Review and evaluation of research literature on public nuclear risk perception and implications

Executive Summary

This independent review of the research literature on public nuclear risk perception was funded by the Australian Uranium Association. The report details a series of systematic searches and selective review of academic literature using SCOPUS and EBSCO Megafile Complete databases; the latter including the databases MEDLINE, PsycARTICLES, Communication Abstracts, PsycINFO, and socINDEX.

The aims of this review were:

  • To identify the main academic research studies into risk perception, especially nuclear risk perception, over the past 25 years (or longer, if necessary) and identify and advise on any groundbreaking research areas identified since the initial seminal work was undertaken by Slovic and others
  • To identify the most up-to-date research that has been published, or possibly is being undertaken currently
  • To summarise the main findings and conclusions from the literature review in regard to nuclear risk perception, and
  • To identify any research in which the findings of nuclear risk perception research has been used to inform nuclear communications strategies (including risk communications strategies)

The first stage of the review process was to scope the risk perception literature. Early simple searches with the term “risk perception” identified more than 37,000 research articles published in this area in the period 1990-2011; with more than 22,000 articles published in the period 2007-date. Risk perception research was published across a wide range of subject areas; with medicine, social science, engineering, psychology, and environmental science accounting for the greatest proportions of research in this area, respectively. The broad and extensive body of literature was such that it was clear from the outset that more complex, multiple search terms and other filters were needed to narrow searches to a manageable size.

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