Michael Smithson

Michael Smithson is a Professor in the Psychology Department at The Australian National University in Canberra. He has written 6 books, co-edited 3, and published more than 120 refereed articles and book chapters. His research interests focus on how people think about and respond to unknowns. He also blogs at Best Thinking.

Blog Posts

Scientists on Trial: Risk Communication Becomes Riskier

Posted on 29 September 2011 by Michael Smithson

Back in late May 2011, there were news stories of charges of manslaughter laid against six earthquake experts and a government advisor responsible for evaluating the threat of natural disasters in Italy, on grounds that they allegedly failed to give sufficient warning about the devastating L'Aquila earthquake in 2009.  In addition, plaintiffs in a separate civil case are seeking damages in the order of €22.5 million (US$31.6 million). The first hearing of the criminal trial occurred on Tuesday the 20th of September, and the second session is scheduled for October 1st.

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Communicating about Uncertainty in Climate Change, Part II

Posted on 22 June 2011 by Michael Smithson

(This is a two-part post on communicating about probability and uncertainty in climate change. Read Part I.)

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Communicating about Uncertainty in Climate Change, Part I

Posted on 31 May 2011 by Michael Smithson

(This is a two-part post on communicating about probability and uncertainty in climate change. Read Part II.)

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Addressing the “Balanced Coverage” Issue in the Media

Posted on 17 May 2011 by Michael Smithson

The tactics and techniques for manufacturing doubt in the face of a scientific consensus were perfected by major tobacco companies during the 1950’s and 60’s, in their efforts to discredit cancer researchers’ burgeoning evidence of the link between smoking and lung cancer. In his 1995 book “Cancer Wars,” Robert Proctor documented the influences of professional, economic, and political interest groups on American governmental priorities and funding of cancer research. An infamous 1969 memo from one corporate executive declared that “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

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