Publication Title

Journal of Hazardous Materials


risk assessment

Document Type



This paper describes four types of uncertainty confronted by decisionmakers undertaking risk assessments. It then discusses individual and institutional responses to uncertainty; these include both formal attempts to acquire more information, and pragmatic efforts to isolate and act upon salient considerations. The tendency of decisionmakers to narrow the agenda and search for a decisive datum or metaphor is called guerilla decisionmaking. Courts oversee agency decisions by techniques known widely in the legal community as the hard-look doctrine. This doctrine is defined, and the case law is used to illustrate how courts insist upon identification of salient risk-assessment factors and the production of information on all four types of uncertainty.

[The paper was prepared for the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Annual Meeting, New York, Mary 24-29, 1984, Symposium on Uncertainty in the Law and Science of Health Risk Assessment, and has been updated and revised.]



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