Tuesday, November 6, 2012

L'Aquila Earthquake Scientists - Rightly Convicted?

The opprobrium over the conviction and jailing of the L'Aquila earthquake scientists seems to have been nearly universal in the scientific community, which seems to be convinced that science itself has been put on the dock. However, a friend who is on the science faculty at L'Aquila opines that the convictions were RIGHT, as they were due to failure to communicate risk, rather than the failure of science. Apparently the Risk Committee met, then left without communicating anything themselves (they left it to a non-scientist, who apparently told people to go and drink some wine). While Italy has a proud tradition of ignoring science, this case does not seem to cleanly fit into that category and I think the AAAS, Nature etc maybe rushed too quickly in their condemnations of the judgement.  That doesn't mean I'm in favor of the severity, though. The jail sentences certainly smack of scapegoating  and the general public may not be able to tell the difference between condemning communication failure and condemning science itself.

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