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Reply to comment from W.P. Aspinall on "Social studies of volcanology: knowledge generation and expert advice on active volcanoes" by Amy Donovan, Clive Oppenheimer and Michael Bravo [Bull Volcanol (2012) 74:677-689]

Abstract : While it was not our intention to discuss the expert elicitation procedure in detail in our paper (Donovan et al. 2012), the Comment proffered by Aspinall (2012) raises important questions for volcanologists. We are broadly in agreement with Aspinall (2012) that the Cooke Method of expert elicitation provides a means of increasing objectivity and quantifying at least some of the uncertainty surrounding risk assessment on active volcanoes. It does also provide a means for accountability and the tracking of scientific assessments, which, as Aspinall notes, is particularly important in litigious times. Risk assessment forces an opening-up of our understanding of scientific reasoning, its social context and its associated uncertainties - not least for the sake of transparency. However, we maintain that the elicitation method is epistemologically, psychologically and probabilistically subjective. This does not detract from its valuable contribution to scientific debate, quantitative risk assessment and the communication of the uncertainty concerning volcanic risk. Indeed, a degree of subjectivity increases the types of knowledge and intuitive expertise that can be applied to the problems of volcanic risk assessment alongside other more "objective" evidence. Kuhn (1977), referencing Kant (2003, original 1781), argued against the use of "objective" in opposition to "subjective": they are not strictly opposed and the history of philosophy contains multiple readings of each. Rather, the terms should be regarded as separate; they are neither antonyms nor part of a spectrum. There are different types of knowledge involved in expert advice, and distinguishing between them can be challenging. In the following, we explore the terminology and highlight aspects of the social and scientific context of the elicitation method1 that may be helpful in its application in volcanic risk assessment.
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Amy Donovan, Clive Oppenheimer, Michael Bravo. Reply to comment from W.P. Aspinall on "Social studies of volcanology: knowledge generation and expert advice on active volcanoes" by Amy Donovan, Clive Oppenheimer and Michael Bravo [Bull Volcanol (2012) 74:677-689]. Bulletin of Volcanology, Springer Verlag, 2012, 74 (6), pp.1571-1574. ⟨10.1007/s00445-012-0626-9⟩. ⟨insu-00723552⟩

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