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Andrew Alden

Fallout from the L'Aquila Verdict

By October 23, 2012

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There has been much commentary in the wake of yesterday's shocking manslaughter conviction of six scientists and a government official for poor communication in the days before the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake. Among the best reactions is a post by UC Davis seismology grad student Austin Elliott on his blog The Trembling Earth: "Conviction of Italian seismologists—a nuanced warning." He corrects a lot of simplistic reporting on the case. The AGU, the world's largest society of geoscientists, issued a statement titled "Conviction of Italian scientists may hinder open discussion of seismic risk." It notes that the effects of this case may ripple beyond Italy to affect any scientist working with, or contemplating working with, public officials on geologic risks.

In Italy, the ripples have reached the agency that the "L'Aquila Seven" worked for, the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks. Its president Luciano Maiani, its vice-president Mauro Rosi, and its emeritus president Giuseppe Zamberletti resigned today, citing the "impossibility for the Commission of being able to work with serenity and provide the State with a high level of scientific consultancy in such complex conditions." (Sources: Gazzetta del Sud, Reuters)

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