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Diverse conceptions of risk prioritization

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The search for a process by which agencies, whether at the national or the local level, might either rank or prioritize disparate risks has been on the minds if not the agenda of policy makers for some decades at least. In the absence of an agreed methodology, risk management practitioners in government, industry, and other walks of life have, through necessity, developed their own. Inspection reveals, however, that many of these are grounded in particular ideologies which may be associated with discrete professional world views or systems of working. It is apparent, however, that even subtle differences in methodologies can generate radically different rankings and, ultimately, actions. Thus, while the ranking of risks as a means of setting goals and prioritizing actions is a crucial activity, the process by which it is conducted may have an overwhelming influence upon the outcome, which in turn might bear little resemblance to the aspirations of stakeholders. It is suggested that more attention needs to be devoted to the assumptions and values inherent in ranking procedures, even those previously regarded as 'objective,' and to the ways in which these, together with artefacts of the ranking procedure itself, may affect outcomes. In the longer term, a shift towards a more holistic prioritization process is seen as highly desirable. Failure to achieve this could mean that neither local nor societal goals are properly accommodated.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1999-07-01

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