Terrorism studies surge

June 22, 2007

Attacks on London and New York have driven growth in a once marginal subject. Rebecca Attwood reports

Terrorism is big business for UK universities, with levels of research and teaching in the area snowballing, experts said this week.

A new book on terrorism is now being published every six hours in the English language, according to the latest research.

Meanwhile, course directors are reporting record levels of in­ter­est, with a surge in student de­mand leading to the creation of scores of new courses.

Richard Jackson, senior lecturer in international politics at Manchester University, said: “All the evidence suggests that the area of terrorism research has in­creased tremendously. In the UK it is a real growth area.”

Andrew Silke, director of terrorism studies at the University of East London who has been examining levels of research in the field, said terrorism scholarship had undergone a great transformation since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US and had seen the birth of “terrorism ­studies”.

Professor Silke said that, if current trends continued, more than 90 per cent of the entire literature on terrorism will have been written since 9/11. In his forthcoming book Terrorism Informatics: Knowledge Management and Data Mining for Homeland Security, he says that it is impossible for a single person to keep up with the great volume of research material now being produced.

“Before 9/11, terrorism research was in the margins — there was very, very little funding. I think people recognised it was an important topic, but very few focused on the area,” he said.
“Now more money is there — we have PhD students coming through, and there’s an awful lot of interest in it.”

Brooke Rogers, a social psychologist at King’s College London, said that levels of funding for research into “home-grown” terrorism had risen markedly in the two years since the July 7, 2005, bombings in London.

She said: “It is picking up steam hugely. When I was looking for funding targeted at research into home-grown terrorism in 2003, there just wasn’t any interest. There was a noticeable change after July 7 from the Government and funding councils. I feel like it is snowballing now.”

Peter Hedges, programme manager for environment, economy and crime at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, said: “Type in ‘terrorism’ to the grants database on our website and you get 30 grants worth £14.9 million — and that’s just our current portfolio.”


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