A couple of weeks ago, a court in Italy sentenced seven seismologists to six years in prison. The scientists were charged with manslaughter for wrongly reassuring citizens about the risk of earthquakes in the province of L’Aquila.
The Swiss paper Le Courrier commented on October 24:
“Numerous scientists – in Italy, but also in the U.S. and Switzerland – denounced this sentence, calling it a ‘dangerous precedent….’ Indeed some are asking if in the future it will be necessary to punish meteorologists who are wrong about the trajectory of a tornado, or biologists who fail to correctly predict the scale of an epidemic.
“These comparisons are eloquent, but somewhat off the mark. In fact the court did not sentence the scientists for not being able to foresee the earthquake, but for failing to communicate adequately what they knew before the disaster.”