Increasing preparedness for extreme events using plausibility-based scenario planning: lessons from COVID-19

Derbyshire, James ORCID logoORCID: (2022) Increasing preparedness for extreme events using plausibility-based scenario planning: lessons from COVID-19. Risk Analysis, 42 (1) . pp. 97-104. ISSN 0272-4332 [Article] (doi:10.1111/risa.13827)

[img] PDF - Final accepted version (with author's formatting)
Download (298kB)


A striking feature of COVID-19 is many countries’ low level of preparedness for it, despite pandemics being a known threat. This raises a question as to the reasons for this under-preparedness. While preparedness should have better reflected pandemics’ long-run inevitability and potentially catastrophic impact, government-planning horizons are short term, and the attentiveness of policy-makers is bounded and subject to multiple demands. Preparedness is therefore affected by the fundamental uncertainty surrounding the exact nature, timing, and impact of a pandemic. While a subjective probability is attributable to such an event’s occurrence, just like it is any other, if founded on scant knowledge and perceived as being low it may inhibit preparedness. Under such circumstances, preparedness may be better served by a focus on plausibility. Moreover, any tendency for policy-makers to disregard highly-uncertain, low-probability, yet highly-impactful events of this type is exacerbated by their ‘fat-tailed’ distribution, which obscures their potential extremity. This paper considers how plausibility-based scenario planning can increase preparedness for extreme events like a global pandemic, thereby reducing overconfidence in continued business-as-usual in their face, and emphasising precaution in their wake. In so doing, the paper contributes to what in this journal has recently been called ‘type B’, ‘generic and fundamental’ risk science, which is concerned with identifying better ways to present and communicate uncertainties. In focusing on plausibility-based scenario planning, the paper highlights a method seldom previously discussed in relation to risk science, yet one that can contribute much to this type B component of it.

Item Type: Article
Keywords (uncontrolled): Physiology (medical), Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
Research Areas: A. > Business School
Item ID: 33822
Notes on copyright: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Derbyshire, J. (2022), Increasing Preparedness for Extreme Events using Plausibility-Based Scenario Planning: Lessons from COVID-19. Risk Analysis, 42: 97-104, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions. This article may not be enhanced, enriched or otherwise transformed into a derivative work, without express permission from Wiley or by statutory rights under applicable legislation. Copyright notices must not be removed, obscured or modified. The article must be linked to Wiley’s version of record on Wiley Online Library and any embedding, framing or otherwise making available the article or pages thereof by third parties from platforms, services and websites other than Wiley Online Library must be prohibited.
Useful Links:
Depositing User: James Derbyshire
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2021 07:50
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2023 01:02

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Activity Overview
6 month trend
6 month trend

Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.