A practical guide to uncertainty communication has been developed for the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. It offers background information on uncertainty communication, and contains suggestions and guidance on how to communicate uncertainties in environmental assessment reports to several target audiences in an adequate, clear, and systematic way. It is not claimed that this is the only way or the best way to communicate uncertainty information, but the guidance in this report draws upon insights from the literature, insights from an international expert workshop on uncertainty communication, and several uncertainty communication experiments in the Utrecht Policy Laboratory.
The report contains three parts. Part I gives a general introduction to the issue of communicating uncertainty information. It offers guidelines for (fine)tuning the communication to the intended audiences and context of a report, discusses how readers of a report tend to handle uncertainty information, and ends with a list of criteria that uncertainty communication needs to meet to increase its effectiveness. Part II helps writers to analyze the context in which communication takes place, and helps to map the audiences, and their information needs. It further helps to reflect upon anticipated uses and possible impacts of the uncertainty information on the policy debates. Finally, in part II assistance is offered in customising the (uncertainty) information of an assessment for communication and reporting purposes. Part III contains practical information on how to communicate uncertainties. It addresses aspects of uncertainty that might be important in a specific situation, do's and don'ts, pitfalls to be avoided, and hints on how to communicate this uncertainty information.
The report focuses mainly on uncertainty communication in written material (especially reports), since the major part of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency's communication takes place by means of reports. For scientific audiences there are reasonably well-established protocols for communicating uncertainty. Therefore, this report mainly focuses on written communication towards non-technical audiences. Since policy makers are the primary target audience of publications by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, special attention is given to this audience.
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The report is a supplement to the RIVM/MNP Guidance on Uncertainty Assessment and Communication