Empirical data from research studies are vital to guiding mental health interventions following disasters. However, few data are available for this purpose. Important advances in policy and procedures for the conduct of organized research emerged from the Oklahoma City bombing, yielding cooperative working relationships among researchers and culminating in the ethical attainment of informative research data. However, the academic community was again caught off guard after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Suggestions to surmount these obstacles include incorporating research infrastructures into disaster preparedness plans in advance; organizing the community of researchers; and working closely with major funding organizations. Methodological issues pertaining to measurement of psychopathology include the importance of obtaining diagnostic data; interpreting the meaning of symptoms in the absence of a psychiatric disorder; differentiating preexisting symptoms from those that emerged after the disaster, and optimal timing of postdisaster assessment.