Risk Analysis

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Edited By: L. Anthony Cox, Jr.

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Online ISSN: 1539-6924

Special Issue: Lester Lave: Reflections and Papers Published

Lester Lave Photo

Lester Lave: Reflections and Papers Published in Risk Analysis, An International Journal
Edited by Michael Greenberg
With the assistance of Ann Bostrom, Granger Morgan and Rae Zimmerman

Lester Lave lost a battle with cancer in early May, 2011. He was only 71 years old. We are honoring his critical contributions to risk analysis by publishing a special virtual issue of Risk Analysis that presents the 17 articles that Lester authored or co-authored in the journal between 1981 (the first volume) and 2002. We are pleased to offer these articles, as well as present a short biography and reflections from some of Lester’s colleagues.

Biographical Highlights

Reflections from Colleagues
Elizabeth Anderson
Ann Bostrom
Baruch Fischhoff
John D. Graham
Yacov Haimes
Howard Kunreuther
Heather MacLean
Granger Morgan
Paul Portney
Jonathan Wiener
Rae Zimmerman

Lester Lave Papers in Risk Analysis, An International Journal, 1981-2002
Below is the list of the 17 papers that Lester Lave authored or co-authored in the journal. You can go directly to the paper by clicking on the reference. To whet your appetite, I have summarized each paper and added a sentence about the current status of the issue it addresses. His pioneering efforts to place these policy challenges in context and offer plausible solutions are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them. Nearly all of these issues remain, and the emerging risk issues have similar attributes.

Estimating the risk of carcinogens

Volume 1, Issue 1. 1981

The first volume of the journal included a two-page comment by Lester asserting that banning carcinogens was arbitrary and imprudent and calling instead for risk assessments that balance costs and benefits. Professor Lave cautioned that that such an effort would be difficult and take time because of the large number of possible carcinogens. This clearly has proven to be the case and remains a daunting challenge.

Specifying risk goals: Inherent problems with democratic institutions

with Thomas Romer
Volume 3, Issue 3. 1983

The authors argue that democratic institutions cannot accommodate the range of public preferences about facilities that are needed by society but opposed by local people. Lave and Romer suggest compensation schemes and other approaches for dealing with these issues. Many of these schemes have been tried, with some successes, but with many more failures. The locally unwanted land use (LULU) problem remains for energy, manufacturing, waste management and many other facilities.

Regulating risks
Volume 4, Issue 2. 1984

This editorial states that we cannot achieve or afford zero risk and that we must strive to balance benefits against costs. This remains an ongoing policy challenge for elected officials and agency administrators.

Managing risk: A joint U.S.-German perspective
with Joshua Menkes
Volume 5, Issue 1. 1985

The authors report that the two countries share many of the same issues and management approaches, with some interesting differences, including that power in the U.S. management system is more dispersed and that the German approach places more emphasis on regulatory approaches International efforts to compare approaches occur more often and can be quite helpful to decision-makers.

Who needs causation probabilities?

Volume 6, Issue 3. 1986

Professor Lave agrees with the idea of compensating victims of events based on their exposure (with radiation as an example), while acknowledging the difficulty of implementing that approach. Settling compensation claims remains a major challenge.

The role of insurance in managing natural hazard risks: Private versus social decisions
with Dennis Epple
Volume 8, Issue 3. 1988

Using dam failures as an illustration, the authors describe the role that insurance can play in reducing the number of people who will locate in a high risk place, rather than trying to solve the problem with zoning that will likely reduce economic benefits. The issue of insuring areas located in flood plains, earthquake-prone areas, downstream of dams and at other higher risk places continues to be a serious public policy concern, with damages increasing.

Adjusting to greenhouse effects: The demise of traditional cultures and the cost to the USA
with Kathleen Heffernan Vickland
Volume 9, Issue 3. 1989

The authors focus on poor farmers who will disproportionately suffer from climate change, and they suggest working with farmers so that they can be more adaptable to changing conditions. This need has increased across the globe.

Ethical considerations in risk communication practice and research
with M. Granger Morgan
Volume 10, Issue 3. 1990

The authors discuss altruistic and selfish motives, as well as overt and covert uses of risk communications at a time when the field was experiencing substantial growth in interest from academics, government and business. These prudent observations remain relevant more than two decades after they were written.

What do we know about making risk comparisons?
with Emilie Roth, M. Granger Morgan, Baruch Fischhoff, and Ann Bostrom
Volume 10, Issue 3. 1990

This fascinating paper considers some of what we think we know about risk comparisons and then tests theoretical constructs with experimental risk communications. The respondents did not respond to communications as predicted. Risk comparisons remain a risky choice for communicators.

Public perception of the risks of floods: Implications for communication
with Tamara Lave
Volume 11, Issue 2. 1991

This perceptive study finds that people who live in a floodplain often do not understand the cause of floods or what they can do about minimizing their risk. The authors urge FEMA to emphasize communications with at-risk populations and require those who have federal loans to have flood insurance. Despite increasing efforts by government agencies, the economic, social, and public health costs of flooding continues to increase.

What risks are people concerned about?
with Gregory W. Fischer, M. Granger Morgan, Baruch Fischhoff, and Indira Nair
Volume 11, Issue 2. 1991

This is one of my favorite risk perception papers. The authors very carefully measure what risks really stress most people, and then associate these concerns with gender, type of problems and other factors now commonly included in major risk perception surveys.

The risks of licensing persons with diabetes
with Thomas J. Songer and Ronald LaPorte
Volume 13, Issue 3. 1993

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 forbids employers from preventing disabled people from holding jobs unless the applicant cannot do the work. Lester and colleagues estimate how many more crashes of commercial motor vehicles will be caused by diabetic drivers.

Should persons with diabetes be licensed to drive trucks? - Risk management
with Thomas J. Songer and Ronald E. LaPorte
Volume 13, Issue 3. 1991

This paper about the risk management aspect of the diabetic driver issue estimates the cost per year of additional accidents; the authors conclude that the additional risk is consistent with those already tolerated, such as allowing 16-year-olds to drive. This paper and previous paper are my favorite Lester Lave articles in the journal. They highlight both risk assessment and management elements. The basic premise of comparing realistic estimates of harm and benefits against estimates of costs continues.

Risk assessment reform is for real
Volume 15, Issue 2. 1995

Professor Lave responds to criticism of risk analysis in Congress. The criticism comes and goes with every major issue, typically from those who have presented risk analysis as a panacea for decision-makers or from those who use it as a strawman in an ideological argument.

Risk analysis and management of dam safety
with Tunde Balvanyos
Volume 18. Issue 4. 1998

The authors assess options for balancing potential damage benefits against costs. This remains a major concern in the United States and many other nations, and was a subject of great interest for Dr. Lave throughout his distinguished career.

Risk analysis and the terrorism problem in two parts
Volume 22, Issue 3. 2002

Lester Lave criticizes government for not communicating to the public about the actual risks. Indeed, concern about terrorism among much of the public has dropped considerably during the last decade, with many people worrying more about other issues like global warming, air and water pollution, and many others.

Life cycle impact assessment: A challenge for risk analysts
with H. Scott Matthews and Heather MacLean
Volume 22, Issue 5. 2002

The authors support life cycle analysis but point to the paucity of data upon which the approach rests. LCA is increasingly used but data and uncertainty remain issues.

Books By Lester Lave