The British Science Association (BSA) has today, Wednesday 15 December, launched a new publication as part of the For Thought series. ‘Developing a new relationship with risk’, supported by Lloyd’s Register Foundation, brings together insights from a roundtable of cross-sector experts in risk and risk know-how, chaired by Lynne Berry CBE which took place on Tuesday 23 November. The report will be discussed by an online panel, culminating the For Thought events in 2021.

Read 'Developing a new relationship with risk' (opens in new tab)

Against the backdrop of a global pandemic and climate emergency, leaders around the world are attempting to manage risks unique to this moment in history. Build better (BSA, 2021) posed the question: how do we develop a new relationship with risk? Nations and other bodies are capable of foreseeing seismic events but, despite being armed with this knowledge, responses and preparedness remain ineffective.

The roundtable participants debated a range of issues related to risk and risk perception, such as cross-sector collaboration, adopting whole-systems thinking, and the National Risk Register, providing examples from their own experiences and professions. These have been distilled into a set of ‘Established principles’, reflecting current understanding and decision making in industry and society, alongside recommendations for transforming the public relationship with risk:

Established principles:

  • Communicators must be credible and embrace a wide range of formats and mediums through which to communicate effectively
  • Successful risk communication is two-way and requires a strong network of trusted and trustworthy intermediaries
  • Risk literacy and risk know-how must be accessible to all
  • Risk may also offer opportunities and these potential “upsides” are often overlooked

Recommendations for a better relationship with risk:

  • A longer-term approach is required to identify and plan for future “slow burn” risks, not just sudden shocks
  • We need a diversity of decision makers, not just a focus on how best to communicate with a diverse audience through diverse mediums
  • Decision makers need to be (and feel) empowered to make necessary but unpopular decisions
  • The UK National Risk Register needs to be more accessible – and more useful in giving practical guidance on risk – to the general public

The final For Thought event of 2021 invited the following panellists to share their thoughts on risk and the world’s future relationship with it:

  • Stephanie Boyce (President, Law Society for England and Wales)
  • Lord Toby Harris (President, National Preparedness Commission)
  • Nina Schick (Author, advisor and speaker, specialising in how technology is transforming politics and society in the 21st century)
  • Dr John Taylor (External member of the Prudential Regulation Committee, Bank of England)
  • Professor Charlotte Watts (Chief Scientific Adviser, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

Follow the discussion on Twitter via the #ForThought hashtag.

Download 'Developing a new relationship with risk'.

Find out more about Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

Get involved in For Thought.