We take risks everyday and are faced with uncertainties almost in every activity/decision we make. However risk is often a contested issue in society and science and ironically, assessing risks often relies on science and expertise. This report discusses the risks we may encounter, including case studies to help distinguish the disputed role of expert knowledge in understanding and managing risks. Epidemiology is also discussed as this is a key feature in understanding the risks we take.

A risky world

Risks can be related to our material environments from roads to crowds from a football stadium and can also involve different kinds of knowledge.

We face material risks everyday as we decide what to eat or not to, to drive or not to drive, cycle or not to cycle and where and what time we do these activities.

Risk is:

• A probability of an outcome, combined with;
• Consequences of different outcomes

Therefore, knowledge plays a key role in understanding uncertainty and the consequences that are incorporated with risk taking.  

Expert and Lay Knowledge

In contemporary UK people rely ever more on expert knowledge about risks in everyday life. Many risks taken are invisible and the need for experts to make them ‘visible’ is ever increasing. On the other hand people do not receive expert knowledge passively (A risky world?’, 2009, track 3).  

Knowledge produced by experts are used to create an understanding of risk, nevertheless this knowledge is not always used constructively. The understanding of risk is not merely accepted by the public it is aimed at. For example lay understandings of risk are interpreted and shaped according to their experiences and cut across expert knowledge (Bromley et al., 2009, pg 13).

Lay understandings do not necessarily ignore expert understanding but reinterpret the knowledge combined with their own concerns. And sometimes these concerns do not correspond with those valued by experts (Carter   & Jordan, 2009,...