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A suggestion for the quantification of precise and bounded probability to quantify epistemic uncertainty in scientific assessments

Raices Cruz, Ivette and Troffaes, Matthias and Sahlin, Ullrika (2022) 'A suggestion for the quantification of precise and bounded probability to quantify epistemic uncertainty in scientific assessments.', Risk Analysis, 42 (2). pp. 239-253.

Abstract

An honest communication of uncertainty about quantities of interest enhances transparency in scientific assessments. To support this communication, risk assessors should choose appropriate ways to evaluate and characterize epistemic uncertainty. A full treatment of uncertainty requires methods that distinguish aleatory from epistemic uncertainty. Quantitative expressions for epistemic uncertainty are advantageous in scientific assessments because they are non-ambiguous and enable individual uncertainties to be characterized and combined in a systematic way. Since 2019, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends assessors to express epistemic uncertainty in conclusions of scientific assessments quantitatively by subjective probability. A subjective probability can be used to represent an expert judgment, which may or may not be updated using Bayes’s rule to integrate evidence available for the assessment and could be either precise or approximate. Approximate (or bounded) probabilities may be enough for decision making and allow experts to reach agreement on certainty when they struggle to specify precise subjective probabilities. The difference between the lower and upper bound on a subjective probability can also be used to reflect someone’s strength of knowledge. In this paper, we demonstrate how to quantify uncertainty by bounded probability, and explicitly distinguish between epistemic and aleatory uncertainty, by means of robust Bayesian analysis, including standard Bayesian analysis through precise probability as a special case. For illustration the two analyses are applied to an intake assessment.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo
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Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.1111/risa.13871
Publisher statement:© 2021 The Authors. Risk Analysis published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Risk Analysis This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:02 December 2021
Date deposited:06 December 2021
Date of first online publication:10 January 2022
Date first made open access:11 January 2022

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