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Arboriculture & Urban Forestry Online
Volume 47, Issue 6 — November 2021

Professional Expertise and Its Role in Risk Assessment

Ryan W. Klein, Andrew K. Koeser, Gail Hansen, Laura A. Warner, Adam G. Dale, and John Watt

Abstract: Professional judgment is derived from a personís intuition, training, and level of expertise. When exploring the influence that expertise has on the process of tree risk assessment, it is helpful to approach the topic in relation to its impact across various related fields and disciplines. This paper reviews the effects of arboricultural and tree risk assessment training on the assessor and overall tree risk assessment methodology through the lens of professional judgment and decision making. Additionally, the topic of risk perception is explored based on how it can affect decision making. Concepts and theories related to risk perception are applied to arboriculture and tree risk assessment to provide additional insight into how subjectivity and personal bias may affect recommendations, mitigation, and the overall management of our urban forests. The review finds that an individualís perception of a risk can be equally as influential as the reality of the risk on the decision-making process, recommendations, and subsequent outcomes of an assessment. Furthermore, experts, similar to novices, are susceptible to the influence of perceived risk. Much of the available research has suggested that the acquisition of professional expertise (i.e., previous experience, training, and accreditation) can result in decision making that is more closely tied to the reality of a risk. Ultimately, a great deal remains unknown regarding our understanding of professional expertise and its influence on the tree risk assessment process.

Keywords: Decision Making; Professional Judgment; Risk Perception; Tree Risk Assessment.

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