Web-Available Articles
by Peter M. Sandman

2013

  • The San Onofre Controversy: What Should Southern California Edison Do?

    Guest column (part one), “energybiz” website, May 30, 2013

    The San Onofre Controversy: What Should We Criticize … and What Should We Praise?

    Guest column (part two), “energybiz” website, June 2, 2013

    On May 16, 2013, Ken Silverstein interviewed me by telephone about a controversy regarding the San Onofre nuclear power plant. Had the plant’s owner, Southern California Edison, been warned in advance about a possible steam generator problem? If so, should the company have redesigned the system, and should it have told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission? And later, when the problem materialized, led to radiation leaks, and forced the plant to shut down, did it lie about whether it had been warned? I later followed up with an email, focusing on the case against keeping secrets. Both Ken’s May 17 Forbes story and my email are online.

    On May 29, Ken sent me a link to a follow-up story he had posted on the “energybiz” website, and asked for further comment. When he read the email I sent in return, he requested my okay to post it on “energybiz” as a two-part guest column. Part one considers what sort of risk communication Southern California Edison should be doing to address the issue, and whether it is a “crisis” or merely a “controversy.” Part two argues that while the company may deserve criticism for how it handled the steam generator warning, we shouldn’t criticize any company merely for having “warnings in its files about possible problems it decided not to fix.” A reader's comment on Part two provoked me to add a comment of my own, addressing the “near miss paradox”: whether near misses should be seen as evidence of safety or of danger.

    The “energybiz” and Forbes articles are located off this site.
    The May 16 email is located on this site.

    These articles are categorized as:    link to Outrage Management index

  • Atomic Show #205 – Peter Sandman teaches nuclear communicators (Note: Link goes off-site to a page with this 102-min. audio)

    Podcast for the “Atomic Insights” website, May 31, 2013 (with Rod Adams, Margaret Harding, Meredith Angwin, and Suzy Hobbs-Baker)

    Rod Adams runs a website called “Atomic Insights” that promotes nuclear power. In early May 2013 he discovered my approach to outrage management, and put posts on his own website and on an American Nuclear Society website urging nuclear power proponents to learn outrage management. The responses to his two posts led Rod to invite me to do this podcast.

    The podcast itself runs 1 hour and 42 minutes. Most of it is a basic introduction to risk communication and then to outrage management: the hazard-versus-outrage distinction, the components of outrage, the three paradigms of risk communication, the key strategies of outrage management, etc. But I did try to focus especially on what the nuclear power industry and its supporters get wrong – for example, imagining that their core communication mistake is failing to sell their strengths effectively, whereas I believe it is failing to acknowledge their problems candidly. There are recommendations for nuclear communication throughout the podcast, and a Q&A at the end with Rod and fellow proponents Margaret Harding, Meredith Angwin, and Suzy Hobbs-Baker. The plan is to follow up with a second podcast, a more narrowly focused roundtable discussion among the five of us on nuclear power outrage management.

    Link off-site to a page with this 102-min. audio.

    This article is categorized as:    link to Introductory articles   link to Outrage Management index

  • More Spin than Science: Risk Communication about the H5N1 Bioengineering Research Controversy (speech notes)

    link is to an audio MP3 fileMore Spin than Science: Risk Communication about the H5N1 Bioengineering Research Controversy (audio file)
    (Note: This link launches an MP3 audio file from this site.)

    Presented via telephone at a conference on “Freedom in Biological Research: How to Consider Accidental or Intentional Risks for Populations,” Fondation Mérieux and Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Veyrier-du-lac, France, February 8, 2013

    The controversy over whether scientists should be allowed to bioengineer potentially pandemic bird flu viruses had pretty much died down by the time I was asked to speak at a February 2013 conference on the issue in France. Since I had criticized the controversy’s consistently miserable risk communication, I was delighted that at least one post mortem conference wanted a risk communication perspective. But I had prior commitments and couldn’t go. When the organizers invited me to present by telephone instead, I jumped at the chance. My speech notes are more extensive than I had time for in the actual presentation. On the other hand, the MP3 recording of the actual presentation includes about 25 minutes of Q&A. My presentation was mostly borrowed from my previous articles and Guestbook entries on the controversy, all of which are listed and linked at the end of the notes.

    These files are located on this site.

    This article is categorized as:    link to Pandemic and Other Infectious Diseases index

2012

  • Talking to the Public about H5N1 Biotech Research (original longer version)

    Submitted to Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, March 18, 2012

    Talking to the Public about H5N1 Biotech Research    (accepted shorter version)

    Published in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, April 15, 2012

    The H5N1 (“bird flu”) virus is incredibly deadly to humans, but almost never transmits from human to human – at least until late 2011, when two teams of scientists bioengineered H5N1 to make it transmissible in mammals. Now a battle rages over whether the two papers detailing this work should be published, and whether the work itself should continue – and whether the concerns of the general public should be considered in making these decisions. When I was quoted in Nature urging proponents to dialogue with critics rather than merely trying to “educate” them, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News asked me to write a brief opinion piece expanding on my view. Both the short version accepted for publication and a somewhat longer version (with a little more background on the controversy) I submitted at the same time are posted on this site.

    These files are located on this site.

    This article is categorized as:    link to Pandemic and Other Infectious Diseases index

  • Flu Vaccination of Healthcare Workers: Two Risk Communication Issues

    by Peter M. Sandman and Jody Lanard

    Comments on draft recommendations link is to a PDF file of the Healthcare Personnel Influenza Vaccination Subgroup, National Vaccine Program Office, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, submitted January 14, 2012

    The public health establishment in the U.S. is pushing hard for mandatory flu vaccination of healthcare workers (HCWs), chiefly on the grounds that vaccinated HCWs are less likely to give patients the flu. A committee of the National Vaccine Program Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued draft recommendations link is to a PDF file that included mandatory vaccination if organizations fail to vaccinate at least 90% of HCWs voluntarily. Comments on the draft were solicited, so on January 14, 2012 my wife and colleague Jody Lanard and I submitted some. We focused on two risk communication issues: the dangers of overstating flu vaccination benefits, and the dangers of requiring reluctant HCWs to get vaccinated.

    This file is located on this site.

    This article is categorized as:    link to Pandemic and Other Infectious Diseases index

2011

  • link is to an audio MP3 fileRisk = Hazard + Outrage: Risk Communication Briefing for IT Security Professionals
    (Note: Link off-site to a page with this 67-min. audio)

    Presented at the Oracle Chief Security Officer Summit, San Francisco CA, October 4, 2011

    Some Oracle people had heard me speak at a conference on financial information security (for bank IT people, mostly), and asked me to do something similar for its 2011 annual IT security “summit.” The presentation does give occasional IT examples, but mostly it’s an introduction to the basics of risk communication – especially the hazard-versus-outrage distinction and the three main risk communication paradigms (precaution advocacy, crisis communication, and outrage management). As usual, audience interest focused mostly on outrage management – especially how to calm stakeholders after a breach that turned out minor. They were less interested in how to arouse stakeholder concern about the possibility of a serious breach, a precaution advocacy issue – though arousing CEO concern had some appeal.

    This is an audio MP3 file, 62.9MB, 67 min., located off this site.

    This article is categorized as:    link to Introductory articles

2010

  • Presented to the National Public Health Information Coalition, Miami Beach FL, October 21, 2009

    Although this six-hour seminar was entitled “Three Paradigms of Radiological Risk Communication,” NPHIC asked me to go easy on the “radiological” part and give participants a broad introduction to my approach to risk communication, mentioning radiation issues from time to time. So that’s what I did.

    Fair warning: These are not professional videos. NPHIC member Joe Rebele put a camera in the back of the room and let it run. You won’t lose much listening to the MP3 audio files on this site instead.

    Part 1 (90-min.)

    Part One is a introduction to the hazard-versus-outrage distinction and the three paradigms of risk communication.

    Part Two (155 min)

    Part Two discusses the seesaw and other risk communication games (thus completing the introductory segment), then spends a little over an hour each on some key strategies of precaution advocacy and outrage management.

    Part Three (72-min.)

    Part Three is a rundown on some key crisis communication strategies.

    This article is categorized as:    link to Introductory articles   link to Precaution Advocacy index   link to Crisis Communication index   link to Outrage Management index

  • The 2009 Berreth Lecture, presented to the National Public Health Information Coalition, Miami Beach FL, October 20, 2009

    The National Public Health Information Coalition is an organization of federal, state, and local health department communicators. NPHIC asked me to give its 2009 “Berreth Lecture” at its annual conference in Miami Beach – and specified that the presentation should be about myself and my career, not the substance of risk communication. But as I walked the group through my 40 years in risk communication, a substantive theme emerged: that public health communicators are at least as untrustworthy as corporate communicators, that nobody has the courage to trust the public with those parts of the truth that conflict with the message, and that public health agencies need to learn how to cope better with mistrust and outrage. I illustrated my thesis with a lot of flu and other infectious diseases examples. I had written the speech out in advance – something I almost never do – but I departed from my text more than a little, so both versions are here.

    The written speech file is located on this site.
    The audio file is located on this site.
    The video file is located off this site.

  • This article is categorized as:    link to Outrage Management index   link to Pandemic and Other Infectious Diseases index

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

The video files are located off this site. The audio files are located on this site.

Thes files are categorized as:   link to Crisis Communication index

2003–2000

1999 – 1990

1989 – 1980

1979 – 1970

Many other articles by Peter Sandman are available from non-electronic sources. The list of publications is periodically updated and modified, and is available as a part of the Curriculum Vitae.

      Comment or Ask      Read the comments

Contact Information:   Peter M. Sandman

Mailing address:
9 Prospect Park W Apt 15A
Brooklyn, NY 11215-1741
Email:  peter@psandman.com
Phone: (718) 208-6271
Fax: (609) 683-0566


Website design and management provided by SnowTao Editing Services.