Italian Scientists convicted of 6 years for failing to predict earthquakes

Italy Earthquake 2009

In the court case in the field of risk assessment, the courts convicted six scientists and one government official for their alleged role in the deaths of 309 people in the quake of April 2009 in the town of L’Aquila in Italy.

The sentence was 6 years. The sentence sent a chilling message to scientists in the public risk assessment sector across the globe. If they could be held accountable for being incapable of predicting random natural disasters, then why would they even work in that field?

The prosecution argued that there were tremors before the earthquake, and that alarms were not raised that it didn't mean a big earthquake was coming. But the reality is, many earthquake zones have tremors, minor shocks, and incidents throughout the years, and not all of them result in earthquakes.

The seven being sentenced—Bernardo De Bernardinis, Enzo Boschi, Giulio Selvaggi, Franco Barberi, Claudio Eva, Mauro Dolce and Gian Michele Calvi — are appealing against the verdict.

The prosecution had asked for 4 years but got 6, so even the prosecution was surprised by the harshness.

Science has little political clout in Italy and the trial proceeded in an absence of informed public debate.

With new technologies and risk assessment tools, problems can always occur. Inaccuracies are possible. If we punish scientists for trying, then we will have discouraged them from trying at all.

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