The dreadful events in Japan, as seen from afar, necessarily raise the question of how scientists communicate risk both in general terms, and especially during emergencies. Astonishingly, “Communicating risk and scientific advice during emergencies: don’t panic?” was the long-arranged title of a TalkScience discussion held last week at the British Library and led by Mark Henderson of the Times and Professor Sir John Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser – who arrived hotfoot from spending much of the day doing just such activities and assessments. There are no easy answers here, as even a top-class statistical analysis of what facts are known can give quite different answers depending on whether one takes a more ‘frequentist’ or a Bayesian probabilistic point of view (I incline to the latter). Risk analysis is an exceptionally interesting area, that deserves a lot more space in these blogs, as judgements lie at the heart of the scientific agenda.
Expertise, judgement, discernment and the ability to deliver quality advice are qualities that lie at the heart of the requirements for members of our various Boards, Committees and Panels. I attended a very useful meeting of our Appointments Board, that is charged with optimising our selections of members from those who apply to join them. [...]