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Professor Bill Durodié

science and risk

Fear of adults has devastating effects for kids
Times Colonist, 15 August 2012
Efforts to keep children safe often end up with negative repercussions.
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H1N1: The Social Costs of Cultural Confusion
Global Health Governance, Vol.4, No.2, Spring 2011
In May 2011, the World Health Assembly received the report of its International Health Regulations Review Committee examining responses to the outbreak of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza and identifying lessons to be learnt. This will emphasized the need for better risk communication in the future. But risk and communication are not objective facts; they are socially mediated cultural products. Responses to crises are not simply determined by the situation at hand, but also mental models developed over protracted periods. Accordingly, those forces responsible for promoting the precautionary approach and encouraging the securitization of health, that both helped encourage a catastrophist outlook in this instance, are unlikely to be held to scrutiny. These cultural confusions have come at an enormous cost to society.
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Reconciling growing energy demand with climate change management
Global Change, Peace & Security, Vol. 23, No. 2, June 2011, 271–282
The solution to the Copenhagen impasse which developing countries such as India and China should be advised to take up is to demand more energy, not to accept less, and to point to the West’s failure of imagination in this regard.
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WHO’s learned nothing from the swine-flu panic?
spiked, 23 May 2011
The over-reaction to H1N1 influenza in 2009 was built on years of waiting for ‘the Big One’.
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H1N1 – the social costs of élite confusion
Journal of Risk Research, May 2011
In May 2011, the World Health Assembly will receive the report of its International Health Regulations Review Committee examining responses to the outbreak of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza and identifying lessons to be learnt. This will emphasise the need for better risk communication in future. But risk and communication are not objective facts; they are socially mediated cultural products. A precautionary approach and encouraging the securitisation of health both helped to encourage a catastrophist outlook in this instance. These élite confusions have come at an enormous cost to society.
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(Un)natural Disasters: Health Responses after Natural Hazards in Southeast Asia
NTS Perspectives, April 2011
The occurrence of a natural hazard need not lead to a natural disaster. Whether a disaster results depends upon pre-existing conditions, such as the level of a country's development and infrastructure, social stability, and the availability and accessibility of healthcare facilities.
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Sounding worse, when things are really getting better
Today, 29 March 2011
Obsessed with the idea of a nuclear meltdown, the doom mongerers are blind to the reality at Fukushima.
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Welcome to the brave new world of risk-obsessed politics
Today, 25 March 2011
Since the end of the Cold War, the world has been organised around the view that it is better to be safe than sorry. But is such an outlook really wise?
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The mad post-tsunami food panic
spiked, 24 March 2011
You could eat Japan's so-called ‘radioactive spinach’ for a whole year and it still wouldn’t cause you much harm.
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Disaster hacks should stick to the facts
Today, 18 March 2011
As events in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami show, there is no disaster too big today that it cannot be made worse - or at least imagined so - by an army of self-styled disaster specialists in search of salacious copy.
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Development and health in south-east Asia from the Cold War to the present
NTS Alert, February 2011
The links between international development – in particular, the provision of aid by developed nations – and health are explored by observing trends in Western aid to Southeast Asia from the Cold War era to the present, and the ramifications of changes in why and how such aid is given. This NTS Alert will argue that these patterns invariably reflect the pursuit (and waning) of particular Western interests in each period, rather than an active interest in the health of populations in developing regions, and that this has resulted in considerable health gains, but also particular problems, such as the specific health needs of populations not being addressed in a comprehensive manner.
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What to expect when the unexpected hits
Straits Times, 21 July 2010
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What have we learned from H1N1?
Today (Singapore), 13 April 2010
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H1N1: now is not the time to panic
Today (Singapore), 19 June 2009
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Securing Electricity: Blackout
The World Today, August-September 2008
Preventing electricity outages from cascading into major international blackouts requires an appreciation of the social dimension of such networks. A focus on extreme possibilities rather than gradual failure, and an emphasis on environmental protection over assuring supply can be the real problem.
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Democratizing technology
Electronic Journal of Sustainable Development, (2008) 1(2)
Review of Democratizing technology: risk, responsibility & the regulation of chemicals, by Anne Chapman
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White Paper on Security of European Electricity Distribution
UNDERSTAND, 1 August 2007
How the threat to security of electricity supply from blackouts may be mitigated through improved training at the level of transmission system operators.
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Risk and the Social Construction of ‘Gulf War Syndrome’
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, (2006) 361, 689–6
It may be that the search for a scientific or medical solution to Gulf War Syndrome was misguided. If there is such an entity, it appears to have much in common with other 'illnesses of modernity', whose roots are more socially and culturally driven than what doctors would conventionally consider to be diseases.
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Inclusion versus experimentation
Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, Vol. 8, No. 3, 359–362, September 2005
For the advocates of public dialogue, process is far more important than content. Quantity is prioritised over quality.
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REACH is not about safety
Science and Public Affairs, March 2005
On September 24, the EU council of ministers permanently banned a family of organic chemicals, called phthalates, from use in toys and childcare items. This ‘political agreement’ brought to an end five years of debate about their toxicity. During that time, the European Commission maintained a series of temporary, emergency bans, despite existing and new evidence that consistently and increasingly opposed the official view.
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The Concept of Risk
Nuffield Trust Paper, Health, Security and Foreign Policy Programme, February 2005
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Toxic policies
The Parliament Magazine, No.193, 29 November 2004, pp.39-40
On September 24, the EU council of ministers permanently banned a family of organic chemicals, called phthalates, from use in toys and childcare items. This ‘political agreement’ brought to an end five years of debate about their toxicity. During that time, the European Commission maintained a series of temporary, emergency bans, despite existing and new evidence that consistently and increasingly opposed the official view.
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A question of fear, not chemistry
spiked, 16 November 2004
'Many of the concerns about chemicals can best be described as conclusions in search of data.'
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Cellular Phones, Public Fears, and A Culture of Precaution
Risk Analysis, 9 August 2004
Rather than taking people’s perceptions at face value, Burgess seeks to explain how these perceptions came to be constructed in the first place, thereby, challenging these and critiquing precaution.
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The Social Basis for Fears about Science
19 April 2004
Conference Paper, Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
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The Precautionary Principle: Is it Killing Innovation?
in An Apology for Capitalism?, Kumaria, S. ed, Profile Books,The precautionary principle is, above all else, an invitation to those without evidence, expertise or authority, to shape and influence political debates. It achieves that by introducing supposedly ethical or environmental elements into the process of scientific, corporate and governmental decision-making.
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The Timid Corporation – Why Business is Terrified of Taking Risk
Risk Analysis, Vol.24, No.1, February 2004, pp.301-304
Hunt examines why business has become re-presented and increasingly accepts an image of itself as reckless, abusive, and destructive. Despite lack of evidence as to widespread misdemeanors, every corporate scandal today, from Enron to Worldcom, becomes reinterpreted as a morality tale that points back to an already assumed need to constrain the corporation.
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Limitations of Public Dialogue in Science and the Rise of New ‘Experts’
Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, Vol. 6, No. 4, Winter 2003
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Phone alarm
spiked, 27 November 2003
A new book examines how the culture of precaution shaped public fears over mobile phones.
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Limitations of Public Dialogue in Science and the Rise of New ‘Experts’
Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, Vol. 6, No. 4, Winter 2003
We should move away from our growing obsession with the impact of science upon society and begin to examine a bit more critically the impact of society upon science - especially in a society that has lost its sense of ambition.
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Tech Central Station, 24 September 2003

Response to Riskworld 2020
Journal of Risk Research, 6 (4–6), 597–616 (July 2003)
Riskworld 2020 uncritically repeats many of the assumptions, aphorisms, platitudes and prejudices that currently inform the risk discourse. The single key question here should have been: ‘Do people’s perceptions of risk, match the reality of the dangers they face?’ Yet it has not clearly been asked.
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Letter to the Editor Regarding Chemical White Paper Special Issue
Risk Analysis, Vol.23, No.3, June 2003, pp.427-428
Sadly, some scientists also have all too readily absorbed the modern dictate for “inclusivity” and “dialogue” in the vain hope of somehow relegitimizing their activities.
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TechCentral Station, 23 May 2003

The true cost of precautionary chemicals regulation
Risk Analysis, Vol.23, No.2, April 2003, pp.389-398
It remains crucial, for all those interested in social progress and transformation to identify all the outcomes of proposed actions, including their opportunity costs, irrespective of the claims and purposes of those promoting them.
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Why has Europe become so risk-averse?
in Breaking Down the Barriers, Disney, H. ed., Civitas, 2003, pp.39-46
Two key areas of concern: the new European proposals for chemicals regulations and the broader context for this - societies' particular proclivity to become obsessed with risk nowadays.
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January 2003
Private Commission for European Food Information Council, Brussels

Book review: The Precautionary Principle in the Late 20th Century: Late Lessons from Early Warnings
Risk Analysis, Vol.22, No.6, December 2002, pp.1208-1209
This report contains useful empirical evidence, but also reflects many of the confusions and equivocations now common among political, corporate and even scientific institutions.
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Society Loses when the Polluter is made to Pay
Audacity, September 2002
The proposal by the Environment Directorate of the European Commission to frame a Directive on the Prevention and Restoration of Significant Environmental Damage is published. While the Directive might sound like clarification, it will serve to confuse accountability by insisting that someone must always be to blame.
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in Science: Can We Trust the Experts?, Gilland, T. ed. Hodder & Stoughton, 2002, pp.17-38

The precautionary principle is causing a scare
Risk of Freedom Briefing, July 2002
It's time to apply the precautionary principle to itself.
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Why I… think a dialogue with the public will undermine science
Times Higher Education Supplement, 12 April 2002
Do our scientists really need to display a greater degree of humility and place more emphasis on the uncertainty of their experiments to regain our trust?
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Private Commission for European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates, Brussels, February 2001


The Wall Street Journal, European Edition, 11 January 2001

Poisonous propaganda: global echoes of an anti-vinyl agenda
Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, 19 July 2000
This paper demonstrates the dangers of blindly following the precautionary principle. The principle is subject to considerable debate, particularly in relation to the tension between demonstrated actual risk and anticipated plausible risk, as well as the problems associated with enforcing what are inevitably variable standards.
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Last Magazine, Summer 2000


Private Commission for Tesco, March 2000

Calculating the cost of caution
Chemistry and Industry, Vol.1, No.5, 6 March 2000, p.170
Measures to ban phthlate softeners in PVC products are a cowardly and rearguard attempt by the European Commission to legitimise its authority.
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in ‘Rethinking Risk and the Precautionary Principle’, Morris, J. ed. Butterworth-Heinemann, 2000, pp.140-166


LM, December 1999 / January 2000


LM, 16 August 1999

Poisonous Dummies: European Risk Regulation After BSE
European Science and Environment Forum working paper, June 1999
Environmental activists and consumer protection groups claim that phthalates, organic compounds added to hard PVC to make it more flexible, are responsible for numerous adverse health effects, including cancer and damage to the human reproductive system. Governments, the European Commission, the media and retailers have taken these claims seriously. Yet in more than 40 years of phthalate use, no researcher has ever demonstrated any harm.
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The Wall Street Journal, European Edition, 9 June 1999


No.114, October 1998


LM, 12 January 1996