Keywords: complexity, controversy, environmental health, interactivity, pedigree, policy making, problem framing, reflexivity, quality, uncertainty assessment, waste incineration, health risk, risk assessment, risk analysis, risk management, knowledge input, social debate, socio-political debate
A reflexive approach to dealing with uncertainties in environmental health risk science and policy
Based on insights obtained through an analysis of an environmental health risk controversy, we developed a reflexive approach to uncertainty assessment, explicitly acknowledging the complexity of the knowledge production process. The approach aims at interactively exploring uncertainty in relation to different scientific framings, societal perspectives and policy options. The structure of the discussion scheme used for the exploration is based on the concept of 'pedigree of knowledge'. The discussion protocol is designed to guarantee conditions for a reasoned debate. A workshop has been organised, during which the approach has been deployed to assess scientific studies, that had been produced in the context of a socio-political debate on possible health effects from waste incineration. The results obtained show the approach has potential to trigger a profound social debate and a negotiated management of risk. Pro-active use of the approach could enhance the quality and robustness of the knowledge input in policy making.