The rôle of knowledge in system risk identification and assessment: The 2014 Ebola outbreak

John H. Powell*, Navonil Mustafee, Colin Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Current approaches to risk management stress the need for dynamic approaches to risk identification aimed at reducing the expected consequences of undesired outcomes. We contend that these approaches place insufficient emphasis on the system knowledge available to the assessor, particularly in respect of three related factors, namely the dynamic behaviour of the system under threat, the role of human agents and the knowledge availability to those agents. In this paper, we address the rôle of knowledge use and availability in critical human activity systems. We emphasise two distinctions: that between information and knowledge used in these systems, and that between knowledge about the system and knowledge deployed within it, the latter forming part of the system itself. Using the ongoing 2014-2015 West African Ebola outbreak as an example, we offer a practical procedure using the well-known systems dynamics technique in its qualitative form for the identification of risks and appropriate policies for managing those risks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1286-1308
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of the Operational Research Society
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Operational Research Society 2017.


  • Risk
  • health
  • knowledge


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