The evolution of the operational earthquake forecasting community of practice: the L’Aquila communication crisis as a triggering event for organizational renewal

Deanna D. Sellnow, Joel Iverson, Timothy L. Sellnow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The scientific community of earthquake experts has long grappled with how to communicate earthquake probabilities successfully to non-scientific publics. Perhaps most central to their concern is the widely held belief that scientists can actually predict earthquakes when, in fact, they cannot. The potential consequences of this miscommunication problem were appallingly realized as a result of the 6 April 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy. Failed risk communication among scientists, a public official, and L’Aquila residents prior to the earthquake resulted in 309 deaths, 1500 injuries, and 65,000 people displaced from their homes, as well as the sentencing of six scientists and one public official to six years in prison for manslaughter. This paper examines how and why the L’Aquila Earthquake communication crisis ultimately redefined the international scientific earthquake community of practice and its discourse beyond that of community resilience to organizational learning and renewal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-139
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Applied Communication Research
Volume45
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 15 2017

Keywords

  • Communities of practice
  • crisis communication
  • operational earthquake forecasting
  • organizational learning
  • organizational renewal
  • risk communication

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