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How do Swedish Government agencies define risk?

Journal article
Authors Max Boholm
Published in Journal of Risk Research
Volume 22
Issue 6
Pages 717-734
ISSN 1366-9877
Publication year 2019
Published at Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI)
Pages 717-734
Language en
Keywords Concept of risk, public administration, stipulative definition, inconsistency
Subject categories Other Social Sciences, Linguistics, Public Administration Studies


This study is guided by two research questions: first, how is the word risk defined by Swedish Government agencies and, second, do these agencies use the word risk consistently with how it is defined? These questions are answered by first selecting relevant agencies and then systematically searching for definitions of risk on these agencies’ websites. The study demonstrates that risk is defined in 14 ways, many of which vaguely express the idea that risk is the probability of an unwanted event multiplied by some measure of its consequences. The study also demonstrates that agencies often define risk in ways that are inconsistent with how they use the term (i.e. over and above how it is defined). The findings are discussed in light of normative desiderata for effective risk communication and risk management. The paper concludes with six recommendations for improving definitions of risk used by public agencies.

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