27.10.2016

Thursday 27 October: Luciano Butti will give a talk at Clare Hall College – University of Cambridge (UK) – on the L’Aquila 2009 Court case against scientists

Luciano Butti, Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall College – University of Cambridge for the year 2016-2017 will give a talk on the following topic: ‘L’AQUILA 2009 EARTHQUAKE: SCIENCE AND ITS COMMUNICATION ON TRIAL: From an Italian Court case important lessons about the science-law relationship’. More information at the following link: https://www.clarehall.cam.ac.uk/node/177

On April 6 2009, during the night, hundreds of people died during an earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy. This major quake followed a long seismic swarm, which had lasted for several weeks. During this period, many people who lived in old or unsafe houses had decided to sleep in other cities or in their cars. However, a few days before the major quake, the Governmental Risks Commission spokesperson had ‘reassured’ the L’Aquila population that no major quake was likely to happen. Thus, many people went back to their homes, where some of them died during the 6 April quake. The scientists and the spokesperson for the Risks Commission were accused of manslaughter for their alleged role in the death of those who had gone back to their houses.

This talk will first analyse the decisions of the Italian Courts (First Instance Tribunal, Appeal Court and Supreme Court). Then, the distinction between risk assessment (pertaining to science) and risk management (pertaining to politics) will be explored, taking into account the different views on this matter. We will see why appropriate communication of science is a decisive factor. Finally, four further critical aspects of the science-law relationship, emerging from the Italian Courts’ decisions on the L’Aquila case, will be examined.

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