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Policy First or Science First: Two Approaches in the Management of Risk

Page, Talbot (1983) Policy First or Science First: Two Approaches in the Management of Risk. Social Science Working Paper, 473. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA. (Unpublished)

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This paper compares two approaches toward handling of uncertainty in public policy decisions. In one approach, "science first," scientific questions of fact are addressed first. Once it is concluded that there is a high probability that there is a problem (for example that a chemical is a carcinogen) then the analysis proceeds to value questions, where the costs and benefits of possible remedies are weighed. In the alternative approach, "policy first," value questions are addressed from the beginning. The potential costs and benefits of wrong decisions are considered from the start, along with judgments about the probabilities of false positives and false negatives. This analysis leads to the identification of the scientific uncertainties most critical for the public policy decision; it suggests the most important areas for research; and it guides decisions of what to do in the meantime, for precautionary actions. The discussion is undertaken in terms of a particular public policy problem, management of municipal wastewater disposal in coastal waters.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Alternate Title:Economics and Risk Assessment
Additional Information:Forthcoming as "Economics and Risk Assessment," in The Impact on Marine Coastal Waters of the Ocean Disposal of Municipal Wastewater and Its Constituents, edited by Edward Myers. Chapter XI Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Group:Social Science Working Papers
Series Name:Social Science Working Paper
Issue or Number:473
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170922-145556160
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:81772
Deposited By: Jacquelyn Bussone
Deposited On:25 Sep 2017 22:50
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 18:46

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