments? When should participa- tion occur, and for what purposes? Are different kinds of participation appropriate for different purposes? Our answer is that the important questions do not concern whether participation or deliberation should occur, but what kind, among whom, and for what purposes. The practitioners' adage is a good starting point. It calls for a needed change in what appears to be a default assumption of some government agencies: that interested and affected parties should be involved in the tasks leading to risk characterization only when and how this is legally required. We propose that agencies operate from an alternative presump- tion: that deliberation is necessary and appropriate at every step in the process. We do not advocate unlimited participation or full deliberation at every step. Rather, we advocate that agencies (and other organiza- tions) begin by asking how to involve the parties in the steps leading up to risk characterization and what to deliberate, rather than asking whether to involve them. Many decisions can be better informed and their informa- tion base can be more credible if the interested and affected parties are

OCR for page 73
DELIBERATION 79 appropriately and effectively involved in deliberation. The best way to do this will depend on the particular task, the decision context, and the party. For some routine decisions, little effort of this kind will be neces- sary; for others, it may be necessary to provide some parties with such resources as travel money or expert assistance so they can participate meaningfully. These points are elaborated in Chapter 5. PURPOSES OF BROADLY BASED DELIBERATION Involving the spectrum of interested and affected parties in delibera- tion can make the process leading to risk characterization more demo- cratic, legitimate, and informative for decision participants. It has this potential in several ways: improving problem formulation, providing more knowledge, determining appropriate uses for controversial analytic techniques, clarifying views, and making decisions more acceptable. The relationships between broadly based deliberation about risk, on one hand, and democracy and legitimacy on the other, have been elabo- rated in detail by others (e.g. Wynne, 1987; Fischer, 1990; Laird, 1993; Renn, Webler, and Weidemann, 1995; Sclove, 1995~. These relationships provide strong justification for broadly based deliberation about risk, es- pecially at the point of making substantive decisions about how to cope with it. This section emphasizes the role of deliberation in informing those decisions, a topic somewhat more to the point of risk characteriza- tion and one that has not been as well developed in research (but see, e.g., Dietz, 1987, 1994, and an emerging literature on participatory research on risk, e.g., Brown, 1990; Fischer, 1993; Sclove, 1995~. Broadly based deliberation can be used to frame a problem so that knowledge generated about it will be relevant to the needs and under- standings of the various parties to a decision. Such deliberation may improve the quality of a solution or increase the likelihood of finding novel solutions by redefining problems (Gray, 1989~. For example, the South Florida ecosystem management project (see Appendix A) used broadly based deliberation to arrive at its formulation of the problem as a choice among development plans. The participants believed that this formulation would encourage analyses that would address issues of con- cern to all who would be affected by development in the region. Broadening the base for deliberation can improve the knowledge base for decisions (Ozawa, 1991~. For example, as illustrated in Chapter 2, nonscientists may have critical information such as knowledge of local conditions that can be used to check the reasonableness of assumptions incorporated into technical analysis. Appropriate environmental moni taring may also depend on knowledge of local conditions. Broadly based deliberation can also help ensure that analysis addresses the problems

OCR for page 73
80 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONS IN A DEMOC~TIC SOCIETY that concern the interested and affected parties. The goal is to avoid studies that require many years and dollars, yet fail to advance risk char- acterization. For example, as we noted above, characterizations of the risks associ- ated with a radioactive waste repository at Yucca Mountain were not satisfactory to some of the interested and affected parties because they failed to go beyond health impacts to address other outcomes, such as the potential economic impacts both positive and negative for the sur- rounding area. The risk characterizations also failed to address many Nevadans' sense that it was unfair for their state, which has no nuclear power plants, to be singled out as the potential site for the nation's nuclear wastes. At the Hanford, Washington, nuclear weapons production site, deliberation by a broadly based working group considering remediation issues led to a call for different analyses depending on whether or not a particular area was slated for future agricultural use (Hanford Future Sites Working Group, 1992~. Such broadly based deliberation can help make analysis more effective and make risk characterization more re- sponsive to the needs of all the parties to a decision. Broadly based deliberation can help determine appropriate uses for potentially controversial analytical techniques. For example, techniques such as cost-benefit analysis and contingent valuation are sometimes used to convert a multidimensional set of outcomes into a single metric, usu- ally money, in order to facilitate comparisons among risks or among policy options. Although such techniques can illuminate the choices that society must make, they cannot substitute for a deliberative process by artificially simplifying complexity. Broadly based deliberation can ad- dress whether and how to use the simplified indices that come from such techniques. As discussed in Chapter 2, analytical procedures for summarizing information can be used in different ways so that each, although accurate, creates a different impression on audiences that have only the summary to inform them (Stern, 1991~. An example is "risk ladders" that list nu- merous risks along a dimension, such as number of annual fatalities, which can create different impressions depending on which risks are cho- sen to anchor the ends of the ladder (Sandman, Weinstein, and Miller, 1994~. Methods of quantitative uncertainty analysis have a similar poten- tial for creating conflicting impressions (Finkel, 1990~. Deliberative pro- cesses that involve participants with diverse perspectives on the risk deci- sion can determine how such techniques might be appropriately used to support a risk characterization. Deliberation can clarify the nature and extent of agreements and dis- agreements among participants (Gray, 1989~. For instance, in situations in which uncertainties are large or data are incomplete, deliberation

OCR for page 73
DELIBERATION 8 among scientists, public officials, and interested and affected parties can help clarify the extent to which disagreements are rooted in differences in how people or groups see the problem, how they interpret existing data, or in their values. This clarification can inform decisions about whether further analysis might help resolve the disagreements. Deliberation can also promote mutual exchange of information and increase understanding among interested and affected parties. For ex- ample, in the South Florida case, natural and social scientists and agency personnel carefully considered issues in ecosystem management that might concern the various interested and affected parties in order to de- velop an analysis that might facilitate dialogue among the parties. Simi- larly, the Hanford Future Site Uses Working Group spent considerable time defining the common base of information that all participants wanted to consider in developing land use options. This process gave agency personnel, as well as other interested and affected parties, a richer per- spective on the problems at the Hanford site and the nature of the parties' concerns. Analytic techniques such as multiattribute utility analysis (e.g., Keeney and Raiffa, 1976, von Winterfeldt and Edwards, 1986) may also be used to increase mutual understanding by clarifying which values the various participants consider important. Deliberation also has the potential to yield more widely accepted choices, both about risk characterization and about policy. For example, dispute about an exposure assessment is less likely when the assumptions built into it have been agreed to in advance by the interested and affected parties. Similarly, deliberation may arrive at more acceptable ways to provide information. During the aftermath of the 1979 nuclear power accident at Three Mile Island, neighboring residents were highly critical and suspicious of General Public Utilities, the company that owned the plant, and of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). When the op- erator proposed venting the krypton gas that had accumulated in the containment dome as a first step in gaining access to the reactor vessel, public opposition was strong. Reassurances that the risk was "minor" were not convincing. Different actors used forms of deliberation in their efforts to address the issue. Pennsylvania Governor Thornburgh con- ferred with two environmental organizations that represented opposition viewpoints. When they were satisfied that they understood the risks and that the risks were acceptable, the governor approved venting the kryp- ton. The NRC held public hearings. A local mayor proposed providing nearby neighborhoods with radiation monitoring equipment and involv- ing a team of local citizens in the design and operation of a radiation monitoring plan that it was hoped would help residents understand the risks (Gray, 1989~. Broadly based deliberation can also increase acceptance of the sub

OCR for page 73
82 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONS IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY stantive decisions that follow risk characterization. For example, numer- ous case studies support the claim that disputes about siting municipal and hazardous waste disposal facilities are lessened when the interested and affected parties are made part of the decision-making team (e.g., Craft, 1988; Heiman, 1990; Vari, Mumpower, and Reagan-Ciricione, 1993~. As already noted, such participatory deliberation builds acceptability of decisions in part by fulfilling democratic norms. People are more willing to accept the results of processes they perceive as fair, balanced, and reasonable and that allow them an adequate opportunity to have a fair say. Thus, mutual agreement on the selection of technical consultants is more likely to lead to acceptable analyses (Ozawa, 1991) and, in some cases, has also reduced the number of "dueling experts" (Susskind and Cruikshank, 1987~. The successes of negotiation for regulatory rule making are largely due to appropriately broad deliberation. In this procedure, the convening agency assembles a negotiating committee comprising representatives from governmental agencies and from interested and affected parties that might otherwise challenge the rule in court. By involving these parties in the tasks leading up to risk characterization as well as in substantive negotiations, misunderstandings and disagreements about scientific knowledge are ironed out early on. Analysis tends to focus on the issues that divide the parties, and the negotiated rule better fits the understand- ings and matches the needs of the parties. Regulatory negotiation has not been used frequently in the U.S. government, but it seems to be gaining in popularity. Some recent evaluations of the technique have been pub- lished by Rushefsky (1991), Fiorino (1995), and Hadden (1995~. Appropriately broad deliberation may also help improve the trust- worthiness of risk decision-making bodies. Risk decision makers are sometimes criticized for failure to exercise reasonable judgment; this criti- cism might be lessened through deliberative processes that seem equi- table to the interested and affected parties. Deliberation can also help strengthen a decision maker's reputation for trustworthiness by exposing decision assumptions to testing and verification by outside parties (e.g., Jasanoff, 1990~. LIMITATIONS AND CHALLENGES A process that combines appropriately broad deliberation with analy- sis makes for better informed decision participants. It can also address many procedural concerns of the interested and affected parties. How- ever, there are limits to what better risk characterization can accomplish and major challenges associated with incorporating broad-based delib

OCR for page 73
DELIBERATION 83 oration into the process. It is important to recognize the limits, address the challenges, and set realistic expectations. Limitations The best designed analytic-deliberative processes cannot eliminate all the problems and controversy associated with contentious risk decisions. They cannot guarantee acceptance of an agency's risk decision or even a risk characterization (e.g., Rosener, 1978~. Controversies often reflect ba- sic differences in values or interests: the more that is at stake and the more that values and interests conflict, the less likely it is a decision will be widely accepted. Processes that better inform the decision should not be expected to reduce these basic conflicts. Deliberation may increase understanding without narrowing the differences among parties. It may also fail to reduce conflict because some parties refuse to join the delibera- tive process in order to preserve the strength and legitimacy of their opposition. Or they may join the process to press strategically for delay or to shift the debate to issues that they see as more fundamental or as more advantageous to their positions. Deliberation may even exacerbate conflict or harden established positions. Good deliberation also cannot guarantee that improved understand- ing will influence the final decision. Decision makers may, for a variety of reasons, ignore or reject information from an analytic-deliberative pro- cess, its conclusions about the risk, or any recommendations that may result. For example, the California Comparative Risk Project (see Appen- dix A), after a lengthy, expensive, and broadly participatory process, pro- posed an approach to setting regulatory priorities that was almost imme- diately rejected by the governor. Some trade organizations were dissatisfied with the project's decision to emphasize social welfare out- comes, including outcomes such as anxiety, that can only be assessed subjectively, and their view of the project's approach as downplaying "the traditional role of science" in favor of "values, opinions, fears, and anxieties" was taken up by prominent media sources (e.g., Clifford, 1994:A1~. The governor and the state environmental protection agency quickly divorced themselves from the project's recommendations and rankings. Another example comes from the regulatory negotiation over disinfectant byproducts in water (Appendix A), in which the one signifi- cant interested party that elected not to participate in the negotiation appealed successfully to the U.S. Senate to pass amendments that over- rode the negotiation in ways that suited its interests. Those who organize and participate in analytic-deliberative processes need to be aware of their limitations from the outset. Participating in the process of improving understanding does not by itself guarantee that

OCR for page 73
86 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONS IN A DEMO CRITIC SOCIETY nization formally allows for broad input but does not provide for an interchange of ideas or really consider the substance of the input. There is also a potential for false consensus a rushed agreement on a recommen- dation before a deliberative group has agreed on the problem. Such failures of process can lead to bad decisions, invalidate deliberative pro- cedures, and create resentment and mistrust as well. They can also pro- voke dissatisfied parties to actions, such as legal challenges, that delay decisions and increase their ultimate cost. The third consideration is that parties that stand to benefit from delay may call for more analysis or deliberation as a strategy for achieving their ends, perhaps citing as justification the need for deliberation at every step. Not even regulatory agencies are exempt from the temptation to delay strategically. They may have various reasons for wanting to avoid making final decisions (see Graham, 1985; Dwyer, 1990) problem of reaching closure in more detail in Chapter 5 We discuss the We are convinced that in the past, some high-profile risk decisions have suffered because not enough attention was given to the analytic- deliberative process that supported risk characterization. We believe that there will continue to be important risk decisions in which the overall process will benefit from expanded analysis and broader deliberation, even though that process imposes initial costs of time and money. It is difficult to judge correctly in advance how much analysis and delibera- tion are warranted in a particular new situation, especially under re- source constraints. We offer some guidance on this matter in Chapter 6. STANDARDS AND GOALS FOR DELIBERATION Although formal techniques of risk analysis have evolved tremen- dously over the past 20 years, research on deliberative methods has re- ceived far less attention. Government agencies that have experience with deliberative processes usually do little to document and evaluate them, in spite of the expressed need for evaluation results and for advice based on experience (Fisher, Pavlova, and Covello, 1991; Chess, Salomone, and Hance, 1995; Chess et al., 1995; Lynn and Busenberg, 1995~. Thus, much less is known about how to select deliberative methods and use them effectively in particular situations than about how to select and use ana- lytical methods. Nonetheless, there is sufficient knowledge about the failures and successes of deliberative methods to identify some basic stan- dards and goals. There is also enough knowledge to warrant greater explicit use of deliberative methods, as well as better documentation of their effects.

OCR for page 73
DELIBERATION 87 Involve the Interested and Affected Parties Many government agencies operate with the default assumption that risk analysis and characterization are a matter for experts within the agen- cies and public policy officials and that special justification is needed to involve the interested and affected parties. Behavior based on this as- sumption may lead some of the interested and affected parties to feel disenfranchised from the regulatory process and either withdraw from the policy arena or seek unconventional ways to interfere with the pro- cess. By the time such a group attracts the agency's attention, the decision making may be too far advanced, or the agency too committed to a certain problem formulation, or trust and mutual respect so eroded as to pre- clude meaningful participation and deliberation. This dynamic can also be very costly in time and resources expended on protracted controver- sies. We propose that government agencies operate on the opposite de- fault assumption: that participation across the spectrum of interested and affected parties is warranted at each significant step of the analytic-delib- erative process that leads to risk characterization. Particularly for govern- ment regulatory agencies that have limited public trust, it is usually wiser to err on the side of too broad rather than too narrow participation. Agen- cies that characterize risks should carefully and seriously assess the need for involvement of the spectrum of interested and affected parties in each step. Although the need for involvement of the parties depends on the risk situation and the particular step of the process, agencies should begin with a presumption in favor of involvement. Agencies are likely to gain facility over time in making such assessments, as well as a refined aware- ness of the needs and concerns of the groups that their decisions affect. Deliberations themselves may become easier as agency staff and other participants come to understand each other better. Who Are the Interested and Affected Parties? The term interested and affected parties is intentionally broad and is not meant to be limited to a legal definition of parties. The number and types of interested and affected parties will depend on the particular context of a risk situation. They may include people from diverse geographic areas, ethnic, or economic groups and organizations such as firms and local governments. The parties may include interest groups, such as trade associations, labor unions, environmental and consumer groups, and reli- gious groups. The parties' concerns may focus on various possible forms of harm, not only mortality and morbidity, but also physical, social, eco- nomic, ecological, and moral effects.

OCR for page 73
88 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONS IN A DEMOC~TIC SOCIETY Parties sometimes do not know that they are interested or may be affected by a risk decision unless they are informed. They may not be aware of the hazard, or their exposure to it, or the proposed mitigative actions, or the effects these actions may have on them or on things they value. Even if they are informed, they may not have the means, the power, or the level of trust necessary to participate in the decision pro- cess. In such cases, agencies have a duty not only to inform but also to facilitate the involvement of these parties, with funds where necessary. The interested and affected parties can often be identified by consid- ering the answers to the following questions (Chess and Hance, 1994~: Who has information and expertise that might be helpful? Who has been involved in similar risk situations before? Who has wanted to be involved in similar decisions before? Who may be affected by the risk characterization? Who may be affected but not know they are affected? Who may be reasonably angered if they are not included? Generally, parties that are interested or affected by a risk, or by a possible decision about risk, are candidates for participation at all the steps lead- ing to a risk characterization. Is Direct Participation Needed? A key question is whether interested and affected parties should be represented by members of their own groups, or whether it is adequate (or even preferable) for them to be represented by surrogates, such as attorneys or scientific advisers. The answer is that the kinds of participa- tion necessary depend on the particular decision and the task. The South Florida case suggests that for properly formulating a problem and arriv- ing at a good plan for generating decision-relevant analysis, it may some- times be sufficient to have indirect representation that makes known the affected parties' points of view and concerns, but does not include their physical presence. Direct involvement of affected parties may be essen- tial, however, when they have local knowledge that cannot otherwise be brought into the process (Mazmanian and Nienaber, 1979~. For example, farm-workers should almost certainly be consulted in planning the analy- sis for a decision on regulating a pesticide, because they have the best knowledge of the actual conditions of application that determine their exposure (Vaughan, 1993b). To increase the legitimacy of decisions, broad, direct participation is important, though there may be limited conditions in which indirect par- ticipation is adequate. Many European governments achieve a high level

OCR for page 73
DELIBERATION 89 of acceptance of environmental policies by consulting designated repre- sentatives of major communities of interest (e.g., corporate, labor, and perhaps environmentalist), without formal mechanisms of open public comment or participation (e.g., lasanoff, 1986~. Because of the more open and skeptical political culture in the United States and the history of skepticism about many government agencies' decisions, this sort of indi- rect participation procedure is likely to be of less value in this country- but there can be exceptions. For example, the South Florida ecosystem restoration project used a strategy of indirect representation using so- cial scientists as surrogates for affected groups-that appears to have been successful in getting a range of those groups' concerns addressed in the analysis. Some U.S. regulatory organizations, such as the National Transporta- tion Safety Board (NTSB), analyze and characterize risks (e.g-, of aircraft accidents) in ways that appear to have wide acceptance despite the fact that the analyses are made mainly by experts drawn from affected organi- zations, without formal input from "the public." Thus, it may be possible to achieve legitimacy without direct participation, either by doing what is widely perceived to be a good job of risk minimization (as the NTSB has so far been able to do) or by involving surrogates thoroughly enough to satisfy the interested parties of the fairness of the process. Both of these strategies, however, can quickly come undone with one or two controver- sial or embarrassing decisions. Should that happen, agencies may need to reestablish legitimacy by expanding openness to and consideration of outside concerns. A difficult issue in participation is how to consider the interests and perspectives of parties that cannot be involved by direct participation. These parties may include children, the disabled, and future generations, as well as nonhuman species and ecosystems. Since it may be necessary to represent these perspectives to achieve a full understanding of risk and an acceptable risk characterization, some form of indirect representation is the only option. Selecting Participants Four key considerations should be kept in mind in selecting partici- pants: that the participation is sufficiently broad; that the selection pro- cess is fair and perceived as fair; that participants who presumably repre- sent interested and affected parties are acceptable to those parties as representatives; and that the participants bring to the process the kinds of knowledge, experience, and perspectives that are needed for the delibera- tion at hand. It is often wise for a regulatory agency to enlist outside help in choosing participants.

OCR for page 73
90 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONS IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY There are several selection strategies. One is self-selection. This is the standard procedure in public hearings and notice-and-comment rule- making: an organization or government agency makes a public announce- ment, and anyone who wishes may participate. Although this approach is fair in the sense of allowing equal opportunity, it has some well-known limitations. It favors interests that are already organized and those that have enough resources to monitor announcements, mobilize interest group members, submit comments, or participate in other ways. It does not deal with the problem of participation by parties that do not yet realize they may be affected. And it may result in too few or too many participants (English et al., 1993~. Very widespread and intense participa- tion can become a problem if an organization does not have enough time or personnel to consider all ideas seriously and therefore appears to have invited participation only to ignore it. A second strategy is to select individuals specifically to represent each interested and affected party. This approach raises several ques- tions: Who determines who is or represents an interested or affected party? In particular, if some of the parties are not organized, who identi- fies them as groups and selects individuals to represent them? Should all the parties be given equal weight? As noted above, how can silent par- ties, such as future generations, be represented (English et al., 1993~? Clearly, the challenge of representation as a strategy is to identify all the relevant parties and represent them in ways that they consider adequate. A third selection strategy relies on sampling techniques. This ap- proach is sometimes used to ensure that participants represent the demo- graphic makeup of a geographic area. There are sophisticated techniques that can stratify a population according to appropriate criteria (e.g., sensi- tivity or vulnerability, location, age, race) and select a group that is repre- sentative on the criteria considered important for the decision. This ap- proach also has difficulties, however. First, random selection of a small group may not fairly reflect the range of interests in a risk situation. Second, random sampling presumes that everyone should have equal say, but there are sometimes strong moral arguments for paying special attention to particular groups, such as children. Third, the individuals selected may not be equal in their interest, in their time to participate, or in their ability to understand the issues, so that some of the parties may get better representation than others. Some managers try to surmount this problem by paying randomly selected citizens for their time and making special efforts to educate all the participants on the issue (e.~;., Renn et al., 1993~. There have been various efforts to balance the strengths and limita- tions of the above approaches. For example, in a transportation planning process convened in Boulder, Colorado, 147 randomly selected residents

OCR for page 73
DELIBERATION 91 gave input to a smaller advisory group through a series of telephone interviews, in-person interviews, and mailed surveys, thus broadening the range of perspectives included in the deliberative process (Kathlene and Martin, 19911. In developing water quality regulations for New Ter- sey, a self-selected task force representing interested and affected parties negotiated a reduction in the size of the group while working out a bal- ance of representation of various interests; meanwhile, the responsible agency invited other interested citizens to informal meetings (Chess, 1989). The three-step method being used in Europe (Renn et al., 1993), uses different selection processes for different stages of the process. First, representatives of known interested and affected parties raise issues. Sec- ond, scientific experts provide judgments on those issues (in the form of risk estimates). Third, randomly selected citizens' panels deliberate on the decision, using the information from the first two stages of the pro- cess. Regulatory negotiations in the United States have used different tiers of participants, with a small group of key participants conducting the negotiations, a larger group in the second tier observing and confer- ring with the negotiators, and a third tier of participants reviewing the agreement before it is ratified (Gray, 1989~. Timing Participation Participation is needed "early" in decision processes, but we prefer to call for the consideration of broad participation throughout the process, or in all its significant steps. Experience suggests that including a full range of perspectives is especially important in problem formulation, be- cause problem formulation profoundly shapes how risks are understood. It is also important when options are being considered, for the same rea- son. But the full range of perspectives is also needed for other purposes. This argument may seem least obvious for the knowledge-gathering step, which is typically envisioned as the preserve of scientific and technical experts. External input can be important in this step as a source of exper- tise on local conditions and social and organizational factors that affect exposures to hazards. Such expertise is needed to keep risk assessments and risk characterizations from adopting implausible or false assump- tions. Listening to the Participants Many critics have described public participation as consisting only of token efforts at soliciting input (e.g., Arnstein, 1969; Chess and Salomone, 1992~. A review of research on citizen advisory committees suggests,

OCR for page 73
92 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONS IN A DEMOC~TIC SOCIETY however, that the intent of the convening agency can strongly influence outcomes, with some agencies using the process mainly to fulfill legal obligations or to persuade outsiders to accept its decision, while others are able to use it to get valuable input to policy (Lynn and Busenburg, 1995). Explicitly Address External Constraints Government agency officials may see proposals to involve outsiders in their deliberations as an invitation to abdicate their legal responsibility to act. Experience shows, however, that agencies can creatively use exter- nal input to improve the analytic-deliberative process without running afoul of their legislative mandates. Deliberation can be used, for instance, to inform discretionary decisions about how to gather knowledge, deci- sions that are unconstrained by law. Government agencies that want to broaden participation in their de- liberations should carefully examine the legal limits of their discretion and design a process that is defensible within those limits. Statutes that mandate a particular form of public participation may be seen as preclud- ing other forms of deliberation, but often they do not, although there are important limitations. At present, for example, the Federal Facilities Ad- visory Committee Act limits direct interactions between agencies and outside interested and affected parties. While developed to prevent col- lusion, this restriction also inhibits innovative deliberative processes (Crowfoot and Wollendeck, 19901. Mandated regulatory timelines can also be a serious constraint on deliberation and may lead agency officials to limit the length of a deliberative process. Time schedules can present a serious problem for lower level officials in agencies who are asked to organize deliberative processes because nontraditional approaches to de- liberation are perceived as time-consuming (Crowfoot and Wollendeck, 1990~. Conveners of deliberative processes should clearly and explicitly in- form participants at the outset about any constraints on the process and on how the agency can, or is likely to, use their input. Is it willing and able to commit necessary resources? Will it be represented in the deliberatory process by personnel with sufficient authority to make com- mitments? How much impact will the deliberative process have on the risk characterization? Are there aspects of the risk characterization in which the parties' influence will be restricted? Are there legal restrictions on what can be considered in making the decision? Addressing such questions can avert damaging misunderstandings. Agency officials should make it clear to the participants what the process is intended to

OCR for page 73
DELIBERATION 93 accomplish and what their roles and responsibilities are. Ideally, the participants should be involved in designing the process. Legislative mandates, procedural restrictions, and agency culture are not the only important external constraints on deliberation. Interested and affected parties may be a source of constraints, too (Bingham, 1986~. For example, as noted above, some parties may perceive an interest in delaying risk characterization or in prolonging the analytic process in order to delay a decision. They may therefore welcome an opportunity to deliberate and use it to create delays. Involvement in legal actions may constrain the participation of some parties, or they may see it as doing so. And conflicting agendas between parties to a deliberative process may make deliberation difficult. Agencies should consider these possibilities carefully when planning deliberations. Strive for Fairness in the Process Many disputes around risk have been over the fairness of the process that generated the risk estimates on which a decision was based. Proce- dural justice issues about who participates in decisions, and how, have caused as much or more conflict as the risk estimates themselves (Clarke and Short, 1993~. Thus, deliberative processes should strive for fairness. It is important to recognize that notions of fairness change over time: For example, it is now unfair, unethical, and illegal to discriminate against women in ways that were socially condoned 100 years ago. Also, judg- ments about the fairness of a deliberative process or its products are affected by people's past experiences, access to power and influence, and cultural backgrounds (Rayner, 1992~. Fairness also depends on judg- ments about how well a process has respected generally accepted rights, such as to participation and to informed consent. Thus, fairness is partly in the eye of the beholder, making it the subject of intense debate. For those designing a deliberative process, the fundamental challenge is to design a process that the interested and affected parties will see as fair, as well as effective. A major point to consider is the relative power of interested and affected parties. For example, to what extent should special efforts be made to give access and influence to parties that have been traditionally disenfranchised? The concept of a level playing field is one that many people accept conceptually, but it can generate serious conflict in its imple- mentation. Power can be made more equal by providing access to exper- tise, information, opportunities for input, and other resources to parties that normally lack them; however, doing so can tax an agency's budget. Decisions about resource allocation should be guided by the need for the deliberation to be balanced that is, to include the full range of knowl

OCR for page 73
94 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONS IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY edge, insights, and perspectives needed to characterize the risks and to be procedurally acceptable to the interested and affected parties. Plan for Flexibility and Iteration Careful management of the deliberative process, including designing in flexibility, is critical to its success. First, deliberative processes require all the usual kinds of management: development of timelines, delegation of responsibilities, resource allocation, and coordination. Failures of de- liberative processes have been traced to failure to plan (e.g., Nakamura, Church, and Cooper, 1991), and poor management may increase partici- pants' frustration and cynicism (Freudenberg, 1983~. Second, managers should take into account that deliberations some- times result in a call to revisit past decisions for example, to gather new data in order to summarize knowledge better. They should expect such requests to arise and consider procedures for responding to them. Third, managers should consider the role of deliberation in each of the steps leading to a decision, from problem formulation through knowl- edge generation and summarization. They should consider how various values and interests might affect each task and how to use deliberation to ensure that concerns are considered at each step in ways that are credible to the interested and affected parties. Fourth, agency planners should address and, when appropriate, re- sist the temptation to standardize procedures. Government agencies typi- cally define standard procedures for deliberation, such as the routines of notice-and-comment rulemaking or of participation in public hearings. Routines are advisable when an agency faces a series of similar decisions. But different situations may call for different processes, and even fre- quently repeated decisions sometimes need a change of procedure. It is not generally wise to enforce a standard procedure for deliberation across a variety of decision situations. With frequently repeated decisions, it may be appropriate to conduct a broadly based deliberation to arrive at a procedure for characterizing risks and then to implement that procedure routinely for many decisions until it is time to reconsider the procedure, in a second broadly based deliberation. We discuss such issues in more detail in Chapter 5. It may be useful for a process that begins with one deliberative method to add or shift to others over time. (e.g., Mazmanian and Nienaber, 1979) For example, an internal agency task force, a task force of interested and affected parties, informal meetings with interested and affected parties, and formal reviews of draft regulations may take place concurrently or sequentially (Chess, 1989~. The most appropriate form of deliberation may even depend on geography: decisions involv- ing interested and affected parties that are widely dispersed (e.g., a fed

OCR for page 73
DELIBERATION 95 eral regulation on emissions into a river) may need to structure delibera- tion differently from one involving interested and affected parties that are in closer proximity (e.g., a landfill). Nlarious other factors, including agency resources, the extent of controversy, the complexity of the prob- lem, and the preferences of interested and affected parties, will influence the choices of deliberative methods (English et al., 1993~. It is appropriate to consider such factors in adopting or designing a deliberative process. Perhaps the key to successful deliberation is explicit attention to pro- cess design: a process that the participants agree to at the outset has the best chance of being acceptable. A prudent strategy for agencies is to adopt a willingness to cooperate with interested and affected parties in reaching agreements on the deliberative methods for specific cases. Recognize the Roles of the Responsible Organization The organization that organizes an analytic-deliberative process has a number of roles to play in facilitating deliberation. As the convener, it has initial responsibility for diagnosing the situation and making initial esti- mates of time and resource needs, of who should be involved both within and outside the organization, and of the tasks that need to be accom- plished. We discuss diagnosis in more detail in Chapter 6. Staff also need to seek support of key decision makers for the deliberative process. The organization is also responsible for discussing the initial plans for the activity with the initial participants. The responsible government agency or other organization is also a coparticipant, with a legitimate interest and, perhaps a legal mandate to be involved in the risk characterization and the goal of reaching a fair and wise policy decision. An agency that is responsible for managing a risk is not a neutral party. Given agency expertise in technical analysis and sensitivity to the legal and political constraints of decision making, its staff may feel it knows what the best decision is and may be tempted to try to influence the outcome of the deliberation. An agency's expertise and its power over the decision need to be clearly stated and acknowl- edged by all participants. But it is the agency's responsibility to offer sound reasons if it chooses to ignore the results of a deliberative process. The agency usually acts as overseer of the deliberation, the party that usually works to break deadlocks and to reach closure. Unless it desig- nates an oversight body for the deliberative process, the agency retains responsibility to resolve fundamental disagreements over the operation of the process. The agency should, however, make serious efforts to distinguish its role as a party to the deliberation from its role as overseer of the process.

OCR for page 73
96 UNDERSTANDING RISK: INFORMING DECISIONS IN A DEMOC~TIC SOCIETY Use Appropriate Methods Practitioners have developed a great variety of techniques that can be used in the deliberations that contribute to informing risk decisions. These are described in an extensive literature, and there have been attempts to catalog or classify them (e.g., Creighton and Delli Priscolli, 1983; English et al., 1993~. However, there is no rigorous or generally accepted classifi- cation scheme, and it is not possible to predict which deliberative method will work most effectively in any given situation. Deliberative methods are merely tools. Results will depend less on the tool and more on its users and the setting in which it is used. For example, although public meetings are notorious for facilitating posturing rather than deliberation, they have also been successful in certain situations (e.g., Rosener, 1982; Hadden, 1989; Webler and Renn, 1995~. Citizens advisory committees have widely different levels of impact, depending on the intentions and expectations of the agency that organizes them (Anderson, 1986, Lynn and Busenberg, 1995; Lynn and Kartez, 1995~. The history of an issue, level of conflict, scientific data, and existing power dynamics may also influence outcome as much as the method. For example, years of hostility among interested and affected parties, or between parties and an organi- zation, can undermine deliberation, regardless of the method used. The choice of deliberative methods requires diagnosing the risk situ- ation and the nature of the knowledge needed, including the needs of the parties, the technical complexity and history of the issue, the extent of agency commitment, the availability of expertise in deliberative methods, and available resources. Deliberative processes also need to be suffi- ciently flexible to allow for mid-course corrections (English et al., 1993~. And as already noted, the deliberative approach may need to be tailored to the needs of the specific situation. Appendix B describes several important methods of deliberation and public participation. It notes some of the strengths and possible limita- tions of each, and ways of compensating for the latter, and it refers to sources of more detailed analyses of experience with each technique. We list these methods to suggest the variety of possibilities available to agen- cies, but we do not consider the list exhaustive, and we do not recom- mend general use of any particular method or technique. In our judg- ment, the choice of a deliberative technique depends on the risk situation and on the particular risk characterization task. Within the course of a single effort at risk analysis and characterization, an agency may success- fully use several different deliberative techniques or develop new vari- ants, using different techniques to accomplish different tasks.