In Search of Perfect Foresight? Policy Bias, Management of Unknowns, and What Has Changed in Science Policy Since the Tohoku Disaster

Mochizuki, J. ORCID: & Komendantova, N. ORCID: (2017). In Search of Perfect Foresight? Policy Bias, Management of Unknowns, and What Has Changed in Science Policy Since the Tohoku Disaster. Risk Analysis 37 (2) 219-230. 10.1111/risa.12602.

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The failure to foresee the catastrophic earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear accident of 2011 has been perceived by many in Japan as a fundamental shortcoming of modern disaster risk science. Hampered by a variety of cognitive and institutional biases, the conventional disaster risk management planning based on the “known risks” led to the cascading failures of the interlinked disaster risk management (DRM) apparatus. This realization led to a major rethinking in the use of science for policy and the incorporations of lessons learned in the country's new DRM policy. This study reviews publicly available documents on expert committee discussions and scientific articles to identify what continuities and changes have been made in the use of scientific knowledge in Japanese risk management. In general, the prior influence of cognitive bias (e.g., overreliance on documented hazard risks) has been largely recognized, and increased attention is now being paid to the incorporation of less documented but known risks. This has led to upward adjustments in estimated damages from future risks and recognition of the need for further strengthening of DRM policy. At the same time, there remains significant continuity in the way scientific knowledge is perceived to provide sufficient and justifiable grounds for the development and implementation of DRM policy. The emphasis on “evidence-based policy” in earthquake and tsunami risk reduction measures continues, despite the critical reflections of a group of scientists who advocate for a major rethinking of the country's science-policy institution respecting the limitations of the current state science.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Catastrophe risk management; science-policy interface; uncertainty
Research Programs: Risk & Resilience (RISK)
Risk, Policy and Vulnerability (RPV)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 07 Apr 2016 07:27
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:26

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