Prosecuting Scientists for Being Wrong

By Deane Barker on February 1, 2012

Top Italian Scientists Who Failed to Predict 2009 Earthquake Now Face Manslaughter Charges: Here’s a short but thought-provoking article about Italian scientists who publically stated that the risk of a major aftershock to an Earthquake was low.  A few days later, an aftershock killed 300.  They’re now being charged with manslaughter.

Local citizens claimed they had been planning to leave their homes after the smaller quake, but had changed their minds after the committee’s comments. In August 2009, the citizens filed a formal request for investigation, and earlier this month the chief prosecutor stated that his office had enough information to indict the individuals named in the case.

Suffice it to say that this would have a chilling effect on science.  And I think there’s a real difference here between just being wrong, and being clearly negligent.  I’m thinking of the British scientist who allegedly published fraudulent research linking vaccines to autism – that seems like another situation entirely.

Interestingly, another scientist did predict the second Italian quake, but no one took him seriously.