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Managing the uncertain earth: geophysical hazards in the risk society
Article first published online: 22 OCT 2013
© 2013 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)
The Geographical Journal
Volume 180, Issue 1, pages 89–95, March 2014
How to Cite
Donovan, A. and Oppenheimer, C. (2014), Managing the uncertain earth: geophysical hazards in the risk society. The Geographical Journal, 180: 89–95. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12046
- Issue published online: 24 JAN 2014
- Article first published online: 22 OCT 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: MAY 2013
- volcanic risk;
- scientific advice;
We discuss the current challenges facing volcanologists and seismologists in the risk society, recently highlighted by the trial and conviction of six scientists and a public official in Italy. We argue that the nature of the uncertainty surrounding natural hazards, particularly earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, coupled with their relative rarity, creates a major challenge for scientists that is as much socially and culturally derived as it is scientific. Scientists have responsibility for giving advice in many circumstances, but in this context they are particularly vulnerable to criticism because the stakes are very high and the decisionmakers are very dependent on their advice and may use it for political ends or with more corrupt motives. We discuss some of the implications of this for scientists, officials and publics, arguing that scientific advice regarding geophysical hazards should be a dialogical process with legal protection and social scientific support.