The Epistemological Analysis of the Concept “Risk” in Project Risk Management


by Juris Uzulāns

University of Latvia

Riga, Latvia



The aim of the current research series is to examine the risk registers of real projects to find correlations between the project management theory, especially project risk management, and practical results of the risk management of real projects – the risk registers publicly available in the Internet.

In the current research the author analysed the concept “event” that defines the content of the concept “risk”. The use of the concept “event” was analysed in 9 different sources to find out how to use the concept “event”. Epistemological analysis of the concepts “event” in the “risk” definition was used to answer the question what the risk in project management means.

In the previous studies the author concluded that the methods used for the analysis of the definitions of the concept are insufficient because the theoretical risk registers do not coincide with the risk registers of real projects. However, we can conclude that the risk registers of real projects are not sufficiently substantiated theoretically if we assume that the risk registers of real projects comply with the documents governing project management.

Key words: project, risk, concept, event, epistemological analysis.

JEL code: M00, M10, M190


Project management history is a relatively new science characterized by dynamic development. Defining precise, unanimous and generally accepted concepts is important for any branch of science. In project management as a new branch of science many concepts are under construction, many concepts differ both in the content and scope. One of such project management concepts is “risk”. The genius concepts of the risk definitions are different. The most common concepts are “event” and “uncertainty”. The concept “event” is widely used in different areas, in philosophy, mathematics, and physics or away from the scientific definition. The same is true in the case of the concept “uncertainty”. The content of the concepts “event” and “uncertainty” is very different and maybe the analysis of the ontological, epistemological and methodological and real project risk register of the definitions of “event” and “uncertainty” will provide the analysis, which reveals relationships, which could not be identified by the methods used in previous studies.

Methodology of Research

The research was conducted in two stages. The goal of the first stage was to find out if the selected methods of research can be used to carry out the ontological, epistemological and methodological analysis of the concept “risk”. The author assumed that the selection of at least three sources in each kind of sources will be sufficient for the assessment of the validity of the selected methods. In the second stage of the research a wider use of the sources is intended. It is also planned to compare the results of the theoretical analysis of the sources with the results of the project risk analysis. The article deals with the results of the first stage which analysed how to use the concept “event” in 9 different sources, 3 project management guidelines of international project management institutions, 3 project risk management guidelines, and 3 author books.

One of the definitions of the term “epistemology” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity”, in the Cambridge Dictionary epistemology it reads “the part of philosophy that is about the study of how we know things” and in the Collins dictionary epistemology there the definition: “the theory of knowledge, esp the critical study of its validity, methods, and scope”. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy states that “Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief” and lists several questions: “As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? As the study of justified belief, epistemology aims to answer questions such as: How we are to understand the concept of justification? What makes justified beliefs justified? Is justification internal or external to one’s own mind?”


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 6th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States, University of Latvia, April 2017. It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers

About the Author


Riga, Latvia


Juris Uzulāns
possesses more than 15 years’ experience in theoretical and practical project management. It includes managing projects in state governance, health care systems, institutions of higher education and IBM Latvia. He has designed and delivered courses in project management in HEI School of Banking and Finance, Baltic Computer Academy as well as commercial firms specialized in training.

In science the Juris focuses on risk management, analysis of project processes and documentation. Juris is author of 4 books on project management and 20 scientific publications.

Juris can be contacted at [email protected]