After every disastrous earthquake, earth scientists and engineers express concern about the process of reconstruction, afraid that the affected locality will miss the opportunity to build back so as to be more resistant to the next inevitable seismic event. Haiti is only the most recent example, and so the question I have been hearing in recent months is this: How can we use scientific knowledge to inform the safe reconstruction of Port-au-Prince?

The response to this question has two parts: 1) the challenges of promoting risk reduction, and 2) the opportunity (though not an unlimited one) of advancing seismic safety...

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