Graduate course in Risk, uncertainty and decision making Fall 2019

This is a research-oriented introductory course in risk which gives an introduction into different scientific perspectives on risk with international outlook and aid the students to formulate relevant research questions. The course corresponds to 7.5 credits and takes place at two occasions in Sweden during the fall 2019. 

First occasion: October 8-9th in Gothenburg
Second occasion: November 5-6 in Lund (on Nov 7th in Copenhagen there is an opportunity to attend a multi-disciplinary risk conference)

The course is organised by Ullrika Sahlin, Åsa Knaggård and Daniel Slunge. More info: ullrika.sahlin @

Funding: ClimBECO research school

Supported by: Centre for Environmental and Climate Reserach, Lund University, FRAM Centre for Future Chemical Risk Assessment and Management Strategies, Lund University Centre for Risk Assessment and Management LUCRAM, the Nordic Chapter of the Society for Risk Analysis and Riskkollegiet

Course syllabus

Literature list Litlist_2019 see also below in this post

Participants are expected to prepare in advance to the meetings by reading the assigned literature. The course is examined through attendance of the physical meetings and a completed individual paper.

Reading block I

Prepare to literature seminar

Meeting in Gothenburg

Oct 8th Scientific perspectives on risk analysis

10.30 Introduction to the course, Ullrika Sahlin and Daniel Slunge

11.00 Risk assessment in water management – examples of methods and applications, Lars Rosén

12.00 The anthropology of risk management, Åsa Boholm

The lectures by Lars and Åsa were recorded by Riskkollegiet (the Swedish Society for Risk Sciences). 


Theme Chemical mixtures – risk, uncertainty and decision making

14.00 Chemical risk assessment, Thomas Backhaus

15.00 Health impacts from chemical mixtures, Lars Barregård

16.00 Mixtures exposure and effect in Ecology, Maj Rundlöf

17.00 An economic perspective on assessing and managing chemical mixture risks, Jessica Coria

Oct 9th Scientific perspectives on uncertainty and decision making

09.00 Uncertainty and decision theory, Ullrika Sahlin

10.15 Working with risk in an interdisciplinary context, Kelsey Lamere

11.00 – 14.00 Literature seminar incl. lunch

Reading block II

Read all course literature (see literature list)

Meeting in Lund

Room Maskrosen, bottom floor at the Ecology Building 

Nov 5th Social science and Philosophical perspectives on risk, uncertainty and decision making

10.30 – 14.45 Scientific perspectives on risk communication, Ragnar Löfstedt (incl lunch)

15.00 – 16.00 Social sciences approaches in risk research, Åsa Knaggård

Nov 6th Scientific perspectives on managing and assessing risk and uncertainty

Room Maskrosen, bottom floor at the Ecology Building 

10:00 Risk Philosophy, Sven Ove Hansson


14.00 Uncertainty communication and its psychological effects, Anne Marten van der Bles

16.00 – 17.30 Discussion seminar ”Self-reflection on students own research in the context of risk, uncertainty and decision making” – Åsa Knaggård and Ullrika (Research questions on risk, Methods to study risk)

Nov 7th Copenhagen (optional) Networking, keynotes and contributing talks

Nordic Chapter of the Society for Risk Analysis Conference: keynote and contributed talks on different topics in risk research. The course participants are encouraged to attend and we are looking for options to cover the conference fee.

Individual paper (mandatory)

The individual paper should be reflection where at least two themes of the course is discussed in relation to the participants PhD subject or field of interest. Length – at least 3 pages. Cite at least three references on the literature list. Include at least two scientific perspectives on risk, uncertainty or decision making.

Send as Word or pdf to Ullrika before January 7th 2020.  




Literature seminar on Oct 9th

The Purpose of the Seminar

This seminar offers you an opportunity to deepen your understanding of key concepts related to risk, uncertainty and decision-making based on a set of papers on the topic.

Preparation for the Seminar

Before the seminar, you should read the articles listed below and think about possible answers to the questions posed.

Question 1: How can risk be defined? Which different definitions of and perspectives on risk are represented in the articles (listed below). Are these definitions contradictory or convergent?
– Kaplan, S., & Garrick, B. J. (1981). On The Quantitative Definition of Risk. Risk Analysis, 1(1), 11-27. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6924.1981.tb01350.x
– Haimes, Y. Y. (2009). On the Complex Definition of Risk: A Systems-Based Approach. Risk Analysis, 29(12), 1647-1654. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6924.2009.01310.x
– Boholm, Å. & Corvellec H. 2011. A relational theory of risk. Journal of Risk Research, 14 (2): 175 – 190.

Question 2: Are risk perceptions rational? When and why is there a divide in expert and laypersons perceptions of risk?
– Slovic, P. (1987). Perception of Risk. Science, 236(4799), 280-285. doi:DOI 10.1126/science.3563507
– Kasperson, R. E., Renn, O., Slovic, P., Brown, H. S., Emel, J., Goble, R., . . . Ratick, S. (1988). The Social Amplification of Risk – a Conceptual-Framework. Risk Analysis, 8(2), 177-187. doi:DOI 10.1111/j.1539-6924.1988.tb01168.x
– Pidgeon, N. (2012). Public understanding of, and attitudes to, climate change: UK and international perspectives and policy. Climate Policy, 12, S85-S106. doi:10.1080/14693062.2012.702982
– Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under Uncertainty – Heuristics and Biases. Science, 185(4157), 1124-1131. doi:DOI 10.1126/science.185.4157.1124

Question 3: What is the role of uncertainty and ambiguity in science communication? Discuss definitions and perspectives on these concepts based on the articles below.
– Fischhoff, B. (1995). RISK PERCEPTION AND COMMUNICATION UNPLUGGED – 20 YEARS OF PROCESS. Risk Analysis, 15(2), 137-145. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6924.1995.tb00308.x
– Klinke, A., & Renn, O. (2002). A new approach to risk evaluation and management: Risk-based, precaution-based, and discourse-based strategies. Risk Analysis, 22(6), 1071-1094. doi:Doi 10.1111/1539-6924.00274
– Kinzig, A. P., Starrett, D., Arrow, K., Aniyar, S., Bolin, B., Dasgupta, P., . . . Walker, B. (2003). Coping with uncertainty: A call for a new science-policy forum. Ambio, 32(5), 330-335. doi:Doi 10.1639/0044-7447(2003)032[0330:Cwuacf]2.0.Co;2
– Cairney, P., Oliver, K., & Wellstead, A. (2016). To Bridge the Divide between Evidence and Policy: Reduce Ambiguity as Much as Uncertainty. Public Administration Review, 76(3), 399-402. doi:10.1111/puar.12555

During the seminar you will be divided into three groups, each discussing one of the three questions. Then each group will share their reflections and conclusions with the other groups. We strongly encourage you to participate actively during the seminar so that we can have a fruitful and lively discussion!


June 5, 2019

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