Microbes and Microbiota: Benefits and Risks

Introducing Upstate NY Society for Risk Analysis (SRA)

Risks in the headlines a concern? Go beyond emotional triggers! Learn more about evidence and interdisciplinary work of RISK ANALYSIS with international SRA and local Upstate NY SRA.

Upstate NY Society for Risk Analysis is a regional organization (RO) or local chapter of the non-profit international SRA. SRA has provided multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and scholarly work on controversial societal issues since 1980. Discovering solutions to complex societal problems demands objective, open processes that consider all the evidence and involve all interested individuals and organizations (stakeholders, those with a 'stake' in decisions about the issue).

Recently, SRA began providing opportunities for the public to learn about evidence and analysis behind regulatory and policy positions through free SRA webinars. SRA seeks to engage all those who have interest in learning more about RISK ANALYSIS, regardless of position or academic training. See the figure below for an illustration of the relationships between risk disciplines and dependence on objective research.


A keystone of SRA is ‘letting the data speak’ so that risk assessments, communications, and management options are based on careful and complete analysis of the full body of available evidence fairly representing all positions. This commitment to objective, open, and transparent analysis across disciplinary lines makes SRA unique among professional organizations.

Upstate NY SRA organizes meetings, symposia, and webinar series on controversial issues that concern us as citizens of upstate NY and the world. Issues explored include bioterrorism, climate change, disaster preparedness, fracking, and most recently, benefits and risks of the natural microbiota of milks. Since 2005, events convened at Cornell University, NY State Department of Health, Onondaga Lake Visitor’s Center, Syracuse University, Syracuse Technology Gardens, Upstate Medical University, and businesses in upstate NY.

Current President Peg Coleman introduced the audience that convened at Churchtown Dairy in Hudson, NY on September 8th to Upstate NY SRA and a joint project with other SRA ROs around the world regarding benefits and risks of the microbiota of milks (human and bovine). For information about joining our fall 2018 event on October 23rd at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, click here  (or here for Facebook users).

The video below provides an introduction to Upstate NY SRA that includes some points of interest for everyone, from engineers, lawyers, legislators, journalists, policy makers, scientists, and to the public, all stakeholders in decisions that affect us as individuals and communities around the globe. The setting is an informal conversation with 5 members of Upstate NY SRA from different backgrounds. Each SRA RO provides a multidisciplinary forum for professionals and the general public seeking to understand, communicate, and manage risks.

Questions addressed in the video include what attracted us scientists and non-scientists to SRA and Upstate NY SRA, what we’ve done to promote education and engagement about risk analysis in upstate NY since 2005, and recent highlights of our projects on some of the complex issues that affect our communities and our partners around the world.

Viewers can choose to watch the whole video or jump around to start the video on different topics that might be of greater interest. A bulleted summary follows that includes some links provided in the video for your convenience, if you wish to explore topics more fully. Feel free to comment and follow this blog for more information on microbes, risk, and health.

  • Click the white arrow in the image below to start the full video.

  • Click below to start video at the description of 2012 SRAonCampus event in Upstate NY. The event featured an interview with SRA Fellow Bernie Goldstein (University of Pittsburg) and NPR news director Ms. Naomi Starobin at Syracuse University. Partners in Australia/New Zealand, New England, and Upstate NY ROs contributed to a project report summarizing the events. Project report and podcast of SU event are available here.


  • Click below to start at the description of the 2014 SRA webinar series on hydraulic fracturing and drinking water effects.

  • Click below to start at the description of interests of diverse group about microbiota of milks, including risk communication and the work of Daniel Kahneman, economic psychologist and Nobel Prize winning author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, a book describing how different parts of our brains process information.

  • Click below to start at the description of the decade of the Microbiome Revolution. Rodney Dietert (immunotoxicologist and author of Protecting Human Superorganism) and Ed Yong, science journalist and author of I Contain Multitudes), two influential and informative books for both scientists and non-scientists. Conversation includes discussion of symbiosis with our microbial partners in ecological terms.

  • Click below to start the video at the description of SRA as a safe place to step back from knee-jerk emotionality to engage different parts of our brains in objective analysis and deliberation of the evidence supporting diverse positions and perspectives. Risk communication principles do include emotionality, but also fairness and trust that cannot develop without sound analysis. Global perspectives about fresh unprocessed (raw) milk are diverse: The UK determined it safe and acceptably low risk for healthy people (link to UK report), while others prohibit access as an inherently dangerous poison (Australia, Canada, some US states).


  • Click below to start at the description of the complex interconnected world inadequately described by single disciplines or emotionality. Upstate NY SRA, in partnership with SRA Past President Warner North, our partners in Australia/New Zealand, New England, and the UK, and Cornell professor Rodney Dietert, are compiling and deliberating evidence for benefits and risks of fresh unprocessed milks from humans and cows. Stay tuned for more information on the next phases of this project.