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Critical volcanology? Thinking holistically about risk and uncertainty

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This paper tackles two related issues in dealing with so-called “wicked” problems: the challenge for scientists wishing to provide useful policy advice whilst maintaining scientific integrity, and the challenge of integrating multiple disciplines across the social and physical sciences. It focusses particularly on the problems associated with volcanic risks – specifically those problems that threaten to “politicise” volcanology via the role of scientists in advising authorities. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 calls for a greater role for science in reducing risk. It conceives of science very broadly – incorporating social, physical, medical, economic, agricultural and behavioural sciences into the policy process. This presents an exciting opportunity, yet there are difficulties in approaching the science-policy encounter in the context of risk, especially under high uncertainty and involving multiple disciplines. The paper reviews literature in volcanic risk assessment, science studies and policy studies to suggest that risk requires critical, reflexive, transparent and discursive management through the availability of spaces in which academics of all disciplines, policymakers and stakeholders can openly discuss method, meaning and interpretation of evidence.



Volcanic risk, Interdisciplinary volcanology, Philosophy of risk, Risk assessment, Risk and uncertainty

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Bulletin of Volcanology

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Leverhulme Trust (ECF-2012-609)
Isaac Newton Trust (Minute 1208(g))