Varieties of Risk

AHRC sponsored research project


School Outreach Activity: “Why how we assess risk and evidence matters”

In February 2020, Giada Fratantonio, Post-Doc on the VoR project, in collaboration with Italian High School A. Frattini (Varese), introduced a group of high-schoolers to some of the foundational issues about the epistemology and psychology of risk, focusing on the following three questions:

i) How should we evaluate risk?
ii) How do we tend to evaluate risk?
iii) Why how we assess risk matters?

After learning about the basic principles of probability, as well as the cognitive biases that often underpin our risk judgments, the students discussed why it's important to be vigilant in how we perceive and assess risk.

To use an example, Giada asked the students to consider conspiracy theories they found on the internet, and discussed ways in which believing in conspiracy theories can be problematic not only from an epistemic point of view, but from a practical and ethical perspective as well. For instance, students reflected on how the spreading of conspiracy theories could have the effect of undermining rational debate and fostering mistrust in scientific communities. The lectures were followed by a lively discussion with the students, who were able to think about how they engage with social media, and how they consume information on the internet. Finally, in line with the spirit of the Varieties of Risk Project, the students discussed how our emotional response to risk, despite often irrational, might be able to indicate us what we care about the most.

These series of lectures were officially acknowledged as part of the high-school's 36 hours of Civic Education, compulsory in every Italian School.

Survey on Risk communication and understanding of avalanche bulletins

Philip Ebert in collaboration with David Comerford (Economics, Stirling) who is a local network member of the Varieties of Risk project in consultation with the Scottish Avalanche Information Services have launched an online survey. The aim of the survey is to gain better understanding of how published avalanche reports and the avalanche service are used and understood by climbers, hillwalkers, skiers and snowboarders engaging in activities in the winter mountains and hills. It also involves questions about the relationship between verbal and numerical probabilities and is directly connected to the themes of our Varieties of Risk project. A link to the survey can be found here (released on March 2nd):