Posted tagged ‘volcanic ash’

The way we live now: the long-term legacy of volcanic ash?

April 20, 2010

We were so so close. Right up to late last night the suggestion in the news was that the airlines would take to the skies again from Ireland from this morning. ┬áBut they haven’t, and the Irish air space is still closed. Meanwhile on BBC television last night, the Icelandic President was helpfully suggesting that a bigger and better volcano in his country was about to erupt and that we might have to live with the aviation consequences for years. At least I am writing this from my office, not from some hotel in another continent where I might have been stranded.

There are of course now lots of news reports on how the volcanic ash is affecting tourism, trade, and so forth; but we are only beginning to think about its impact on the business of universities. All over the world, the top institutions now rely on overseas input and participation: in examination marking, in support for interview panels, in expert reviews of research proposals, in giving strategic advice. Some of this can be done remotely, online or through videoconferencing or other technology. But even in this age we still rely on travel to provide us with access to and by overseas partner institutions. This is true also of research projects carried out by international teams.

Really, we have hardly begun to think through the implications. Of course this may turn out to be another example of what some are calling the avian flu (or swine flu) phenomenon – a very serious situation that does not however turn out to be as long term or widespread a problem as at first assumed. But we cannot be sure of that. We had better look again at how we manage international engagement; because, surely, we will not want to go back to being insular.