8 Risk communication

Risk communication includes the dissemination of probability information among parties involved in biosecurity management. However, as people have different educational backgrounds and experience in working with probability information communication of risk analysis outputs can lead to misunderstandings. This should be taken into account when communicating risk to stakeholders.

CEBRA undertook a review of relevant literature and found that the understanding of probabilities can be enhanced by presenting natural frequencies (x out of y instead of percentage) and by visual representation of probability data.95 Other research highlighted the importance of comprehensive stakeholder analysis as the basis for stakeholder engagement. The proposed stakeholder analysis and mapping tool are a means to improve the effectiveness and public acceptability of risk assessment processes and to facilitate risk management.96 In further research, the use of mental models proved a useful tool for capturing communities’ level of knowledge and understanding of biosecurity risks and should be part of any communication strategy.97 CEBRA also provided training in the use of plain English in biosecurity risk documentation. Experimental workshops showed that clear prose improved reader comprehension and reduced reading time, which is important for communication in science, policy and decision-making.98 These developments were advanced recently in a project aimed at improving the transparency of reasoning and the use of data in risk assessments based on argument maps. These developments are currently being deployed in MPI and DAWE (Quote 9 and Quote 10).

Quote 9: Karen Pugh, Manager Horticulture Imports, MPI

I have been using Argument Mapping for the past 4 years. I use this tool every day and find it an easier way of communicating risks, updates, and it allows flexibility.

Quote 10: Melanie Newfield, Manager Plants and Pathways Risk Assessment, MPI

The single most useful training course in my career was argument mapping. It was immediately relevant in terms of making lasting change. It was a turning point in linking risk analysis and risk management.


95. Caponecchia, C. (2007). Strategies for the effective communication of probabilities. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 0608.

96. Gilmour, J. & Beilin, R. (2007). Stakeholder mapping for effective risk assessment and communication. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 0609.

97. Gilmour, J., Beilin, R. & Sysak, T. (2009). Using stakeholder mapping and analysis with a mental models approach for biosecurity risk communication with peri-urban communities. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 0801.

98. Thomason, N. et al. (2008). Plain English for Risk Communication. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 0805.