Theory informed by practice. Application informed by purpose. Why to understand and manage risk, cultural context is the key

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (SciVal)
327 Downloads (Pure)


Risk analysis and risk management are reliant in order to be effective on their ability to engage with and communicate to non-specialist audiences, whether these be policy-makers asked to turn the advice that they agree with into practice, those implementing decisions, or the public, who are often on the receiving end of these.

Accordingly, there needs to be clarity of purpose regarding – and reflected through – the language used, the partners engaged, and the proposed ends of any measures to be implemented. These elements sit within specific cultural contexts – both geographical and historical – and it is essential to account for these in translating theory into practice.

This article surveys the discourse used across various examples, including a detailed case study. The most significant conclusion is that while data and evidence certainly matter for validation – understanding culture remains key to effective risk analysis and trustworthy risk management because, on the whole, people look for meaning beyond the mere ‘facts’. This applies to risks assumed to be narrowly technical as much as those with a strong social, cultural and political dimension.

Few risk analysts and safety experts consider or account for the broader, contextual and cultural factors that impact their choices, analyses and modes of dissemination. This creates a divide between those commissioning and conducting the research and those to whom it is held to apply and needs to be implemented by, which undermines democratic accountability, as well as the possible benefits of, and trust in, their enterprise.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-254
Number of pages11
JournalSafety Science
Issue numberB
Early online date29 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • Risk
  • Culture
  • Trust
  • Values
  • Strategy
  • Engagement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Theory informed by practice. Application informed by purpose. Why to understand and manage risk, cultural context is the key'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this