About the Risk Science Center
The University of Michigan Risk Science Center is an interdisciplinary research center dedicated to supporting science-informed decision-making on existing and emerging human health risks that is responsive to today's rapidly changing social, economic and political global landscape. Drawing on expertise spanning public health, risk assessment, medicine, business, engineering, public policy, social research, economics and communication, the Center brings a unique and integrative approach to the increasingly complex challenges of addressing health risks associated with technological, social and economic change, while balancing the need for sustainable social and economic growth
As well as research, the center supports a range of activities and events – to receive regular updates, please join our email list.
Here you will find information on the center’s vision, mission, core activities, funding, core principles, governance, and historic context.
For further information, please contact Annie Whalen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The vision of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center is enabling evidence-based and socially responsive action on human health risks.
The UM Risk Science Center's mission is to:
Support cross-disciplinary, integrative research on understanding and addressing existing and emerging risks to human health, and explore innovative ways to balance risks and benefits;
Equip current and future risk professionals with the understanding they need to address increasingly complex human health risks in a rapidly changing technological and social landscape; and
Provide decision-makers and decision-influencers with credible resources needed to support evidence-informed and socially-responsive decisions on current and emerging health risk issues.
- Research: By bringing together researchers, stakeholders and potential funders from a wide range of sectors, the UM Risk Science Center is enabling emerging research needs and opportunities to be identified and addressed. Center members are participating in a number of federally-funded research projects addressing human health risks, including studying potential health impacts associated with engineered nanomaterials, developing new approaches to modeling risk, and exploring approaches to effective risk communication. In addition, the center is developing a number of Focus Initiatives to grow and enhance expertise and communities in key areas. These currently include Risk Assessment, Risk Communication, Risk Governance and Transportation Safety.
- Education and training: The UM Risk Science Center provides graduate students with a foundation in evidence-based approaches to human health risks through a number of mechanisms. A new Certificate Program on Risk Science and Human Health (to be launched September 2012) will enable students to develop critical skills in quantitative risk analysis, systems approaches to risk, sustainability and cost/benefit, and risk communication and management. Within the Department of Environmental Health Sciences the Risk Science sub-plan of the School of Public Health Masters of Public Health is built around a risk science-centric curriculum. And a growing number of courses within the School of Public Health are reflecting aspects of risk science in their curricula. The center also organizes a wide range of seminars and events aimed at exploring new ideas and thinking surrounding human health risks, including the Risk Science Unplugged series of discussions.
- Partnerships: The UM Risk Science Center actively explores mechanisms to bring people together and help grow risk science-related partnerships; from developing research collaborations, to working with the media, to working through social media, to holding workshops and other meetings that serve community needs. The center website forms the hub of the Center's partnership-building efforts, and provides a platform where researchers and stakeholders can keep abreast of developments and opportunities in the field of risk science, and engage with one another. The center actively engages with partners and stakeholders through social media, including the Risk Science Blog, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Each month, the center publishes a Monthly Update of events, activities and publications.
Core funding for the center currently comes from individual donations, including a major gift from by the Gelman Educational Foundation, and from project-specific research grants. To support the Center, a gift can be made online or mailed to: UM Risk Science Center 1415 Washington Heights, Suite 6611 Ann Arbor, MI, 48109.
The center currently supports three full time faculty (Andrew Maynard, who also directs the center; Rick Neitzel and Diana Bowman), and two staff (Managing Director Tracy Swinburn and Center Coordinator Annie Whalen). Affiliated faculty members, student affiliates and associate members draw on a wide range of disciplines, expertise and areas of interest.
All UM Risk Science Center activities are guided by three principles:
Transparency: The operation of the Risk Science Center, and research and other activities supported by the Center, will be open and transparent. Details of research and other activities supported by the Center will be publically accessible, and no activities directly supported by the Center will lead to proprietary information. Research supported by the Center will be published in the public domain, and will remain under complete control of the investigators.
Independence: The activities of the Risk Research Center will remain, at all times, independent of the funders supporting the Center. Data and other products developed through the Center will remain under complete control of the faculty primarily responsible for them. The Risk Science Center will not support research or other activities that lead to proprietary information, or that are subject to vetting by funders.
Accountability: Researchers and others funded through the Risk Science Center will be held accountable to the highest academic standards.
The Risk Science Center is guided by two advisory boards:
The Internal Advisory Board comprises of 6 – 10 members from across the University of Michigan. Internal Advisory Board members help identify and facilitate cross-disciplinary collaborations across campus; provide insight on funding opportunities; and advise on the activities and operation of the center. Members of the Internal Advisory Board serve for 3-year terms (renewable).
The External Advisory Board advises on the Risk Science Center’s strategy, development and activities, and review progress toward strategic goals. The primary roles of the External Advisory Board is to provide expert advice on the Center’s strategy and its implementation; to ensure multi- stakeholder input to the Center; to advise on funding and outreach opportunities; to review and evaluate the work of the Center; and to help establish the Center as a credible, authoritative and high impact organization.
The External Advisory Board consists of 15 – 20 members representing academia, industry, non government organizations, policy makers and decision-influencers. Members of the External Advisory Board serve for 2-year terms (renewable).
In addition, ad hoc working groups are convened as needed to address specific opportunities and issues.
In 2004 the University of Michigan Risk Science Center was founded, with the aim of supporting evidence-based decisions on human health risks through research, education and communication. The mission and scope of the Risk Science Center was further clarified in a 2006 Memorandum of Understanding between the Gelman Educational Foundation – the source of the primary gift that established the center – and the Regents of the University of Michigan.
This founding mission outlines a broad scope for the center, and even though the specific direction the center takes will inevitably evolve over time in response to new opportunities and challenges, it remains the primary roadmap for our activities.
To ensure that the Risk Science Center remains true to the original intent behind its establishment, the founding mission and its exposition are provided below.
Mission of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center (UMRSC) (From the 2006 MOU between the Gelman Educational Foundation and the Regents of the University of Michigan)
The University of Michigan Risk Science Center (UMRSC) is a research center focusing on important scientific issues that result from human exposure to health hazards. The Center serves as an independent and objective source of advice for citizens, elected officials, industry, and international bodies who are facing complex questions involving chemical and other risks to human or ecological health. Our mission is to serve the public sector by promoting informed decision making and effective communication, providing a forum for debate on policy using evidence-based risk science and educating risk scientists.
Exposition on the UMRSC Founding Mission:
The University of Michigan Risk Science Center (UMRSC) is a research center focusing on important scientific issues that result from human exposure to health hazards.
The UMRSC is founded on knowledge generation through research. Within this research foundation, there are three interconnected parts:
Health hazards: Health hazard refers to the potential for something to cause an adverse health effect, either through its presence or its absence. Adverse health effects include injury, disease, alterations in bodily function, growth or development, effects on a growing fetus, decrease in lifespan, change in mental condition – resulting from stress, traumatic experience, exposure to chemical and physical agents for instance, and effects on the ability to accommodate additional stress.
Exposure: In this context, exposure is defined as being subject to factors that lead to adverse health effects. Factors may include physical, chemical or biological agents, biological or sensory stimuli, or external circumstances that affect behavior.
Important scientific issues: Significant issues arising from exposure to health hazards that are either not readily addressable because the state of the science is limited, or because translation of the state of the science is inadequate. In this context, the definition of “science” developed by the UK Science Council is used: “Science is the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence”. In this context, the state of the science in relation to health hazards encompasses a broad range of disciplines and fields of study that address the dynamic between people and the environment in which they live.
The Center serves as an independent and objective source of advice for citizens, elected officials, industry, and international bodies who are facing complex questions involving chemical and other risks to human or ecological health.
The UMRSC will translate and communicate science-based knowledge on human health hazards and risks to a broad group of stakeholders. This will include engaging with stakeholders to develop lines of communication, and to understand the nature of the complex questions they are facing. The center will avoid actions or activities that compromise its perceived and actual independence and objectivity. To ensure effective lines of communication, positive actions will be taken to develop trust between the center and its stakeholders, and actions that potentially undermine trust and credibility will be avoided.
Independent: The activities of the center will not be unduly influenced or controlled by any groups or individuals outside of the center membership and governance. Established policies will be followed to ensure funders of center activities have no influence over activities beyond what is deemed acceptable, and that all interactions with funders are open and transparent. Mechanisms will be established to enable stakeholders to engage with the UMRSC and inform – but not direct – activities, in an open and transparent manner.
Objective: The activities of the center will be guided by evidence, and will not be unduly influenced by personal beliefs. The center will not advocate for specific positions, but will provide objective analysis and advice pertaining to human health risks.
Source of advice: The UMRSC will strive to translate evidence on human health hazards and risks to a broad audience using multiple avenues, and to become established as a credible and accessible source of information on human health risks and its relevance to decision making.
Complex questions involving chemical and other risks to human or ecological health: The center will address human health risks associated with the full range of health hazards, including those associated with chemical agents. As appropriate the center will also engage in activities addressing ecological risks.
Our mission is to serve the public sector by promoting informed decision making and effective communication, providing a forum for debate on policy using evidence-based risk science and educating risk scientists.
Serve the public sector: Here we interpret serving the public sector broadly as serving the public good as a whole, in line with earlier clauses in the mission statement. The UMRSC is dedicated to working with stakeholders and partners in government, business, academia, non-government organizations the media and other sectors to enable informed decision-making on human health risks that improve the health of individuals and communities and reduce the chances of adverse health impacts.
Providing a forum for debate on policy using evidence-based risk science: The center will provide opportunities and venues for debate on policies that impact on health risk, and its members will actively engage with other organizations to support evidence-based debate on such policies.
Educating risk scientists: The UMRSC will develop and implement education opportunities for graduates intending to follow careers where a science-based approach to health hazards and risks is necessary. The center will also develop training opportunities for practitioners in implementing science-based approaches to health hazards