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RISK, is there no REWARD?

Volume 3, Number 1, January 2007 - Paper 12  - pp.  137 - 148


Atkins Rail, London, UK

(Received from the Guest Editor on July 25, 2006)


The current preoccupation with risk and safety has created an industry which is principally concerned with anticipation and control of unintended undesirable events entailing loss to the society or the environment and harm to people. In the mean time, risk based approach to many aspects of engineering and public life have permeated the language and the regulatory landscape. The great civilizations of the East developed holistic world views and philosophies which extolled the virtues of maintaining a balance between the two polar opposing forces in life. Alas this visionary and empirical perspective has been overshadowed by unilateral concern and aversion to risk and adversity in modern times. This paper develops a systematic and unambiguous framework for the so called up-side and down-side risk and provides a practical illustrative case study for the new holism that it advocates. The case study is chosen from the rail industry where a complex decision based on the anticipated but generally unknown performance of a new technology has been facilitated through a scientific framework for bipolar assessment of up-side and down-side risks. This enabled the duty holders to arrive at a decision based on the balance of loss and gain rather than minimization of risk and adversity as advocated in legal frameworks today.


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