Lee Wilkins
University of Missouri-Columbia

This essay outlines some of the major social-science based understandings in the fields of risk assessment, risk perception, and risk communication emphasizing the theoretical strengths and weaknesses of these various approaches to “thinking about” risk. The essay emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of the field and the role that scientific expertise about risk should and should not play in democratic societies. It concludes with a brief overview of how these findings might apply to the specific case of agbiotech, particularly in light of cultural understandings about the role of science in modern life.

Key words: Risk communication; risk; risk perception; mass communication; politics; public understanding of science.