Putting Earthquake Prediction on Trial: Lessons from the 2009 L’Aquila Earthquake

In spite of recent advances, predicting earthquakes remains difficult and uncertain, challenging scientists both to predict and to communicate the probability of earthquakes to policymakers and to the general public. In October, 2012, seven Italian earthquake scientists were found guilty of manslaughter for their role in failing to communicate the risk of a possible earthquake, shortly before a powerful 2009 earthquake killed more than 300 people in the city of L’Aquila, Italy. This trial has become an international cause celebre; in today’s event, Professor Susan Schwartz (Earth and Planetary Sciences, UCSC) will talk about the state of current knowledge in earthquake prediction, and about her experience of communicating this to multiple audiences in Costa Rica. Professor Massimo Mazzotti, (History, UC Berkeley) will talk about the political and institutional context which led to the seven scientists’ being put on trial, and how their conviction was affected by popular understandings of what scientists and the Italian state should have done.

Following the event, there will be a reception in the Science & Justice Research Center with refreshments and featuring works from our artists in residence.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 | 4:00-6:00 pm | Oakes Mural Room