Managing public risk perception

Shifting public perception of risk

Scientists, scientific institutions, and government agencies need to consider how they can build scientific communication programs that provide both solid technical information and opportunities for input and dialogue with local communities.


Research suggests that public perceptions of science are highly contextual, with people making judgments about the relative trust to be placed in traditional scientific expertise (which often is generated by government institutions) and in local knowledge based in the local context.

The trustworthiness of the person or organization supplying technical information may affect its impact. Several studies have found that the public sees wide differences in the credibility of various institutions on environmental issues. Environmentalists are usually most credible, industry least credible, and government moderately credible.

Folk belief embedded in many parts of the African-American community attributes the AIDS epidemic to a deliberate attempt by the U.S. government to eradicate African-Americans; based on both general and specific instances of racism in the United States. This folk belief persists despite traditional scientific evidence pointing to a more natural origin of the disease.


The lack of a human and cultural message of science has definitely contributed to the estrangement and even the divorce of science from society.

Type Classification:
F: Exceptional strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth