Risk – Perceptions Versus The Data

Professor Richard Clegg


Richard Clegg slides


Risk is a manmade construct, as is probability theory to help us make sense of the world we occupy. It’s human nature to want to control and order things. Even in the absence of certainty we strive to quantify the likelihood and probability of occurrences. For things that don’t fit our model, we call them black swans. And when seemingly unexplainable coincidences occur, we look for hidden meanings that aren’t really there, explaining them away as uncanny or sinister. This talk takes a sideways look at risk from the angle of public perceptions versus reality. It looks at the data behind the hazards and dangers we experience in everyday life, and the psychology of why we seem to accept and tolerate some risks but not others. The talk also compares risks by drawing analogies – for example how many bananas do you need to eat to get the same radiation dose from natural potassium-40 as you do from a dental X-ray?

Why does all this matter? The talk goes on to illustrate how the public understanding of risk is of growing importance in today’s fast-moving, technology-enable world, with technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, big data and nanotechnology moving apace. We live in an interconnected world made up of complex systems. Maybe it’s time to be thinking about risk not in a probabilistic way but deterministically! Perhaps we should we be designing the infrastructure on which modern societies relies with resilience in mind rather than to cope, for example,  with a one-in-a-hundred year event!

About Richard Clegg

Professor Richard Clegg is the Lloyd's Register Foundation Chief Executive.
Richard joined Lloyd’s Register (LR) in 2010 as Global Nuclear Director for the Energy business. He brings a wealth of experience from the nuclear sector and has worked in industry, academia and government in both the civil and defence sectors. Before joining LR, Richard was the Managing Director of the UK's National Nuclear Centre of Excellence. His other posts include Chief Scientist and Board Director at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) and he was the founding Director of the Dalton Nuclear Institute at The University of Manchester. Richard worked for nearly 20 years for British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) where he left as the Corporate Director of Science. His technical background is in radioactive waste disposal and environmental modelling.

Date and Time

Wed 11 October 2017

17:30 – 19:00 BST


Victoria Gallery & Museum

Leggate LT - Victoria Gallery and Museum


L3 5RF


About the Risk Lecture Series:

As part of the effort to connect the research in the Institute with prominent organisations, and to contribute to University's ongoing efforts in reaching out to the general public, an Open Lecture Series in Risk and Uncertainty will take place in 2017. High-profile speakers from government, industry and academia have been invited to deliver talks.