Examine the Role of Expert and Lay Knowledge in Understanding and Managing Risk.

Topics: Scientific method, Risk management, Expert Pages: 7 (1617 words) Published: April 17, 2013
Examine the role of expert and lay knowledge in understanding and managing risk.

Contents Page

Introduction 3
What is risk?
How do we understand risk?
How do we manage risk?
Expert Knowledge4-5
What is it?
Advantages of expert knowledge
Disadvantage of expert knowledge
Lay Knowledge5-6
What is it?
Advantages of lay knowledge
Disadvantages of lay knowledge
Beck’s Theory of a Risk society6
Case Study: Allotments the London Borough of Hackney.7
Who has the knowledge?
What are the risks?
What is the evidence?
Case Study: Sun tanning. 8-9
Who has the knowledge?
What are the risks?
What is the evidence?


This report will investigate how expert and lay knowledge can be used to understand and manage risk in today's risk society. Using the course materials to explain how different types of knowledge influence how we assess risk. Risk

What is risk?
Risk is ‘a state in which there is a possibility of known danger or harm, which if avoided may lead to benefits.’ (Bromley et al 2009) A risk can be visible, such as an injury sustained by falling off a bicycle, or invisible such as the link between sunbathing and skin cancer. The level of potential harm will affect the degree of risk felt. How do we understand risk?

In today's society risk is almost always associated with a negative outcome. So when we are partaking in any activity we automatically compare the risk to the potential benefit. In order to understand risk we have to gain knowledge about the potential harm, this may be either expert or lay knowledge. How do we manage risk?

By comparing the potential benefits against the potential harm of an activity we can decide whether to partake in that activity. One example of managing risk involves cycling and how risk is reduced by wearing a helmet. In this situation the benefits of cycling remained the same, it is the risk of sustaining serious head injury that is reduced by wearing a helmet (Carter and Jordan 2009, p59). In order for people to assess risk they will often review two types of knowledge. Expert knowledge - knowledge provided by experts.

Lay knowledge - knowledge provided by personal experience.

Expert knowledge
What is it?
Expert knowledge is usually provided by officials in order to inform the general public of the risks that certain activities may pose. There are two main ways of obtaining expert knowledge as discussed by Carter and Jordan (2009), scientific testing is used in the example of the allotments and epidemiology which was used in relation to sunbathing. Both of which have their advantage and disadvantages. Epidemiological findings are often refined and processed into health campaigns and policies.

The advantages of expert knowledge are:
1.Experts have access to knowledge and equipment not available to the layperson. 2.They can complete complex scientific testing.
3.They are able to complete large-scale and long-term research such as epidemiology. 4.Expert assessment of risk can be generalised and can be applied/delivered to specific target groups and the general populace. 5.They are usually employed to assess invisible risks.

The disadvantages of expert knowledge are:
1.There are many different theorists and tests available and they often contradict one another making the results difficult for the public to understand. 2.Political agendas can affect project funding and research. 3.Information is given in blanket statements to the general public and can cause anxiety for non-specific groups. 4.Results from scientific tests can be analysed, reviewed and interpreted differently by different people.

Lay knowledge
What is it?
Lay knowledge is an individual’s interpretation of expert knowledge combined or compared to personal experience. (Carter and...

References: ‘A risky world?’ (2009) Exploring Social Lives [Audio CD 1], Milton Keynes, The Open University.
Bromley, S., Jeffries, E., Meegan, J. and Staples, M. (2009) Learning Companion 3, Introducing the social sciences, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
Carter, S. and Jordan, T. (2009) ‘Living with risk and risky living’, in Bromley, S., Clarke, J., Hinchliffe, S., and Taylor, S,. (eds) Exploring Social Lives, Milton Keynes, The Open University.
http://www.longevity.about.com/od/researchandmedicine/a/vitamin_d.htm accessed on 11July 2012
Word count: 1368
I am still struggling to stick to my study schedule but I found this TMA much easier than the previous ones because it was not an essay. The shorter more concise paragraphs and bullet point are easier for me to link because of my dyslexia.
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