Category Archives: Open Source

Wishlist items #2 and #3, Passive Radar and Funding Mechanism

You often hear people say that there’s no money in ufology. The only way to make money is by writing a book and selling it. Maybe Having a subscription based podcast is the new version of a book, or at least some sort of syndicated radio program. There’s certainly next to no funding coming from established research programs at universities. There may be something at the private level, but if there is, the output of that research seems to be staying with those funding it, or maybe its coming out in books.

Obviously,  If someone asking for money directly, I suspect you will view them with a very critical eye.

So I’m using this post to propose a process to allow for the raising of private funds for the purpose of UFO research, or really any kind of independent research, paranormal or otherwise. Some mechanisms of the process may not actually exist yet, but probably won’t be terribly difficult for someone with the right skills to create.

I will describe the process with a hypothetical example and describe how it would proceed and could involve the whole paranormal community. I will use the names of actual people, forums, companies, podcasts, and even projects, but only for illustrative purposes. Please don’t think that the use of their names implies that they are presently involved in anything like what I’m describing. Maybe they are, but not too my knowledge. I use them to illustrate because their current roles are easily understood by the community and would be useful.

So here goes…

WISHLISTS

It all starts with the wishlist. I talked about my concept of a wishlist here (http://yaufob.wordpress.com/2009/8/21/wishlist), but the idea is to let the world know what you want, because you don’t know who can make a contribution to make it happen.

So in this example, we’ll start with the wishlist of an organization like the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS). To reiterate, I don’t know what’s on CUFOS’s wishlist, or if they even have one, but there are a few specific reasons to use CUFOS for our example. First they have been around for a while, so they are familiar with the subject matter and are headed by people with reasonable academic credentials. Second, CUFOS is a nonprofit (enter “ufo studies” in the search box) , so donations made to CUFOS are tax deductible, which would help maximize the level of funds that would be raised.

So in this example, CUFOS creates a wishlist and includes on it a passive radar system to be implemented on a statewide level. Again, I don’t know if CUFOS would want this, but lets say they want to develop something like this. Peter Davenport described passive radar at a mufon conference a few years ago, and put together a .pdf document which you can find at his website. Although CUFOS may not have any particular expertise in developing a passive radar system, they decide that a passive radar system might be useful to implement on a statewide level in a state with little military air-traffic, so they put it on their wishlist. By doing so, they are looking to act as a sponsor to someone who has the skills necessary to put together such a system.

The Technologist, The Proposal, and the Sponsor

Although CUFOS may not have any expertise with passive radar, they know there are people out there who have the technical chops to put something like that together. One person who has worked on such technology is Eric Blossom. So maybe Mr. Blossom hears about the CUFOS wishlist and decides to submit a proposal for a statewide passive radar system. The proposal details how much a system would cost to build, who would administer it, what the fixed and ongoing costs would be, how it works, and what its strengths and weaknesses are.

Once CUFOS receives the proposal they debate it internally, and decide if they would like to sponsor it. Sponsorship would involve appointing someone within CUFOS to administer the project. This would include arranging for media interviews and debate, making necessary changes to the proposal, setting benchmarks for funding process, checking benchmarks against progress, ensuring adequate record keeping, and distributing final results.

Media Debate

Because ufology doesn’t have a peer review process and because funding will be coming from outside sources, alternative media (podcasts and blogs) will play a central role in the hashing out of the merits of a particular research project.

In this case, either the CUFOS representative and/or Mr. Blossom would get together with members of the media along with other reasonable authorities to debate the pros and cons of a particular project. For example, Mr. Blossom might be a guest on Paratopia where he could describe the project and proposal to the Paratopia audience. To get a balanced idea of the project, hosts Jeremy Vaeni and Jeff Ritzmann would need to arrange for opposing viewpoints on the show as well. Maybe they would try to get someone else on the show who has dealt with passive radar and knows the pitfalls that must be dealt with. And/or someone who has experience with UFO/radar cases. The idea is to get a 360-degree view of the projects.(Actually Alex Tsakiris, host of the Skeptiko podcast does a really good job at working through some of the details of experiments dealing with Psi phenomenon, and readers would be well served to check out his podcast)

Of course it wouldn’t need to be just one podcast. There are probably many more blogs with an interest in the ufo subject than there are podcasts, and some non-ufo/paranormal outlets that would also have an interest, could also participate. So bloggers could and should get in on the action too. Taking a position on either side, and advocating to their hearts content.

Funding Mechanism

After the listening and reading audiences get a chance to hear discussion from various sources, both for and against they would be able to make up their own mind about whether or not they would like to contribute financially to the project. Those who are interested in helping financially, or just keeping up with the projects results, would go to a project website.  The website would be a central hub that would host the proposal so that interested parties can look at the details for themselves. It would also provide a way for people to make donations.

The proposal would provide the outline of the project, with benchmarks marking the functional sections and noting the successful completion of a section, as verified by the sponsor representative. Donations would be set up to be prorated, with a certain percentage of each donation being allocated for each section of the project. As an example, if someone donates $100 to the project, that $100 would be broken up into smaller amounts to be released as portions of the project are completed. If a project stalls half way through, after a defined inactivity period, donors would receive the portion of their donation back for the uncompleted project, assuming the sponsor was unable to find someone else to complete the project. Upon completion of the project, donors would receive a package detailing the project’s outcome.

I’m not sure exactly who the best organization would be to put together such a website. My first instinct is to think of Paypal as an organization that can handle making payments of varying sizes securely, and keep track of it all. They already have a micro-finance division called Microplace.com that connects those with money to micro-business owners that need loans. (Maybe contact Scott Thompson at President of PayPal, and let him know they should think about this.) Then there are sites like elance.com that deal with the matching of people who need services with people who can provide those services, even implementing some benchmarking payment programs. Maybe its someone else altogether.

So that is basically the idea. To summarize:

1. Figure out what you want to get done to advance ufology.

2. Find someone who can do it.

3. Get the idea out there and have people debate it from all angles.

4. Provide an efficient mechanism for making proratable payments.

5. Check the progress of the project and pre-determined intervals.

6. Upon completion, get the results out to the world, or at least the sponsors.

It would provide a structure to match up people who want to do alternative research with people who are interested in funding it, and it would do so in a way that everyone involved is informed about what is going on at the beginning, and if they aren’t, it is up to them to get better answers or opt out of participation.

Well, thats it for now. If you think its a good idea, please comment. If you think its bunk please comment as well, but try to be nice about it.

Thanks for reading.

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Less Is More

One of the problems with ufology is that it tries to accomplish far too much with far too little. The usual goal seems to be trying to convince the general public or the academic establishment that extraterrestrials are visiting Earth. The resources available to accomplish the goals are few. Maybe a skilled researcher is hunkered down in a government archive digging for official reports of high strangeness or filing Freedom of Information Act requests. More often it is a barely trained field investigator interviewing an unprepared witness. Most often, an angst-ridden enthusiast is simply reading Internet stories and getting angry at the government for the ‘truth embargo’. The problem with trying to accomplish the grand goals of ufology is that the people going about it rarely have the skills needed to fulfill the task. Not that the ufological community is talentless, far from it, but how does one become an expert in a subject whose very existence is denied by academia, the community we normally trust to produce experts?

 

The SETI Institute’s Dr. Seth Shostak tells us that thousands of scientists would be working on the problem if they thought there was anything to it. I take that as being a somewhat reasonable statement, although I find it difficult to imagine Dr. Shostak praising any of his colleagues for their ufological efforts. So maybe ufology would be better off spending its time showing that something is going on, not necessarily exactly what is going on. If we define the problem as showing what is going on, we find ourselves appealing to unproven notions of extraterrestrial or interdimensional beings. If we define the problem as showing that something is going on, rather than exactly what is going on, the solution to that problem may well fall into the realm of fairly conventional science. Further, as was the case in the movie Contact, if widespread acknowledgment is ever achieved, it is very likely that the ufological community will be marginalized in favor of other mainstream scientific groups with more adequate equipment, training, facilities, and financial resources.

 

So if the ufological groups aren’t going to prove that aliens have landed, what are they to do?

 

As I see it, the assets of the mainstream ufologoical groups are databases of historic sighting reports, some leaders that are recognized and respected by the rest of the ufological community, and a fairly thick collective skin. What I would like to see from present and future ufological groups is to take their years of experience with all aspects of the phenomenon and conceive of some sort of hypothetical roadmap to a broad acknowledgment of a phenomenon. It shouldn’t seek acceptance of any particular theory (extraterrestrial, cryptoterrestrial, interdimensional, intertemporal, spiritual, utterly natural or other), just a possible path to general acknowledgment that something odd is operating around our planet.

 

Groups and individuals could propose something like the following illustration which would show a series of steps, events, or paradigm shifts that would could bring us from ridicule to acknowledgment. For the first section, organizations would develop a list of steps that they believe could lead to the general acknowledgment that something is out there. Three steps may not be enough, they need not necessarily be linear, and they will almost certainly need to be revised, but the goal would be getting to the acknowledgment that something anomalous is happening. Steps 4-7 would bring us from acknowledgment of something odd to acceptance of the phenomenon and (dare to dream) establish it as worthy of traditional academic study. Mainstream ufology would probably have very little, if any, involvement with the second group of steps, although its entirely possible that individuals from within ufology could bring their individual skills to bear on the problem.

Roadmap illustration

What form steps 1-3 take would be determined by a given organization as it sees fit. MUFON, for example, would probably have a different take on a roadmap than NARCAP. A group may seek to consult with mainstream scientists or not. It may focus on concrete, outcome-oriented tasks or more general guidelines, where the method of achievement is proposed and executed by others. Perhaps new organizations would be formed, with their members designing and executing their own roadmaps. Ideally, however, the roadmaps from all the organizations would be publicly available, with the methods, measures of progress and problems encountered also made available eventually so that observers, both within and without ufology, could also make suggestions and contributions.

 

In the end, achieving the steps between ridicule and acknowledgment should be far easier to accomplish than the steps between acknowledgment and acceptance, if only because members of the ufo community already know, or believe they know, that something odd is out there. Achieving a critical mass of people who acknowledge the phenomenon may be as simple as increasing the number of people exposed to existing information on the subject, making it simply a marketing problem. After 60+ years of the modern ufo era, however, this may be necessary but alone is probably insufficient. What will be needed to get us to acknowledgment is yet to be determined, but whatever it is, improved leadership in the community will certainly be necessary to get us there.