Dr Lyons’s case study focussed on the visualisation of climate change. 

Exeter researcher contributes to government report on managing the risk of innovative technologies

The first ever Annual Report by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Mark Walport will be launched at the Institute for Government in London on 19 November 2014. Dr James Lyons, Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Exeter and academic advisor for the report, contributed a case study on communicating the risk of climate change.

The report, entitled Innovation: Managing risk, not avoiding it, considers the different perspectives through which risk is viewed by the public, business and policy-makers in order to stimulate broader discussion on risk, hazard, uncertainty and vulnerability (within the UK, Europe and the wider international community); and promote a regulatory culture surrounding risk in which robust scientific evidence is openly considered alongside political and other non-scientific issues in shaping policy.

Key themes identified include communication and engagement with the public, capability and direction of investment in research and innovation, and need for intelligent regulation.

Dr Lyons’s case study focussed on the visualisation of climate change. It highlighted how unintentionally sensational images of environmental disaster can have a counterproductive impact on the public response to the risk of climate change. The report also notes that employing imaginatively vivid and personalised examples of everyday risk, as employed by former US Vice PresidentGore Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth, can recalibrate the audience’s own risk perception and can help inform and equip the public to respond appropriately to an array of contemporary risks.

Dr Lyons said ‘I am delighted to contribute to the report, and demonstrate the distinctive perspective that arts and humanities research can bring to policy debates about risk.’

The theme of the Annual Report is the challenge that society faces when channelling evidence about innovative technologies and their risks to improve decision making in the area of regulation and policy making.  

Date: 18 November 2014

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