Since tremors are not clear indication of incumbent earthquake, we may wonder in the first place why to give salary and political responsibilities to ''scientists'' that, trying to master the unpredictable, don't realize the impact of their advice. And why we call ''scientists'' those that are in trouble because unable to make prevision, so failing the very principle of the ''scientific method''. The comparison between earthquake and weather forecast is unfair. When talking to the media, a weather scientist is a ''reporter'' while a geologist acts as ''consultant''. IMHO the comparison should be with some other ''scientists'' those running a nuclear plant for example. Chernobyl and Fukushima provide better comparison. Unless we don't want to call them ''technicians'' any ''scientist'' failing to do a proper job...
Actually the confusion comes from the fact that in this sad Italian history, international press tends to call ''scientist'' what we should actually refer to as ''political authorities and consultants, with scientific background, accounted to take people's security in care''. Seen in a such perspective, the verdict is more straightforward and no contradiction exists. No one of the convicted people thought to resign after the accident, they accepted their political role, so they must accept the consequences. Where is the need of calling the scientific community in cause for a professional fault?
I visited the area only a few weeks ago. Part of the issue is that the government has done little to help the area recover. The delay in rebuilding has meant that large numbers of those that left while waiting rebuilding will never return. Locals say that much of the relief money has been "diverted". So blaming scientists smells like hiding from the real issues.
The potential of holding scientists to predictions of events of uncertain probability has consequences that are huge.
Say for example the next level is to hold meteorologists responsible for damages for failing to project a hurricane hitting a certain locale.
Then, even worse, holding meteorologists responsible for predicting possible hurricane landfall, when it veers away and does no damage. Will the meteorologists then be held liable for storm preparations that were for naught?
I guess the comparison is not entirely fair. THe National Weather Service hurricane forecasts have cones of probability. From what I hear, the Italians in question suggested that despite repeated tremors it was safe and no precautions needed to be taken. Whereas they should have said, tremors are to present knowledge, no indication of impending earthquakes. However, earthquake probabilities in this area are finite and therefore appropriate precautions should be taken at all times, not just now.
People were heavily worried because of the recurrence of small earthquakes in the Aquila area in the previous 6 months. Popular wisdom suggested that a big event was near. These unfortunate scientists went on TV stating that small events cannot predict a big one just 6 days before the big one actually happened, killing people and destroying houses. We can at least concede that scientist should not give in to politicians, when they are asked to express views that are bound to be manipulated at a social level? These scientists of the "Commmissione Grandi Rischi" get a good salary out of their position of scientific advisors to government. They have a public role in society, by which they use their reputation and technical knowledge to give advice to society. Their advice is regularly interpreted socially and politically. Why should they not held accountable? People tend to believe them, after all, just because they appear so professional...
I recall being taught in college that engineers are not allowed to lie. We can't fake tests or fudge test results and stuff like that. We can go to jail for that. We are allowed to be wrong. You can stilled be sued but stuff like negligence apply. Did we do a reasonable job of checking our work. Those documents you sign off on are legal documents and can be used against you in court.
I recall being taught in college that engineers are not allowed to lie. We can't fake tests or fudge test results and stuff like that. We can go to jail for that. We are allowed to be wrong. You can stilled be sued but stuff like negligence and due diligence apply. Those documents you sign off on are legal documents and can be used against you in court.
Most of these were scientists whose job was to predict earthquakes. They had stated that they thought the risk of a sizable earthquake in the region was unlikely based on the available seismic data. I think completely comparable events would be a weather forecaster who predicts that a hurricane will not affect a region resulting in no evacuation. The only difference is that with one the timing of the event is known, whereas with an earthquake there is almost no early warning system.
The punishment is dependent upon what they did or did not due when they were employed.
If they allowed building codes to be relaxed under the excuse that earthquakes are rare, then they should be punished.
If they alerted officials as to potential problems and the politicians did nothing, then only the politicians should be punished.
If they proved that both groups calluded to create the problems or to slow or stop needed modifications to existing structures, then both should be punished.
Until you know the details, you really cannot say what should happen next.
Just my opinion,
A Book For All Reasons Bernard Cole1 Comment Robert Oshana's recent book "Software Engineering for Embedded Systems (Newnes/Elsevier)," written and edited with Mark Kraeling, is a 'book for all reasons.' At almost 1,200 pages, it ...