Academic Research and Government Policy on Terrorism

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Since 1968 international terrorism has grown considerably, despite governments’ effort to curb it. Part of this failure is attributable to the inadequate contribution of academic research to government policy making on terrorism. The paper identifies three problem areas that hinder academic influence on government policy making in this field. These are: (1) Terrorism is a difficult subject for research because its diversity makes generalizations questionable and empirical data are hardly accessible for the academic researcher. (2) By and large, terrorism has remained outside the interest of mainstream social science. Academic contributions on terrorism have often been occasional and amateurish, lacking in factual knowledge of the subject matter. Many of them are too theoretical to have an applicability value and some are too speculative to be reliable. (3) For a variety of reasons, including resistance to external influences in general and suspicion of academia in particular, government officials have failed to utilize even sound knowledge and competent professional advice of academics. In some demonstrable cases this neglect has had deleterious effects on the quality of government decisions concerning terrorism. In order to improve the utilization of potential academic contribution to policy decisions on terrorism, governments should selectively support academic research on terrorism that has a high practical promise. Preference should be given to subjects of study where academic has a relative advantage over government in depth and rigor. It is also suggested that academic influence on government decision making would be served best by an exchange of people between academia and government.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-102
Number of pages15
JournalTerrorism and Political Violence
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 1991


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