Students, earthquakes, media: does a seismic crisis make a difference?

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Gemma Musacchio
Stefano Solarino
Elena Eva
Giovanna Piangiamore


How do students use the big data flow of information form the Internet? What is their opinion and trust of scientists? How far is the influence of catastrophic earthquakes and environmental disasters on their opinion? In this study we present the results of a poll conducted on high school students (age 13-20) to assess young Italian citizens trust on geoscientists and theirs science. The sample of about 700 students is collected in areas prone to natural hazards from low to moderate intensity. The poll included only a very few questions to allow a fast compilation that could be held directly at school. Questions assessed the source from which information on catastrophes and natural phenomena is usually retrieved by the students, the role of scientists in everyday life and scientists ethical integrity. Although limited, this is the first poll of this kind and the collected up to now can be used for a rough picture of the present situation, compare results with recent disasters and project future results of on-going analysis. All information will also help us in a future analysis to understand if and how much a recent earthquake or environmental local crisis can affect the perception. Students do not completely trust that scientists are independent from outer urges. They also believe that media manipulate information with willful misconduct, to hide inconvenient realities or to get economic advantages.   Answers from our Emilia sample of students were unexpected: they did not show any specific bias after the 2012 seismic sequence. They show less skepticism towards scientists and scientific integrity in comparison to students from other regions. This suggests that the perception towards science and scientists might be driven by cultural and social background and not necessarily affected by recent seismic crisis. In this perspective this on-going study will be challenged as soon as poll after the Amatrice 2016 seismic sequence will be awailable.

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How to Cite
Musacchio, G., Solarino, S., Eva, E. and Piangiamore, G. (2016) “Students, earthquakes, media: does a seismic crisis make a difference?”, Annals of Geophysics, 59. doi: 10.4401/ag-7239.

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