Saturday, May 19, 2012

Peter Sandman: Outrage On Both Sides



# 6335



Dr. Peter Sandman is a world renown expert on crisis communications, and along with his wife and colleague Dr. Jody Lanard, provide consulting services to individuals, organizations, and companies – often during their worst public relations nightmares.

Together they also produce a wealth of invaluable risk management advice on their website, which quite frankly should be second home for anyone involved in public relations or risk communications.


Peter Sandman Website logo


I’ve highlighted Peter and Jody’s work often in the past, including:


Peter Sandman: Swine Flu For Grownups
Experts: `Mild’ Is A Misleading Term For This Pandemic
Peter Sandman On Pandemic Risk Communication



When you think about `risk communications’ and `flu’, very little comes close to the often unseemly debate of the past few months over the publication of the Kawaoka and Fouchier H5N1 transmissibility papers.



For those that need a refresher:


Last September, Ron Fouchier from the Netherlands (and almost simultaneously Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka from Wisconsin) announced success in creating enhanced strains of the H5N1 avian flu virus in the laboratory that can transmit efficiently among ferrets, which quickly sparked biosecurity concerns.


For some background, see Katherine Harmon’s Sci-Am article , New Scientist: Five Easy Mutations, & NPR: Bio-Terrorism Concerns Over Bird Flu Research.



The fate of these two papers has now been decided; Kawaoka’s was published earlier this month (see Nature Publishes The Kawaoka H5N1 Study), and a revised version of Fouchier’s paper is due out anytime.


While the original focus of this debate has been settled, we are left with nagging questions regarding the way this debate was handled, and concerns over what happens when this sort of situation inevitably occurs again.


Which brings us to a long, detailed, and very informative analysis of the risk communication missteps made by both sides of this debate, posted by Dr. Sandman on his website in response to a reader’s comment.


It is called:


Risk communication aspects of the debate over H5N1 transmission studies



I’ll not try to summarize this well reasoned and detailed examination of the events of the past few months, as to do so would be a disservice.


This article deserves to be read in its entirety. 


Highly recommended.