Decisions about the use of science and technology are made by:
Public regulation can be introduced to reduce risk.
To make a decision, people need to take account of the benefits and risks to individuals and groups of people.
People are more willing to accept a risk if:
How people think about a risk can be different to the calculated risk. For example, people may think of the risk of flying as being much higher than calculations show. Or they may think cycling is less risk than is actually calculated.
In general people tend to overestimate the risk of things that are unfamiliar, invisible or long term.
When making a decision about the introduction of science and technology, the benefits and risks should be considered, as well as who is affected, how and why.
|What||Reduction in disease||Each child has a low risk of becoming sick after the vaccination|
|Who||All or almost all children in the UK||All children vaccinated|
|How/why||If all or almost all individuals are vaccinated against a disease it is unlikely to spread (herd immunity)||A vaccine introduces a small and usually ineffective version of the disease into the child's body to cause an immune response|
To make the decision on what to do, identify some possible actions:
Each option will have a different balance of benefit and risk. To balance the benefits and risks of each action consider the level of benefit compared with the level of risk.
The number of people who benefit compared with the number of people at risk:
The preferred balance is to benefit many people and put only a few people at risk.
The least favourable balance is to benefit only a few people and put many people at risk.
In this example, vaccinating all or nearly all children in the UK benefits them all. It also puts all that receive the vaccine at risk, so the situation is fairly balanced. This is not always the case.