A lesson from L’Aquila: the risks of science (mis)communication

Abstract: 

On 22 October 2012, six members of a technical-scientific consultancy agency of the Italian Civil Protection were found guilty of multiple manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison by the court in L’Aquila. According to the prosecution, days before the earthquake that devastated the town of L’Aquila on 6 April 2009 killing 309 people, the experts failed to correctly alert the population on the actual seismic risk. The sentence was widely interpreted as an attack to science, penalised for not accurately predicting the quake. Actually, the defendants were accused of having deprived the citizens of information that may have saved their lives. This story does not hide any attack to science. On the contrary, this is the demonstration of the high regard the civil society has for the opinions of the experts. But in the so-called risk society, access to information is an inalienable right of the citizens. Beyond the legal aspects, the impression is that the lesson from L’Aquila can mark a point of no return in the relations between science and society.

Published: 

21 December 2012