What science is about

Great concern in the world about the conviction of members from the Italian Committee for High Risks, as in the conclusions of the trial yesterday, in L’Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy. “Scientist are horrified”, Euronews reports citing The Union of Concerned Scientists (although there is no clue of that in their website.)

But the allegations charged to the Commission members are not about their scientific opinion. Instead, they are about the “media operation” organised in L’Aquila by Protezione Civile, the authority for civil emergency, as confirmed by the phone tap on the conversation between its former president Guido Bertolaso (who has been charged for murder in a separate trial on the same event) and a regional administrator. Protezione Civile was informed Abruzzo is one of the most risky regions in Italy for earthquakes by 2004 (read the administrative mailing here), but no particular measures were taken to ensure safety of the population in L’Aquila and nearby town and villages.

The Court now states the Commission members are responsible for underestimating the situation and suggesting the population to stay into their own houses, Il Fatto Quotidiano remembers. After 4 month long quakes and the final, 45 minutes unconventional Commission meeting (because held in L’Aquila for the first time in its history) with no minute or report (it was drawn and signed one week later, few hours after the earthquake), Bertolaso’s assistant Bernardo De Bernardinis declare “the situation as favourable, given the energy dump”, to TV Uno.

In that period, Protezione Civile is reported to put great effort in a struggle against Giampaolo Giuliani the scientist who was trying to alert the population after his experiments on radon release from the ground, and calming down the population. Allegedly, it did not take all necessary measures to ensure effective protection to people in Abruzzo.

Franco Barberi, one of the Commission experts, wrote a mail to Bertolaso to press him for more clarity on risks from a possible earthquake, where he remembered that National Institute of Volcanology warned Protezione Civile in 2004 on the possible risks and then in 2007, specifying the highest risk for earthquake in Italy was in a region of Appennini Mountains including L’Aquila.

The Court writes in the verdict that the Commission “neglected their duty of risk assessment under a communication point of view too”, and “calming information provided induced the victims to remain at home that night”. “The Commission is composed by the most authoritative experts… they had to know how credible their word is, which makes evident their guiltiness”, the Court concludes.

This is what facts are about. Nothing to do with what science is about.