Title: Italian scientists convicted for failing to predict quake
Source: ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Author: Mary Gearin
Date: Oct. 23, 2012
Six scientists and a former government official have been sentenced to six years in jail for multiple manslaughter for giving the wrong advice about an earthquake which struck the Italian city of L’Aquila in 2009, killing over 300 people. [...]
Prosecutors [...] said they did not expect scientists to provide a precise forecast.
But they argued the commission had given “incomplete, imprecise and contradictory” information on the danger after a meeting on March 31, 2009, a few days before the earthquake. [...]
Instead of highlighting the danger, they said the experts had made statements playing down the threat of a repeat of the earthquakes which wrecked the town in 1349, 1461 and 1703, saying the smaller shocks were a “normal geological phenomenon”.
Title: The l’Aquila Verdict: A Judgment Not Against Science, but Against A Failure of Science Communication
Source: Scientific American
Author: David Ropeik
Date: October 22, 2012
[...] contrary to the majority of the news coverage this decision is getting and the gnashing of teeth in the scientific community, the trial was not about science, not about seismology, not about the ability or inability of scientists to predict earthquakes. These convictions were about poor risk communication, and more broadly, about the responsibility scientists have as citizens to share their expertise in order to help people make informed and healthy choices.
It is ludicrous and naïve for the American Association for the Advancement of Science to condemn the verdict, as they did the charges when they were filed, as a misunderstanding about the science behind earthquake probabilities. That this was never about the ability of seismologists to predict earthquakes is clear from the very indictment itself; the defendants were accused of giving “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information” about whether small tremors prior to the April 6 quake should have constituted grounds for a warning.
It was never about whether the scientists could or could not predict earthquakes. [...]
Scientific experts are among the most highly trusted sources of information in society, and as much as they share their expertise about risk with governments, they should also communicate with and educate individuals looking for the same kind of guidance. Small wonder then that the people of l’Aquila are celebrating what is essentially their revenge against those they hoped would help them make informed choices about how to stay safe, experts who – quite innocently, to be sure – let those people down.
One of the better pieces I’ve read by Ropeik, though claiming the people are “celebrating… their revenge”? Perhaps not:
“This is not thirst for revenge, it is just that our sister is not coming back” -Claudia Carosi
In Japan, the earthquake or tsunami are not so much the issue. It’s the “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information” given by officials to the public regarding the Fukushima disaster and the radiation risks.
Published: October 22nd, 2012 at 8:55 pm ET