23 October 2012
Washington, D.C.—The following statement is attributable to the American Geophysical Union:
The verdict and prison sentences delivered on 22 October in the trial of six Italian scientists and one government official charged with manslaughter in connection with the L’Aquila earthquake are troubling and could ultimately be harmful to international efforts to understand natural disasters and mitigate associated risk.
While the facts of the L’Aquila case are complex, the unfettered exchange of data and information, as well as the freedom and encouragement to participate in open discussions and to communicate results, are essential to the success of any type of scientific research. For scientists to be effective, they must be able to make good faith efforts to present the results of their research without the risk of prosecution. Outcomes such as the one seen in Italy could ultimately discourage scientists from advising their governments, from communicating the results of their research to the public, or even from studying and working in various fields of science.
The most appropriate response to natural disasters such as the L’Aquila earthquake is a renewed commitment on the part of scientists, engineers, and government officials to continue working together to more accurately understand and communicate the best available science and information for what can be done to protect the public.
The American Geophysical Union (AGU) is a not-for-profit, professional, scientific organization with more than 61,000 members representing over 148 countries. AGU advances the Earth and space sciences through its scholarly publications, conferences, and outreach programs. www.agu.org
Joan Buhrman, +1 202-777-7509, [email protected]