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Voices from the PhD course on Risk, uncertainty and decision-making

Anton Sandblom and Julia Johansson are two of the PhD students who participated in the recently finished PhD course called "Risk, uncertainty and decision-making". Here are their experiences.

The PhD course “Risk, uncertainty and decision-making” was held both at the University of Gothenburg and at Lund University during the autumn. After completing the course the aim was that the participants should have received knowledge and understanding enough to be able to explain and compare theoretical perspectives and methods used in research on risk within different disciplines; demonstrate an understanding of common descriptive and normative decision theories, theories for risk assessment and management of uncertainty, as well as principles for precaution; and define scientific principles for quantitative risk analysis, and rational and robust decision making.

Anton Sandblom is a PhD Student at the Department of Biological & Environmental Sciences and Julia Johansson is a PhD student at the Department of Law. Since they work in two different research areas. It would be interesting to know how they have experienced the course.

Why is risk, uncertainty and decision making important in your research area?
"In the field of chemical risk assessment, we are obviously considering risk in our work. The process is often very complex due to the amount of chemicals in our environment. We also face a lack of data, mixture scenarios and uncertainty of the actual environmental effects. This leaves us in a tricky situation regarding policy making and communication with both the public and other stakeholders and/or regulators", says Anton Sandblom. Julia Johansson takes the legal perspective: "For me it is important since I am studying how risk and uncertainty related to chemicals manifests in the legislation. What do we consider a risk worthy of legal protection?"

The course was multidisciplinary with a specific thematic focus on risks from chemical mixtures. What did you think about that?
"The course offered a lot of perspectives on risk and uncertainty, from many different disciplines. It has given me a deeper understanding of the concepts, as well as of other research fields.", says Julia Johansson. Anton Sandblom says that "This course gave valuable insights in this process and provided a good base when it comes to thinking in a rational and constructive way regarding risks, uncertainty and decision making. It was good and included a wide range of topics. There were also interesting speakers and it was great that the course was held in both Gothenburg and Lund.

Would you recommend this course to others? Why?
"Absolutely! This is super interesting and important in many areas of research. And it’s always nice to meet and discuss with people from other disciplines.", says Anton Sandblom. However, he sees some room for improvement. "It would have been nice to get a bit more room for discussions and reflection." Julia Johansson agrees with Anton: "I would recommend this course for anyone dealing with risk in their research, since it provides a good starting point from where to explore one´s own concept of risk."

Read more about the course in this blogg post at Lund University.

The course was run by the BECC MERGE research school ClimBEco with support from the FRAM Centre, Lund University Centre for Risk Assessment and Management LUCRAM and the Nordic Chapter of the Society for Risk Analysis.