Italian earthquake scientists found guilty

Six Italian scientists and an ex-government official have been sentenced to six years in prison over the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, about 100 km north-east of Rome.

The 6.3 magnitude quake, that struck on 6 April 2009, heavily damaged the city of L’Aquila and killed 309 people.

The prosecution argued that the scientists gave false reassurances before the earthquake. The defense argued that earthquake prediction is difficult and that it is impossible to make an accurate prediction of major quakes.

The convicted

  • Franco Barberi, head of Serious Risks Commission
  • Enzo Boschi, former president of the National Institute of Geophysics
  • Giulio Selvaggi, director of National Earthquake Centre
  • Gian Michele Calvi, director of European Centre for Earthquake Engineering
  • Claudio Eva, physicist
  • Mauro Dolce, director of the the Civil Protection Agency’s earthquake risk office
  • Bernardo De Bernardinis, former vice-president of Civil Protection Agency’s technical department

All seven have been sentenced to six years in prison for issuing false reassurances.

Before the convictions, more than 5,000 scientists, organised by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, signed an open letter to the Italian President Napolitano in support of the accused. The letter can be found here (pdf).

The aftermath

The worry is that science itself has been put on trial. Scientists should not have to make statements or not, in worry of being subject to lawsuits. This could discourage scientists becoming involved in public engagement.


IOP News

5 thoughts on “Italian earthquake scientists found guilty”

  1. I understand that people need someone to blame in the aftermath of a natural disaster that cost the lives of their families and friends, but this was a witch hunt, pure and simple. People expect science, and scientists, to be perfect and infallible, and that’s simply not the case – scientists are human, the same as anyone else, and they make mistakes. Additionally, not all branches of science are created equal – earthquakes are significantly harder to predict than the weather, and yet when the weather man makes a mistake, everyone thinks it’s funny.

    I think this is going to have a very chilling effect on science in the public arena, to the detriment of all of us. Who’s going to want to try and predict the next Hurricane Katrina if they can end up in prison for getting the damage estimates a little wrong? We’re going to lose more lives, not less, if we discourage these men and women from doing what they do best.

  2. “Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt”

    Italy decided to open it’s mouth.

  3. similar things have happened in new zealand recently, the person who built the ctv building’s engineering degree was forged so he did not after all havve the qualifications to make such a large building in the first place, never mind check the structural integrity after a 7.1 earthquake so after he gave it an all clear and green stickered it in 2010 when it should have received a red sticker according to other engineers, he has been charged with falsifying qualifications, criminal negligence and several other offences agter the building fell down during a 6.4 aftershock

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