In the field of optics, a prism is a transparent object with at least two angled sides that break up white light into its constituent colours(1). In the same way that a single beam of light is in reality made up of different colours, the systems-based approach to risk analysis proposes that risk is likewise composed of different elements. These individual elements in turn are combined into a range of subsets, each associated with a range of different probabilities(2, 3).
While the rapid growth of risk research across multiple fields over the past few decades has successfully produced a large and rich body of literature, it has also resulted in diverse but disconnected perspectives on risk (4-6). This is because different disciplines have undertaken independent investigations into the nature of risk and its measurement. While discipline-specific lenses are certainly important in obtaining a deep understanding of risk, this is akin to passing a beam of light through individual panes of glass: that is, passing light through a single pane of glass does not refract it into its constituent colours. Therefore, observing light as it passes through different individual lenses effectively deprives scholars of the opportunity to gain rich insights into its multifaceted nature.
It is proposed that the way to creatively and insightfully extend the boundaries of the field is for scholars from different disciplines to collaboratively work together to act as a prism for risk. An important characteristic of prisms is that at least two of its surfaces need to be angled in order to have refractive capability. Therefore, ‘refracting’ risk requires at least two different disciplines offering at least two different angles or perspectives of the same risk. Indeed, bringing together more than two disciplines can potentially offer even richer insights into the complexity of risk.
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