European Master and Certification Program
in Risk Engineering and Management

B2-2: RP&C
Risk Perception and Risk Communication

Course code: 181773
Language of instruction: English
Lecturers: Prof. Dr. rer. pol. Dr. h.c. Ortwin Renn (Universität Stuttgart (ZIRIUS)), Prof. Britt-Marie Drottz Sjöberg (Norwegian University of Science and Technology), MA Vanessa Pfau (Steinbeis Advanced Risk Technologies)
Assessment: Defined in the module

Short description

This course presents theoretical backgrounds and state-of-the-art research issues on perception and communication of risk. It aims to provide a solid basis for further developments of such work tasks by including theoretical achievements in the related fields, various examples from field work, and an internal training exercise. The understanding of communication processes and the improving of information and communication techniques related to risk and hazards are central themes of the course. The course will also provide insight into selected historical aspects as well as current topics and literature. 

In order to facilitate the bridge between theory and practice, a special attention will be given to two methodologies that enable the implementation of Risk Perception and Risk Communication concepts: The Delphi and the Focus Group. Beyond their description, this unit will be complemented with exercises based on experience of Focus & Delphi group work.  


The course will provide the participant with a theoretical background sufficient to develop, investigate and otherwise contribute to research applications in core topics of the fields. It will contribute to develop skills and ability to prepare and conduct data collections based on focus group work. Also the participant shall be able to select fruitful research topics and relevant methodological approaches for further analyses and discussions and shall be able to present research results at conferences and in international publications.

At the end of the course attendees are expected to:
  • have extended knowledge about the research areas
  • understand the basics of reactions to various risk and hazards
  • understand and be able to utilize communication tools in smaller groups as well as larger societal settings.

Target Attendees / Participants

The course is dedicated to the master students within the field of safety and risk and researchers that will specialize in these fields, as well as to professionals in industry/public governance involved in decision processes related to risk.

Course Content by Units

Risk Perception is an internationally widespread and reputed research area of relevance to applied work in various disciplines. Its basis is related to the discussion on "social acceptance" in the 1970s. The research area has gradually developed into a multidisciplinary field which has contributed greatly to the understanding and developing of communication about risk and hazard. The field of psychology is regarded as a central contributor to the discipline, which also includes contributions from other social sciences and the arts, as well as science and technology. Risk Communication focuses on preventative planning and action. The participant of the course shall gain knowledge about the contribution of Psychology and other relevant research areas to the fields of risk perception and risk communication, about ethical issues related to risk research and risk evaluations and about rules and conduct related to public participation processes.

The course includes following units:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Introduction, background

Risk communication research

Introduction to exercise

Experimental and field work results

Relevance to specific work tasks

Risk perception research

Risk communication research


Experimental and field work results

Relevance to society at large

Risk perception research

Risk communication research


Experimental and field work results

Discussion, summing up, evaluation, end of course

Risk perception research

Risk communication research

Discussion, summing up

Discussion: Experimental and field work results


Teaching Methods

The basic theoretical contents of the course are presented in lectures and seminars, and the focus group exercises use one full work day in total. The remaining part of the course is based on self-study with supervision from the professor by email or phone.


From books:

Glickman, T. S., & Gough, M. (2004). Readings in Risk. (Part 1, 5 and 6). Washington, D.C.: Resources for the Future; Baltimore: Distributed by the Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004, ©1990.

Morgan, G. M. Probing the question of technology-induced risk (pp.5-16).
Morgan, G. M. Choosing and managing technology-indused risk (pp. 17-29).
Fischhoff, B. , Watson, S. R., & Hope, C. Defining risk (pp. 30-42).
Starr, C. Social benefit versus technological risk (pp. 183-194).
Plough, A., & Krimsky, S. The emergence of risk communication studies: Social and political context (pp.223-232).
Reed Johnson, F., Fisher, A., Smith, K., & Desvousges, W.H. Informed choice or regulated risk? Lessons from a study in radon risk communication (pp. 247-258).

Roeser, S., Hillerbrand, R., Sandin, P., & Peterson, M. (Eds.), (2012) Handbook of Risk Theory. Epistemology, Decision Theory, Ethics, and Social Implications of Risk. (Chapters 2, 3, 24-29). Heidelberg: Springer.

Chapter 2: Hansson, S. O. A panorama of the philosophy of risk (pp. 27-54)
Chapter 3: Möller, N. The concepts of risk and safety (pp.55-85).
Chapter 24: Risk communication in health (pp. 621-660).
Chapter 25: Sjöberg, L. Risk perception and societal response (pp. 661-675).
Chapter 26: Finucane, M. L. The role of feelings in perceived risk (pp. 677-691).
Chapter 27: Buck, R., & Ferrer, R.Emotion, warnings, and the ethics of risk communication (pp. 693-723).
Chapter 28: Kahan, D. M. Cultural cognition as a conception of the cultural theory of risk (pp. 725-759).
Chapter 29: Drottz-Sjöberg, B.-M. Tools for risk communication (pp. 761-787).


Drottz-Sjøberg, B.-M. (2010). Perceptions of nuclear wastes across extreme time perspectives. Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy, 1, 231-253.

Drottz-Sjöberg, B.-M., & Persson, L. (1993). Public reaction to radiation: fear, anxiety, or phobia? Health Physics, 64, 223-231.

Drottz-Sjöberg, B.-M., & Charpak, Y. (2011). Science, H1N1 and society: Towards a more pandemic-resilient society. Final report from the Expert Group on “Science, H1N1 and Society”. Brussels, 15/06/2011.

Krauss, R. M., & Fussel, S. R. (1996). Social psychological models of interpersonal communication. In E. T. Higgins and A. W. Kruglanski. Social Psychology. Handbook of Basic Principles (pp. 655-701). New York: The Guilford Press.

Robson, C. (1993). Real World Research. A Resource for Social Scientists and Practitioners Researchers. Chapter 8-9 (pp. 191-268). Oxford: Blackwell.

Sjöberg, L. & Drottz Sjöberg, B.-M. (2008). Risk perception by politicians and the public. Energy & Environment, 19, No 3+4, 455-485.

Sjöberg, L., & Drottz-Sjöberg, B.-M. (2001). Fairness, risk and risk tolerance in the siting of a nuclear waste repository. Journal of Risk Research, 4, 75-101.

Text books are not included in the course price. It is expected that the students buy the text books in advance. Also articles need to be ordered by the student through ordinary channels.  

For more information about the European Master and Certification Program in Risk Engineering and Management in general, go the Homepage.
For more information about the European Master Program in Risk Engineering and Management in general, go the Master Study page.
To see more courses in the curriculum, go to The curriculum page, or by date and topic go to the Calendar of Courses page.
Contact: via email or phone +49 711 1839 781 or +49 711 1839 647
(Course profile ID: B2-2:, generated on July 23, 2018)