A case study in invasive tree pests and diseases highlights the socially constructed nature of expert risk assessment

Caterpillars of the Oak
Processionary Moth (OPM)
are a pest which can be
a hazard to the health
of oak trees, people and
animals. © Forestry Commission

A paper co-authored by CCRI’s Julie Urquhart has just been published in Environmental Science and Policy.

The paper is entitled ‘Expert risk perceptions and the social amplification of risk: A case study in invasive tree pests and diseases’.

The Social Amplification of Risk Framework (SARF) is often used as a conceptual tool for studying diverse risk perceptions associated with environmental hazards. While widely applied, it has been criticised for implying that it is possible to define a benchmark ‘real’ risk that is determined by experts and around which public risk perceptions can subsequently become amplified. It has been argued that this objectification of risk is particularly problematic when there are high levels of scientific uncertainty and a lack of expert consensus about the nature of a risk and its impacts. In order to explore this further, this paper examines how ‘experts’ – defined in this case as scientists, policy makers, outbreak managers and key stakeholders – construct and assemble their understanding of the risks associated with two invasive tree pest and disease outbreaks in the UK, ash dieback and oak processionary moth.

The paper can be accessed online.

The full reference of the paper is as follows:

Urquhart, J., Potter, C., Barnett, J., Fellenor, J., Mumford, J. and Quine, C.P. (2017) Expert risk perceptions and the social amplification of risk: a case study in invasive tree pests and diseasesEnvironmental Science and Policy. 77C pp. 172-178. DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2017.08.020

Ash dieback is a serious disease of ash trees, caused by a fungus