COM-23306 Risk Communication


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Literature study
Problem-based learning22
Course coordinator(s)ir. MEA Muijres
Lecturer(s)dr. AM Lokhorst
dr. PM Poortvliet
prof. dr. CMJ van Woerkum
Examiner(s)prof. dr. CMJ van Woerkum
dr. AM Lokhorst
dr. PM Poortvliet

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

One of the introductory courses of Communication Science


This intensive course provides insight into theoretical and practical-strategic matters of risk communication. Special attention will be given to the life sciences and life science technologies such as biotechnology, genomics and (bio-)nanotechnology. In our rapidly changing knowledge society, experts and non-experts tend to have different appreciations of science and technology issues. What exactly is the nature of these differences and what are the communicative implications? We will discuss psychological theories regarding risk perception. How do people process complex information regarding particular risks and what is the role of emotions therein? How does media coverage of risks affect the public's sense of anxiety? Attention will also be paid to sociological theories of risk and trust. Is there a general mistrust of science and technology, and can this be explained by a trust or knowledge deficit of the public? Under what conditions are institutions capable of handling and communicating risks? Throughout the course assignments and group work help students to translate theoretical insights to risk communication practices based on their own choice.

Learning outcomes:

After this course, students:
- know the core theoretical concepts in the field of risk communication;
- are able to identify relevant social processes related to the perception and acceptance of risks;
- have a set of analytical skills to evaluate current communication practices in the field of risk communication;
- are able to apply these insights so as to facilitate effective and legitimate forms of risk communication.


Part of the course is devoted to class teaching during which there will be ample opportunity for interaction and discussion. Assignments will be done in couples. During the course, students are expected to present (part of) their assignments.


The students will be evaluated on the basis of their theoretical knowledge and their analytical and facilitating skills with respect to risk communication. The final grade for the course will be based on a written exam (2/3) and assignments (1/3). The assignments are to be carried out in pairs.


A complete up to date course description will be available at the secretariat of Communication Science. A reader will be available two weeks before the first class session.

Compulsory for: BCLCommunication and Life SciencesBSc4WD
Compulsory for: WUECLBSc Minor Communication, Research and Practice4WD