The UFO Phenomenon: A New Approach

Rationale  

A primary goal associated with “a new approach” to the UFO phenomenon is to establish a governance structure to provide the necessary leadership, direction, and related resource support, both human and fiscal, for a multidisciplinary team of leading scholars to study the phenomenon.  The goals of this newly formed committee, which for purposes of discussion will be called the Committee to Study Unexplained Aerial Events (CSUAE), should include the application of applied prospectively based multidisciplinary scientific research to determine the extent to which the phenomenon is explicable within the framework of accepted scientific principles.   The application of newly developed research models and techniques will also be required to facilitate the appropriate collection and analysis of acquired UFO evidence.  Without a purposeful new direction, the many controversial UFO theories and extraordinary claims will continue to serve as a source of debate, with little, if any, meaningful contributions made to better understand the phenomenon.

Ideally, all theories must be subjected to rigorous scientific study before it can be accepted or denied.  This objective, however, has been compromised by several longstanding concerns associated with the study of the UFO phenomenon.  Consequently, an essential goal must be for the CSUAE to address several limitations within the field of ufology: 1) scientific protocols for the collection and evaluation of UFO evidence have not been standardized and consistently applied by research investigators, 2) there exists a lack of adequate resources to support research in the form of qualified and interested scientists, and reliable funding sources, 3) the lack of an organized governance structure to help lead, promote, and support scientific study of the phenomenon, 4) UFO investigations have been generally conducted by those with relatively little or no educational background or advanced degree in a scientific discipline, 5) extraordinary claims by many leading UFO researchers have been made in the absence of compelling supportive evidence, e.g., UFOs are extraterrestrial craft, aliens have abducted humans, and others, 6) the field of ufology lacks credibility as a legitimate area for scientific inquiry by the scientific and political communities, and 7) the ufology community is highly fragmented, lacks leadership, direction, research focus, and a widely approved theory of the phenomenon.

The UFO enigma, by virtue of its mystery and longstanding controversy (e.g., alien visitation of our planet), also discourages those who may consider conducting research in this area.  Importantly, the fact remains that leading UFO researchers have not convinced the scientific and political communities that even their best cases represent adequate evidence to stimulate sufficient interest for research purposes.

Future Directions in the Study of the UFO Phenomenon

Governance

Before developing a proposed “new approach” in the study of the UFO phenomenon, it is essential to first assess the current state of governance and research affairs within the UFO community.  This evaluation reveals a discipline marred by a lack of leadership, a fragmented organizational structure lacking a defined mission and associated supporting goals, and limited application of rigorous, well controlled scientific investigations of the UFO phenomenon.  Accordingly, effective leadership must be provided, through a governance structure, provided by an overarching committee (e.g., Subcommittee of the United Nations, Senate, Congress, or public/private) composed of leaders from diverse backgrounds such as politics, business, military, academic, public/private agencies, among others, to provide the necessary direction, support, and related resources required for a multidisciplinary team (e.g., psychology, biology, physics, sociology, optical physics, and astronomy, etc) of leading scholars to study the phenomenon.  Once a centralized governance structure (e.g., CSUAE) is formed, it must be guided by an agreed upon mission facilitated by a strategic plan and supporting objectives and related action plans to realize its mission.

  1. Research Plan

The general findings and related conclusions from previous UFO based research, typically regarded as too unreliable by the scientific community, have not convinced cautious scientists and skeptics that the phenomenon is important and worthy of investigation.  Consequently, a research plan should contain appropriate goals as part of a detailed protocol to help: 1) to attract and assemble an appropriate multidisciplinary team of renown scientists to develop methodological approaches to test agreed upon hypotheses to study the phenomenon, 2) develop collaborative arrangements with international research based facilities and agencies (i.e., government, public, and private), 3) ensure representation on leading international scientific committees and agencies, 4) centralize a newly developed UFO database to compile and analyze existing and future evidence obtained worldwide for research purposes, 5) develop and implement educational training programs to sufficiently prepare individuals as “UFO investigators.” This will help ensure that standardized research protocols are applied in a consistent manner to properly collect, analyze, and document all known types of UFO evidence, and 6) to publish research findings in established refereed scientific journals, and to present these results at appropriate international conferences.

Essential to this proposed research plan is the establishment of testable hypotheses to explain the phenomenon.   Ideally they should be “working hypotheses” that are widely accepted and which forms the basis of further experimentation.  Several UFO hypotheses for research consideration may include:

1. Is the UFO phenomenon associated with non-human intelligence from another planet, dimension, and/or space-time?

2. Is the UFO phenomenon associated with psycho-cultural influences?

3. Is the UFO phenomenon associated with natural phenomenon, such as, atmospheric, geological, and/or meteorological?

4. Is the UFO phenomenon associated with manmade phenomenon?

5. Is the UFO phenomenon associated with the alien abduction phenomenon?

To help better understand the nature of this phenomenon, research of qualitative anecdotal evidence should define the characteristics of the phenomena as actually experienced and the impact such experiences have upon the individual. Using an inductive, descriptive approach, phenomenology research of the underlying process of each type of UFO experience encountered will help identify the essential characteristics and meaning of the phenomena.  That is, the phenomenology of people’s UFO experiences should be investigated more thoroughly to determine if the experiences have a “paranormal,” “consciousness,” or “personality,” basis. The research analysis will explore the meaning of “what” and “how” the phenomenon was experienced through the examination of specific statements and themes, and a search for all possible significant meanings.  Consequently, research should include observed correlations between reported UFO encounters and the person’s personality and beliefs, and psychological and physiological effects, among other reported events associated with the experience.

Discussion 

In light of the poorly understood and perplexing nature of the phenomenon, and the associated lack of research support from the government and scientific community, progress made to advance our understanding of the UFO phenomenon will likely continue to stagnate. Until a newly established committee, guided by a shared governance structure and an agreed upon research plan, is formed to help define the nature and origin of this phenomenon, ufology will continue to be perceived as a pseudoscience, and a popular alternative cultural movement by the general scientific and political community.  And while no guarantee can be made that a new scientific initiative will provide any meaningful answers to define the nature and origin of this phenomenon, it is imperative that we apply an appropriate level of commitment and resources to help initiate this proposed governance and research goal.

To help ensure the success of this proposed “new approach” to the UFO phenomenon, appropriate rationale must convince the scientific community and members of our political system of the need for collaborative research efforts and resources to more effectively study the phenomenon.  As past well-intentioned congressional hearings, sponsored by the Disclosure Project, and the Citizens Hearing on Disclosure, have not been entirely successful in this regard, new approaches must be initiated to address this objective. And with proper leadership, provided within the context of an organized and shared governance structure, the chance of securing needed support and resources, while not guaranteed, should be enhanced.

A new scientific approach to the study of the UFO phenomenon must be developed and consistently applied in a timely manner by investigators worldwide in order to narrow the wide gap between science and UFO research. The CSUAE must serve to transform current practice into a respectable and accepted scientific endeavor to adequately investigate future UFO evidence.

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