Managing value‐laden judgements in regulatory science and risk assessment

science, values, research ethics, risk assessment, transparency, engagement, openscience
First published in the EFSA Journal
8 luglio 2019
29 maggio 2019
Special Issue


This paper argues that value‐laden judgements play an important role in regulatory science and risk assessment. These judgements include choices about what topics to study; what questions to ask about those topics; how best to design studies to answer those questions; how to collect, analyse, and interpret data; and how to frame and communicate findings. Rather than defending a ‘value‐free ideal’ for responding to these judgements, the paper calls for a ‘value‐management ideal’ based on three principles: (1) value‐laden judgements should be handled as transparently as possible; (2) these judgements should be made in ways that reflect social and ethical priorities; and (3) they should be made in a manner that is informed by engagement among interested and affected parties. Based on these principles, the paper suggests several strategies for moving forward to handle value‐laden judgements in regulatory science and risk assessment in a responsible manner. First, decision makers should become more comfortable with scientific disagreement, finding ways to respect different positions on value‐laden judgements and formulate policies despite inconclusive evidence. Second, those engaged in regulatory science should explore creative ways to clarify important judgements and communicate how they are being handled. Third, institutional processes for setting standards and guidelines for regulatory science and risk assessment should be scrutinised to ensure that they provide fair opportunities for all interested and affected parties to participate in and inform those processes.

kce [at]
EFSA Journal 2019;17(S1):e170709