Rethinking Decision Making in the Face of Scientific Uncertainty: Operationalizing the Precautionary Principle

EPA Grant Number: U915163
Title: Rethinking Decision Making in the Face of Scientific Uncertainty: Operationalizing the Precautionary Principle
Investigators: Tickner, Joel A.
Institution: University of Massachusetts - Lowell
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: September 1, 1997 through September 1, 2000
Project Amount: $102,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Environmental , Academic Fellowships , Environmental Justice


The objective of this research project is to develop and apply a model structure and process to operationalize the precautionary principle in environmental and occupational health decision making concerning toxic substances. Specific questions being asked include:

1. How can the precautionary decision rule be operationalized in environmental and occupational health decisionmaking regarding toxic substances?

2. Why has the precautionary approach not been operationalized in environmental and public health decision making to date?


Through the use of qualitative research methods (case studies and document analysis), the research will analyze and explain the theory and practical execution of specific aspects of a precautionary approach. The case studies being analyzed are: (1) burden shifting and lowering in new chemicals regulation under Section 5 of the Toxic Substances Control Act; and (2) the association-based weight of evidence process by which veterans’ compensation decisions were made on the Institute of Medicine Committee on Agent Orange. Lessons learned through the case studies then will be applied to a structure for operationalizing the precautionary principle in administrative decision making. This structure will then be applied to a contemporary decision made using current decision making approaches to determine how the precautionary principle might change administrative decision making.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, toxic substances, Agent Orange, Institute of Medicine Committee on Agent Orange, veteran?s compensation, decision making, TSCA, new chemicals regulation, occupational health., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, State, Economics and Business, decision-making, Ecological Risk Assessment, Social Science, Economics & Decision Making, precuationary principle, environmental decision making, decision making, occupational health, environmental policy, environmental law, Florida

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1998
  • 1999
  • Final