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Guilty?

AP via AAP/Pier Paolo Cito

AP via AAP/Pier Paolo Cito

By Valentina Koschatzky and Katharine Haynes

The conviction of Italian scientists at the centre of the tragic L’Aquila earthquake was not an attack on the sanctity of science.

Valentina Koschatzky and Katharine Haynes are with Risk Frontiers at Macquarie University,and acknowledges the assistance of Paul Somerville, John McAneney and Delphine McAneney.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In a landmark case that concluded in late October 2012, six scientists and a government official associated with the Italian National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks were found guilty of multiple counts of manslaughter. The trial followed a magnitude 6.3 earthquake near the Italian city of L’Aquila that killed 309 people in April 2009.

Those convicted were Franco Barberi, volcanologist and then-Vice-President of the Commission; Enzo Boschi, the country’s most prominent geophysicist and then-President of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV); Gian Michele Calvi, seismic engineer and President of the European Centre for Training and Research in Earthquake Engineering; seismologist Claudio Eva; Bernardo de Bernardinis, hydraulic engineer and then-Deputy Head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department; seismic engineer Mauro Dolce; and Giulio Selvaggi, seismologist at INGV and, until June 2012, Director of the National Earthquake Centre.

Their alleged crime was not a failure to predict the earthquake, but rather one of failing to adequately communicate the level of risk.

For the most part, the world’s media and representatives of various scientific bodies have seen this trial and verdict as a scurrilous attack on the reputations of selfless and hardworking scientists, and on the sanctity of science itself. This...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.