UCL News


Looking Beyond The Pall Of Smoke

17 August 2005

As London rebounds from July's terror attacks, Dr Kevin Fong [UCL Department of Physiology] considers the difficult task facing academics striving to understand the motives of those responsible.

The attacks of 7/7 were close to home for all of us. Especially so at UCL, from whose main campus the Tavistock Square explosion was audible, whose teaching hospital received many of the casualties and whose staff were among the victims. I spent that morning in the accident and emergency department at University College Hospital and the night on the neurosurgical intensive care unit. Retrospectively, the major incident plans worked well, but at the time it seemed like nothing short of chaos. We are now just beginning to go through the hospital admissions details and the patterns of injury, trying to see what could be improved. Trawling literature and cataloguing injuries from other terrorist events makes uncomfortable reading, but it is necessary if we are to learn all we can. …

When the dust has settled, elements of the academic community will have a difficult part to play. Their role is to step back, find objectivity, to deconstruct and guide analysis - but above all to find themselves immune from the hysteria and the hype. If the roots of terrorism are to be understood, it must be done without the clouds of emotive overlay.

'The Times Higher Education Supplement'