Aim of the course
A chemical pollution or the introduction of a new technology are examples of situations in which risk communication can play an important role. It is often used with the purpose to inform people, to improve decision-making, to stimulate safer behaviour or to prevent or solve conflicts. Interactive communication and a responsive process are important aspects in generating trust among all those involved; understanding the other actors is a first step.

Content of the course
In a classroom setting lectures will be given by various experts from the field. Special attention will be paid to the possibilities and limitations of risk communication in practice. Through assignments the participants will gain practical experience in risk communication.

List of subjects:

  • Risk communication: theory; different models of risk communication
  • Factors determining risk perception (experts vs. general public)
  • Role of the media (incl. press releases, speaking with reporters)
  • Participatory processes
  • Practice of risk communication and strategies by different actors (e.g., general public, NGOs, policy makers and scientists)
  • Presenting risk information: comparing the effect of different formats (words, numbers, graphs, comparisons, framing)
  • Theory on influencing behaviour and attitudes

Outcomes (competences, skills)
On successful completion of the module, participants should:

  • have learned from theory and examples how and why risk perceptions vary among different stakeholders, and how risk communication can be build upon this knowledge;
  • be able to apply the basics of theories on persuasive communication;
  • have a basic understanding of how to write press releases, to choose words, frames, numbers, graphs and risk comparisons;
  • have gained insight in how to ensure a responsive risk communication process.

Lecturers (provisional list)
Henk Mulder (Science Shop, University of Groningen, course organiser Dr. H.A.J. Mulder)
F. Woudenberg (Regional Health Authorities (GGD), Amsterdam)
Science Communicators Utrecht University (UU)
to be confirmed:
M. Jacobs (Foundation Leefmilieu (Living Environment), a Dutch NGO)
a Regulator (such as CTGB, the Board for the Authorisation of Plant Protection Products and Biocides)
a Practitioner (from CBL, the Dutch Food Retail Association)
H. Könemann (formerly RIVM, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment)
N. Lucas Luijckx (TNO Knowledge for Business)
I. van Geest (formerly VWA, Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority)

Student participation in the assignments will be assessed, and if deemed sufficient, no formal examination will take place

Coordinator: ..............
Duration: 1 week
ECTS credits: 1.5
Fee:          see tuition fees (includes reduced fees for PhD students)
Location: Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Utrecht University, Utrecht
For general inquiries please contact the PET Office

To apply please proceed to course registration and for questions please contact the PET Office

Last updated: 28-Feb-19