Friday, May 27, 2005

What do ufologists do?

In identifying tools and reference documents that might be useful to ufologists, I think the starting point should be to identify the varies activities that fall within the scope of "ufology" and why these activities are undertaken.

As an easier task than identifying the goal(s) of ufologists, I've made a quick attempt to outline the relevant activities within an overall framework of a few main categories (which overlap to some extent), with a view to producing a document that can be developed in the future (as a FAQ, lists of relevant sources, action plans, a training syllabus or something else).

The main categories of activities I've identified at the moment are:

A. Investigation
B. Research
C. Lobbying
D. Miscellaneous other

These categories are broken down into more detail below:

A. Investigation
(1) Reactive investigations
(i) Organising reporting systems
1. Obtaining reports
2. Dissemination to investigators

(ii) Field investigations
1. Questioning witnesses
2. Report Forms
3. Site investigations
4. Gathering other relevant information

(iii) Case reports
1. Assessment of evidence
2. Presentation of evidence and assessment

(2) Proactive investigations
(i) Sky watches
(ii) Sustained projects (e.g. Hessdalen, Project Twinkle, Project Identification).

B. Research

(1) Research of issues relevant to assessment of value of

(i) Witness Evidence

1. Medical/psychological (a. Perception b. Recall)
2. Folklore
3. Science Fiction

(ii) Other forms of evidence
1. Physical evidence
2. Photographic evidence
3. Radar evidence
4. Other

(2) Compiling databases

(3) Statistical studies

(4) Historical/Archival research

(5) Sociological studies of:
(i) Those reporting UFOs
(ii) Those investigating ufo reports
(iii) The public perception of UFO reports

C. Lobbying

(1) Obtaining co-operation

1. Objectives of obtaining co-operation
a. Obtaining information/documentation
i. Parliamentary questions
ii. Arranging hearings
b. Further studies
c. Other

(i) Methods of obtaining co-operation from Scientists/Academics
a. Consultancy arrangements
b. Symposia
c. Publications
d. Ad hoc involvement
c. Other

(ii) Methods of obtaining co-operation from Politicians/Officials
a. Personal approaches
b. Petitions
c. Demonstrations
d. Other

(iii) Methods of obtaining co-operation from members of the public
(i) Publication in main stream science journals
(ii) Peer reviewed UFO publications
(iii) Books
(iv) Internet ((a) Websites ((1) Text (2) Video (3) Sound) (b) Discussion groups)
(v) Media ((a) Newspapers (b) Television/video (c) Radio)
(vi) Public appearances ((a) Lectures (b) Debates)
(vii) Personal approaches

(2) Persuading individuals of results

D. Miscellaneous other issues
(1) Ethics
(2) Therapy
(3) Making money
(4) Achieving political objectives
(5) Achieving religious objectives

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Developing basic ufological reference/working documents

The key points in relation to the working documents are that:

(a) Contributions can, if desired, be made anonymously by use of an email account which does not indicate the identity of the author.

(b) The primary and secondary sources should be identified, giving some indication of the extent to which each of these sources has been considered and the approach adopted in relation to each source (e.g. checking for certain key words in an index, reading the entirety of the source material for certain stated periods etc)

(c) In deciding on the nature of each working document, an attempt should be made to identify types of information which can be contributed without undermining any project which an individual has invested a considerable amount of time and effort and wishes to see through to publication. For example, witnesses and reports which become known to a researcher appear to be more highly valued than ancillary information which is not newsworthy in and of itself. Some pooling of information on a topic is better than no pooling at all.

(d) The working documents should avoid the inclusion of comments and analysis which will detract from the presentation and gathering of relevant information. The working documents should set out relevant factual material in a neutral manner.

(e) The working documents and contributions to it must be clearly and fully referenced to the primary source if that is available to the person producing the working document or commenting upon it. If the primary source is not available or known, the person writing the working document or contributing to it must be identify the secondary source or sources which purports to set out the relevant asserted facts.

(f) Draft working documents and/or contributions to working documents should be posted to an internet forum to limit issues as to the giving of appropriate credit.

(g) The relevant public forum must be easily accessible on-line at no charge, so that the relevant material working document (and any contribution to it) is found as part of a basic search on the internet by a potential researcher prior to his embarking on more in-depth work;

(h) If meaningful contributions are to be obtained, the relevant forum must be read by a considerable number of investigators and researchers informed as to the subject matter of the relevant working document.

(i) The relevant public forum should be one that should be widely regarded as not dominated by one “faction”.

I am not entirely convinced that a public forum fully satisfying the final 3 objectives set out above exists. If anyone has a better idea than the use of UFO Updates, I would be happy to hear from them.)

The need for basic reference documents

Given the nature of the debate within Ufology, it is surprising that lawyers appear not to have a more active role in the discussions. Apart from areas within which lawyers might be expected to have directly applicable skills (e.g. in relation to Freedom of Information Act issues, interviewing of witnesses etc), the basic skills and concepts used and developed by lawyers may have a wider role.

In particular, it appears to me to be desirable to consider whether any of the tools used by lawyers (e.g. fact and issue management devices) and concepts used by lawyers (e.g. relating to standards of proof, burdens of proof, weight of evidence, relevance, materiality, proportionality etc) could useful be deployed.

Of course, lawyers do not have a monopoly on the use of most of these tools and concepts. However, many of the comments made in the present ufological literature betray a lack of understanding of some of the fundamental understanding of relevant concepts. On a more pragmatic level, it appears to be worth giving further consideration to the fact and issue management tools used by lawyers (particularly in factually complex cases).

For example, under the present civil litigation procedure in England in large commercial cases, the parties to litigation are expected to co-operate in various respects so as to make a case fit for trial in as efficient and fair a manner as possible. This involves, at the most basic level, producing various agreed (and therefore non-conteniously drafted) documents so that the trial judge will be able to understand the nature of the dispute and the issues in dispute as efficiently as possible. Even if not directed to jointly produce such documents by the judge, the parties may jointly prepare such documents in an attempt to narrow the issues between themselves, or draft documents themselves in a non-contentious manner to assist the Court.

These non-contentious documents typically include:
a chronology (giving the dates of key events, a few words to identify the event and cross references to further material relied upon by both sides in relation to that event ;

(a) a List of Issues (listing the main issues agreed and not agreed between the parties);

(b) a case memorandum (summarising the case in just a few pages);

(c) a dramatis personae (listing the names that the Judge will come across at trial, with a few words to identify them);

(d) a glossary (listing technical terms or terms of art that will arise during the trial, with an agreed definition of those terms);

(e) a reading list (of material to be read in advance of the trial) .

Non-contentious documents in the form of chronologies and a List of Issues appear to be harder to find, whether in print or (to an even greater extent) on the Internet.

Problems within ufology

The first step in solving some of the problems with current attempts to investigate issues arising from reports of UFOs is to identify those problems.

So, what are the main problems?

Apart from the obvious difficulties arising from limited funding and resources, numerous problems have repeatedly arisen in relation to research in the UFO field.

(It could, of course, be said that several of these problems arise to some, or even the same, extent in many fields of research.)

These include:

(a) The public perception of those investigating or researching in this field and the potential impact (actual or merely feared) of any involvement in this field becoming known to others;

(b) The undertaking of overly ambitious projects, which do not adequately take into account a realistic consideration of available time and resources;

(c) The abandonment of projects before any results are published;

(d) The interest of an individual or group of individuals becoming diverted to administrative tasks rather than investigation and/or research, with the individual ultimately becoming disillusioned with ufology.

(e) A lack of clarity as to the purpose that will be served by the investigation or research that is being performed and the value of any results;

(f) Individuals having an intense interest in Ufology for a limited period, followed by a complete abandonment of any activity in this field;

(g) Strong polarisation of the debate which obscures the fundamental points in a contribution;

(h) Strong personalities involved in the discussion, which again can obscure the fundamental points in a disagreement between two individuals or viewpoints;

(i) Strong concerns about recognition of the contribution made by a person or group;

(j) A frustrating lack of references to primary documents and/or named witnesses in UFO literature, often with no references at all to the source of information presented as fact;

(k) A frustrating lack of indexing to much UFO literature;

(l) A frustrating inability to determine the potential sources that have already been examined and found not to contain any relevant information (referred to by Loren Gross as “dry holes”);

(m) Limited knowledge of and/or access to key books and documents.

(n) Researchers with a wide variety of abilities and backgrounds, not always working in fields in which they have the necessary skills.