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Authors: Musacchio, Gemma* 
Solarino, Stefano* 
Eva, Elena* 
Piangiamore, Giovanna Lucia* 
Title: Students, earthquakes, media: Does a seismic crisis make a difference?
Issue Date: 2016
Series/Report no.: FAST TRACK 5/59 (2016)
DOI: 10.4401/ag-7239
Subject Classification05.03. Educational, History of Science, Public Issues 
Abstract: How do students use the big data flow of information from the Internet? What is their opinion and trust in scientists? To what extent catastrophic earthquakes and environmental disasters influence 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 their science. The sample of about 700 students refers to areas prone to natural hazards ranging from low to moderate intensity. To allow a fast and easy compilation, held directly in school, the poll included only a very few questions. They investigated and accessed the source where the students retrieve information on catastrophes and natural phenomena, the role of scientists in everyday life and scientists’ ethical integrity. Although limited, this is the first poll of this kind and data collected up to now can be used for a rough picture of the present situation, to compare results with recent disasters and to project future results of on-going analysis. All information will also help us in a future analysis to understand if and to what extent a recent earthquake or environmental local crisis can affect the perception. Students do not completely trust that scientists are genuinely independent from outer urges. They also believe that media manipulate information with willful misconduct, to hide inconvenient realities or to get economic advantages. However answers from our Emilia sample of students were unexpected: they did not show any specific bias after the 2012 seismic sequence. Conversely 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 available.
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