WTF Italy? Italy Finds Scientists Guilty, Causing Some to Resign and Others to Speak Out
Soon Italy may have zero scientists. On Tuesday October 23, 2012 Italy had the bright idea to send six scientists and one former official to prison. Their reasoning was because they wanted the scientists to tell them something no one could have known.
There's no doubt that the 2009 L'Aquila, Italy earthquakes killed many and caused billions in damage. Now seven people sit in prison in something out of their control, something that would hopefully never happen in America.
The six scientists and former government official were convicted on multiple manslaughter charges yesterday for 'underestimating the risks' of the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake. As well as providing an 'incomplete, inept, unsuitable and criminally mistaken'
risk assessment of the quakes over several days that killed over 300 people.
The decision to imprison these seven made the victims and their families happy, but has pissed off scientists who say their is no reliable way to predict earthquakes. The scientists and former Italian officials were members of the Major Risks Committee. That committee met on March 31, 2009 after small tremors were recorded.
They ruled it was impossible to determine if a big quake was on the way which falsely reassured residents in L'Aquila, Italy. One of the group did tell the people to just 'relax with a glass of wine'. Six days later the 6.3 magnitude earthquake shook and devastated the city.
The judge yesterday threw down the sentence in a temporary building serving as a courtroom ruling. They should pay 7.8 million euros or over 10 million dollars in damages, including 2 million euros or $2,600,800.0000 immediately.
Scientists call the verdict 'saddening' and setting a 'dangerous precedent' and that was a 'miscommunication of science' and we should not put scientists in prison who gave scientifically factual information.
The judge claimed the defendants provided an 'incomplete, inept, unsuitable and criminally mistaken' analysis giving residents a false sense of security. The convictions have shaken scientists with some now resigning in Italy.
Luciano Maiani, the physicist who led the National Commission for the Prediction and Prevention of Major Risks resigned in protest saying, "The situation created by the sentencing yesterday on the facts from L'Aquila is incompatible with a clear and effective performance of the functions of the commission and its role as a consulting bodies for the state."
Mauro Dolce quit as director of the office that monitors volcano and earthquake threats, he is being 'reassigned'.
Predicting or saying anything beyond what they said of the tremors prior to the big quakes and over 250 smaller quakes for two days after would be bad science and bad public policy. It also makes it hard to find scientists if they will be held personally and legally responsible for natural events out of their control or knowledge.