Paradoxes of 'Safety'

Professor Jerry Ravetz
James Martin Institute, Oxford

Date: 11 October 2005
: 1:00pm - 2:30pm
: CARR Seminar Room, H615


In this lecture I suggest that we look again at 'safety', as a concept not merely of use in the SHE activities, but as a way to shed light on our present predicaments. The old linear 'risks' model, of research entailing policy, is no longer fully effective. Current hazards are complex (many stakeholders and conflicting goals) as well as uncertain. 'Safety' as an attribute is pragmatic, contextual, moral and recursive. Thus 'How safe is safe enough?' is the typical paradoxical policy issue now. To illustrate all this I discuss my 'Catch-22 Haiku' on 'Safety in the Global Knowledge Economy'. Finally, I discuss the role of paradox in our efforts to cope with the new problems of safety.

Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilization at the University of Oxford.
His principal published works include: Scientific Knowledge and its Social Problems; The Merger of Knowledge with Power (with S.O. Funtowicz); Uncertainty and Quality in Science for Policy; (co-edited with Zia Sardar) Cyberfutures and Introducing Mathematics. He is now an independent scholar and self-employed consultant, working mainly on problems of the management of uncertainty in risks and environmental issues.