They had met a few days before the damaging quake and ruled that it was impossible to determine whether the (recent small) tremors would be followed soon by a large quake.
The prosecutor Mr Picuti told the court that the defendants had provided “an incomplete, inept, unsuitable and criminally mistaken” analysis which gave the residents of L’Aquila a false sense of security.
Various comments suggest that given the data and relevant theories the inconclusive finding of the committee was among the range of opinions that could have been reasonably formed. It is suggested that the fault (no pun intended) lay in the way in which the risk was described in public.
Experts should expect to come under very close scrutiny for both false positives and false negatives. Recent examples include the false impression that murder was the most likely explanation for a succession of cot deaths, and after years of anxiety, the discovery that MMR vaccinations were not after all the identifiable cause of autism. Either way, legal expenses will be incurred.
While it is that doom sayers have a natural advantage (no-one deeply cares if they are wrong) the costs of inflated negative forecasts can be enormous. Credibility would be enhanced if on occasion a doom-sayer announced they were not concerned about something e.g. Y2k.
On the subject of earthquakes; models and theories are indeed sophisticated and data sets are beginning to become useful. However, the various relevant time-scales are such that data sets cannot be definitive. On occasion the stated uncertainty in predictions of location and size will be small enough that decision-makers would regard the advice as useful. But usually not. The onus should be on politicians to make policy.
It would help greatly, if risk decision-makers (policy makers) would specify the range of uncertainty in predictions with which they can usefully work. If modellers can reduce uncertainties to that useful level, then they can meaningfully contribute, but if not, then why should decision-makers ask for their detailed opinion? At best, such detailed opinions provide comfort for those with a political interest. Insurers could usefully take note of the precision being asked for and the precision that the modellers actually provide. Comparison would allow selection in underwriting.
The careers of the seven people found guilty in this case have suffered a set-back. If eventually cleared, it would be anticipated that they would seek recompense.