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Evidence Maps: Communicating Risk Assessments in Societal Controversies: The Case of Engineered Nanoparticles

Authors


Peter Wiedemann, Wissenschaffsforum EMF, ITAS, Anna-Luisa-Karsch Str. 2, D10178 Berlin, Germany; peter.wiedemann@wf-emf.org.

Abstract

The transparent and fair characterization of scientific evidence for reporting the results of a hazard assessment is a demanding task. In this article, we present an approach for characterizing evidence—the evidence map approach. The theoretical starting point is to view evidence characterization as a form of argumentation. Thus, evidence maps are designed to depict the evidence base, the pro and con arguments, and the remaining uncertainties, which together lead experts to their conclusions when summarizing and evaluating the scientific evidence about a potential hazard. To illustrate its use, the evidence maps approach is applied to characterizing the health-relevant effects of engineered nanoparticles. Empirical data from an online survey suggests that the use of evidence maps improves the reporting of hazard assessments. Nonexperts prefer to receive the information included in an evidence map in order to come to an informed judgment. Furthermore, the benefits and limitations of evidence maps are discussed in the light of recent literature on risk communication. Finally, the article underlines the need for further research in order to increase quality of evidence reporting.

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