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How do Swedish Government agencies define risk?


This study is guided by two research questions: first, how is the word riskdefined by Swedish Government agencies and, second, do these agencies use the word risk consistently with how it is defined? These questions are answered by first selecting relevant agencies and then systematically searching for definitions of risk on these agencies’ websites. The study demonstrates that risk is defined in 14 ways, many of which vaguely express the idea that risk is the probability of an unwanted event multiplied by some measure of its consequences. The study also demonstrates that agencies often define risk in ways that are inconsistent with how they use the term (i.e. over and above how it is defined). The findings are discussed in light of normative desiderata for effective risk communication and risk management. The paper concludes with six recommendations for improving definitions of risk used by public agencies.

Keywords: Concept of risk, public administration, stipulative definition, inconsistency


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