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TalkScience@BL event, March 2011

Communicating risk and scientific advice during emergencies: don't panic?

A conversation with Mark Henderson and Sir John Beddington, 15 March 2011

In our 12th TalkScience@BL, UK Government Chief Science Adviser Sir John Beddington CMG FRS and Mark Henderson, Science editor for The Times discussed communicating risk and scientific advice during emergencies. A very topical issue, much of the discussion focused on the aftermath of the M8.9 Japanese earthquake and the subsequent tsunami and damaged nuclear reactors. The discussion also touched on other emergencies where scientific advice was called upon, such as the 2010 volcanic ash incident and the bird flu outbreak.

Listen to the podcast 

An enthusiastic audience asked our speakers: 

  • Is there a formal process after an emergency, in terms of ‘lessons learned’ to ensure the government is better prepared next time?
  • What criteria should be use to judge the way that scientific advice goes into policy?
  • How are trust and other factors that play a role the public perception of risk factored into policy?

Sir John Beddington is the Government Chief Scientific Adviser responsible for the quality of all engineering and scientific advice across Government, reporting directly to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary.  He has led on providing scientific advice during the swine flu outbreak and the 2010 volcanic ash incident and has embedded scientific advisors within Government departments. 

Mark Henderson is the Chief Science Editor for the Times and writes for the paper’s monthly science magazine, Eureka.  He is also the author of 50 Genetics Ideas You Really Need to Know and takes a particular interest in the politics of science.

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