Does Concern-Driven Risk Management Provide a Viable Alternative to QRA?

Authors

  • Louis Anthony (Tony) Cox Jr


*Cox Associates, 503 Franklin Street, Denver, CO 80218, USA; tel: 303-388-1778; tony@cox-associates.com.

Abstract

This article discusses a concept of concern-driven risk management, in which qualitative expert judgments about whether concerns warrant specified risk management interventions are used in preference to quantitative risk assessment (QRA) to guide risk management decisions. Where QRA emphasizes formal quantitative assessment of the probable consequences caused by the recommended actions, and comparison to the probable consequences of alternatives, including the status quo, concern-driven risk management instead emphasizes perceived urgency or severity of the situation motivating recommended interventions. In many instances, especially those involving applications of the precautionary principle, no formal quantification or comparison of probable consequences for alternative decisions is seen as being necessary (or, perhaps, possible or desirable) prior to implementation of risk management measures. Such concern-driven risk management has been recommended by critics of QRA in several areas of applied risk management. Based on case studies and psychological literature on the empirical performance of judgment-based approaches to decision making under risk and uncertainty, we conclude that, although concern-driven risk management has several important potential political and psychological advantages over QRA, it is not clear that it performs better than (or as well as) QRA in identifying risk management interventions that successfully protect human health or achieve other desired consequences. Therefore, those who advocate replacing QRA with concern-driven alternatives, such as expert judgment and consensus decision processes, should assess whether their recommended alternatives truly outperform QRA, by the criterion of producing preferred consequences, before rejecting the QRA paradigm for practical applications.

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