Knowledge for the ‘risk society’: developing an International Social Science Risk Database (ISSRD)

  • Gavan McCarthy
  • Ailie Smith
  • Jens Zinn
Keywords: risk society, database, visualisation, swine flu, knowledge, archive informatics, archival appraisal, network science


Recent decades of globalisation have seen a number of social changes in communication modes in relation to societal risks, including the development of an increasingly critical public, and a growing reliance on public information. Under these conditions, the need for evidence-based public information resources, including archives, focused on societal risks has become more apparent. Published scientific resources are readily available, but the social and political sciences lack resources which provide knowledge about the regulation, perception and public responses to risk, in order to improve the outcomes of risk governance. This article reports on a project which has tested the feasibility of developing such a resource, the International Social Science Risk Database (ISSRD). The recent swine flu outbreak was used as an Australian-focused test case. The underlying structure of the ISSRD is drawn from the informatics articulated in the Australian Commonwealth Record Series (CRS) system for archival documentation and controlling metadata, but is extended to include a wider range of entity and relationship types. It is proposed that the resultant mapping of risk events as a network, and in particular their visualisation, provides insights that will help archivists identify the most important record creators and appraise records for long term value. The ISSRD provides broader contextualised understandings and this will contribute to improved societal management of risk.

How to Cite
McCarthyG., SmithA. and ZinnJ. (2011) “Knowledge for the ‘risk society’: developing an International Social Science Risk Database (ISSRD)”, Archives & Manuscripts, 39(2), pp. 23-42. Available at: (Accessed: 25May2022).

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