Principle 6

Uncertainty Guidance varies with the context, origins and consumer of the information. Effective Uncertainty Guidance is tailored to the aims, understanding, and risk-appetite of the consumer.


For the consequences of uncertainty in scientific information to be understood and appropriately acted upon, the uncertainty itself must be communicated effectively. For numerate users in sectors such as insurance, this might include very quantitative measures of model variability. For users who are more concerned with preventive action, or the very risk-averse, an overall expert synthesis may be more appropriate. There is, of course, greater confidence in some outcomes and projections than in others.   


It is clear that a one-size-fits-all approach to the provision of uncertainty information is not appropriate; it will fail to satisfy the most numerate at the same time as it intimidates less numerate users into omitting any consideration of uncertainty at all. Rather than dropping to a lowest-common-denominator, or insisting that all consumers must learn statistical methods before taking into account any climate information, it makes sense to tailor uncertainty guidance for different contexts.

This is also a resource-constrained exercise: time spent on providing tailored uncertainty guidance is time not spent on conducting the original analysis; we contend, though, that uncertainty guidance is an integral part of an uncertainty analysis. It also requires definition of the audience, but if the consumers of the information are unknown then the utility of the whole exercise is questionable.

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Comments on Principle 6

Dewi Le Bars - P06-0725
I don't like "consumer of information". This comes from economics consumerism. The information is not consumed, it is used. So I would prefer "user of information".

There are objections to every possible word used here. Our use is not intended to have the negative connotations you note. Another alternative we often use is “practitioner.” Should a glossary ever come into being, we will make these distinctions more clear. Thank you for the comment, as it helps start that clarification. (LAS)