POLL: Should Scientists Face Criminal Charges for Wrong Predictions?
Six Italian scientists have gotten six years in prison for downplaying the risk of an earthquake in 2009.
Six Italian scientists and one ex-government official have been sentenced to six years in prison for multiple manslaughter due to an announcement assuring people that a large eartquake would not occur six days before a 2009 quake that killed over 300 people.
309 people were killed in the L'Aquila earthquake on April 6, 2009, which registered as a 6.3 on the Richter Scale. According to the BBC, a witness for the prosecution said her father would have left the city and survived the quake were it not for the announcement made by the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, downplaying the risk of a quake.
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Scientists around the world have blasted the verdict, claiming that earthquakes are inherently unpredictable and that this case was putting science itself on trial.
"If the scientific community is to be penalised for making predictions that turn out to be incorrect, or for not accurately predicting an event that subsequently occurs, then scientific endeavour will be restricted to certainties only and the benefits that are associated with findings from medicine to physics will be stalled," Malcolm Sperrin, director of medical physics at the UK's Royal Berkshire Hospital told the BBC.