Probabilistic Risk Analysis: Assessment, Management, and Communication

Course Director Kimberly M. Thompson, Associate Professor of Risk Analysis and Decision Science, offered a unique Continuing Education course called "Probabilistic Risk Analysis: Assessment, Management, and Communication" in Boston at the Harvard School of Public Health starting in 2000 and then annually until 2004. The course was designed for professionals within medicine, public health, government, industry, consulting groups, trade associations, academia, law firms, journalism, NGOs, and other organizations who wanted to advance their knowledge of probabilistic risk analysis.

Understanding the basics of probabilistic risk analysis is critical to staying on the forefront of risk analysis, and this program offered the tools that participants needed to take the next step in their continuing education. The unique course brought together nationally and internationally known experts from different disciplines to teach the common elements of probabilistic risk assessment, management, and communication.  Using a practical and integrated approach than combined lectures with case examples, this program taught the methods needed to manage risks in today's variable and uncertain world. Government agencies, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services (including CDC, FDA, etc.), Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission now use probabilistic risk analysis in the context of decision making and regulation. Numerous industries use these tools in their decision making to help determine the value of research before they make significant investments, and physicians use these tools to improve patient care.

The course included lectures by the following expert international course faculty:
George Apostolakis, David Burmaster, Karl Claxton, Roger Cooke, Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox, Jr., Sharon Dunwoody, Marc Lipsitch, Greg Paoli, Azhar Qureshi, Kimberly Thompson, David Vose, and Richard Williams.

Upon completion of this course, participants were expected to be able to:

  • Critically review probabilistic risk assessments
  • Distinguish variability and uncertainty, particularly in the context of risk management
  • Understand the impacts of choices made to characterize information from data and experts
  • Explore the use of Bayesian methods in risk assessments
  • Communicate probabilistic risk assessment results
Participants were expected to bring a working knowledge of risk analysis, and feel reasonably confident about their abilities to apply mathematical reasoning and use computers for problem solving.