SRA-E 2023 Keynote speakers

The following speakers have agreed to give a keynote:

  • Baruch Fischhoff, Howard Heinz University Professor, Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Institute for Politics and Strategy, Carnegie Mellon University, USA
    Title: Pandemic Possibilities
  • Nils Eric Sahlin, Professor and Chair of Medical Ethics, Lund University, Sweden
    Title: Decision-making in a time of great uncertainty and unspoken values, when maximization is not an option
  • Åsa Wikforss, Professor in Philosophy, Stockholm University and Chair No. 7 in the Swedish Academy
    Title: Knowledge Resistance in a time of Crisis
  • Nikolaos Zahariadis, Mertie Buckman Chair and Professor of International Studies, Rhodes College, Memphis TN, USA
    Title: Public Policy-Making when Rashomon meets Cries and Whispers
  • Katherine McComas, Professor, Department of Communication, Cornell NY, USA
    Title: he Role of Risk Communication in Meeting Global Energy Needs: Keeping Cooler Heads as the Conversation Heats Up
  • Suraje Dessai, Professor of Climate Change Adaptation, University of Leeds, UK
    Title: Risk Analysis to Build Resilience to Climate Change in an Uncertain World


Baruch Fischhoff, Howard Heinz University Professor, Carnegie Mellon University, USA

Bio: Baruch Fischhoff is Howard Heinz University Professor, Department of Engineering and Public Policy and Institute for Politics and Strategy, Carnegie Mellon University. A graduate of the Detroit Public Schools, he holds a BS (mathematics, psychology) from Wayne State University and a PhD (psychology) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine, and past President of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making the Society for Risk Analysis. He received the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Contribution to Psychology, Carnegie Mellon Ryan Award for Meritorious Teaching and College of Engineering Outstanding Mentoring Award, Doctorate of Humanities honoris causa from Lund University, Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, and Sigma Xi William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement. He has served on many advisory bodies, including recent ones on science communication, intelligence analysis, cybersecurity, global change, and pandemic disease.

Abstract: Risk analysis, and the Society for Risk Analysis, should play central roles in managing pandemics – applying and extending methods for characterizing and communicating risks in terms relevant to the decisions of policy makers and individuals. The talk will review some of my experiences attempting to fill those roles, mostly with COVID-19, but also with avian flu, Ebola, and potential weaponized diseases. It will include some partial successes (e.g., equitable allocation of vaccines, reopening movie studios) and some recurrent failures. I will look for lessons in how we organize our work and how society manages its risks.

Nils Eric Sahlin, Professor and Chair of Medical Ethics, Lund University, Sweden

Bio: Professor emeritus of Medical Ethics, Lund University, Sweden.

Abstract: Under severe epistemic uncertainty or value uncertainty, maximizing expected utility is no longer an option. New decision principles are needed. But, if there are more than one decision rule, which of them do we want to advocate? Is there a meta-theory that can be used to decide which rule is the best rule? And what do we do if there is no such meta-theory? It will be argued that traditional decision theory (maximizing expected utility) is not the tool we need to take the difficult decisions we have to take today. For example, decisions that have to do with climate change, pandemics and migration (i.e. choices under severe epistemic and/or value uncertainty). The theoretical challenges are illustrated with various examples e.g. priority setting in health care and crisis management (COVID-19 pandemic).

Åsa Wikforss, Professor in Philosophy, Stockholm University, Sweden

Bio: Åsa Wikforss is a Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at Stockholm University. Since 2019 she leads a large interdisciplinary research program, Knowledge Resistance: Causes, Consequences and Cures, funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond. She is the author of two popular books on the crisis of truth, and she is a member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Science, and of the Swedish Academy.

Nikolaos Zahariadis, Mertie Buckman Chair and Professor of International Studies, Rhodes College, USA

Bio: Mertie Buckman Chair and Professor of International Studies, Rhodes College, Memphis TN, USA

Abstract: Risk analysis may help us understand policy-making by shifting the limelight away from reducing uncertainty to coping with, but not necessarily reducing, ambiguity. Drawing on examples from public health policy to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I will discuss elements of ambiguity in public policy (problems, solutions and politics) and how they interact with the help of policy entrepreneurs during open policy windows to often produce policy choices that manage risk by interpreting ambiguity. By implication, we do not necessarily need more information to reduce uncertainty in public policy, but we necessarily need sharper skills and better tools to interpret it.

Katherine McComas, Professor, Department of Communication, Cornell NY, USA

Bio: Katherine McComas, Ph.D. is a professor of communication at Cornell University, where she specializes in risk, science, and environmental communication. Her research has focused on understanding how people respond to information about different types of risks, who people trust for information, how people respond to different pathways of communication, and what types of messages influence attitudes and behaviors. She is the author or coauthor of 80+ refereed journal articles and two books, including co-editing the SAGE Handbook of Risk Communication. Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, National Parks Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). From 2011-2019, she served as Area Editor for Risk Communication for the journal Risk Analysis. She is a Fellow for the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) and served as SRA’s President 2018-2019.

Abstract: Most agree that widespread adoption of a suite of renewable and clean energy technologies is essential to any effort to respond to the challenges of climate change and energy insecurity. Conflicts like the Russian invasion of Ukraine and more frequent and deadly natural disasters have only increased the sense of urgency around taking action. In light of these salient risks, some have argued for a need to quicken the regulatory process around the deployment of energy technologies and dismissed public hesitation as irrational, out of touch, or simply irrelevant. Decades of risk communication research have demonstrated that ignoring public concerns can lead to delays, protests, and outright rejection of new and emerging technologies. So, as decades-long policy inertia related to climate change begins to end, how do we ensure that cooler heads prevail, and risk communication does not fall back on bad habits when finally able to take action? This talk will share research from several ongoing projects related to the development and implementation of energy technologies, including how individuals view the benefits and risks in relation to solving energy crises. It will highlight some of the unexpected results related to public views and underscore the importance of fairness in moving projects forward.

Suraje Dessai, Professor of Climate Change Adaptation, University of Leeds, UK

Bio: Professor Suraje Dessai is a world-leading researcher of climate change adaptation at the University of Leeds where he focuses on the management of climate change uncertainties, perception of climate risks and the science-policy interface in climate change science, impacts, adaptation and services. He has published more than 110 publications and was listed 120 in the Reuters list of the world’s 1,000 top climate scientists. He is Champion of the Strategic Priorities Fund UK Climate Resilience Programme (2019-23) and was co-editor-in-chief of the journal Climate Risk Management (2018-2021). He is Lead Author in IPCC WG1 (The Physical Science Basis) Sixth Assessment Report and was Lead Author in the IPCC WG2 (Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability) Fifth Assessment Report. He is a member of the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change and was Specialist Advisor to the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy of the UK Parliament.

Abstract: Even with the successful implementation of the Paris agreement, a certain amount of climate change is now unavoidable over the next few decades and high warming levels by the end of the century cannot be ruled out. Therefore, urgent action is needed to build resilience and accelerate adaptation to climate variability and change. Informing the extensive range of actions needed to manage climate risks, reduce damage without exacerbating existing inequalities, and realise emerging opportunities, is a critical scientific and societal challenge. Risk analysis, broadly defined, can play an important role in helping individuals, organisations and societies build resilience to a changing climate. This talk will review the practice of climate risk assessment, management and communication, and discuss future research directions for this interdisciplinary area of risk analysis.