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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2002 > Jun > Jun 3

Crisis of Credibility in Ufology

From: Karl Rotstan <karl.rotstan@verizon.net>
Date: Sun, 2 Jun 2002 19:26:43 -0400
Fwd Date: Mon, 03 Jun 2002 07:11:31 -0400
Subject: Crisis of Credibility in Ufology

Greetings all,

As a long time lurker on this List (and infrequent poster), I
have watched with interest as participants in this forum and
this field have struggled with the challenges posed by the
crisis of credibility within Ufology. While some may choose to
blame the media, government sabotage or professional debunkers
for the disdain with which the field is held by members of the
press and academia, we cannot avoid recognizing that much of the
damage has been self-inflicted by participants in the debate
over the last several decades.

It seems to me that by allowing the discussion to descend to the
level of ad hominem attacks and tolerating uncritical acceptance
of the latest greatest story, we invite those with questionable
intentions to seize control of the dialogue and to tar the
entire field. Royce J. Myers III has done us all a great service
not only by exposing yet the latest fraud to strike the field,
but most importantly, by forcing us into revisiting the methods
by which research is the field is written and promulgated.

One fundamental weakness I see is a lack of transparency in the
methods by which research is conducted and evidence is gathered.
Note that I do not wish to accuse everyone in this field with
such a claim, as it is clear there are several serious
practitioners on this list. However, there seems to be a giant
disconnect between the quality of research done by these
practitioners and the messages which get out into the public
arena via the media. The 'Reed' hoax is but the latest example
of such a disconnect. It seems to me that there is no point in
complaining about the public perception of the field given the
fact that we have yet to clean our own house.

Some on this List (for example, Mr. Hutchinson) have expressed
the belief that there is no hope of getting rid of the
fraudsters and hoaxers in the absence of a professional
organization of serious UFO researchers. While I tend to agree
that such an organization might help, I believe that emphasizing
transparency and scholarly methodology is the key. The field
appears to be lacking in peer review by anonymous referees, and
is replete with intransparent methodology. For example, many
authors will happily rely on anonymous sources or questionable
evidence as the crux of their arguement and are either unable or
unwilling to share either the raw data or its provenance. This
is completely unacceptable and should be condemned as such. The
disproportionate influence that discredited individuals (and
their "evidence") have wielded (and still wield) in this field
is also destructive to serious research.

Might I suggest something analogous to an "Underwriters
Laboratory Seal of Approval" that could be applied to future
research? It could be something as simple as a small logo on the
jacket of a book which would indicate to the public at large
that the research presented had been anonymously peer reviewed
by serious researchers and is untainted by what Mr. Randle aptly
describes as "those who have lied about their credentials, lied
about their background, lied about what they have accomplished,
have been convicted of felonies (and there are several who
regularly appear on the lecture circuit), those who had claimed
military service they didn't have, and those who are simply
unreliable." It would furthermore indicate that the researcher
in question is able and willing to share the raw data in their
possession as well as the methodology used in its assessment.

This should be coupled with a proactive "name and shame"
campaign, similar to what Mr. Myers has done, but extended to
ALL who do damage to the field through shameful or shoddy
research, and most importantly to those who provide a venue for
such "research" to be promulgated.

Finally, a rejection of ad hominem attacks, even when attacked
ourselves, would be a valuable first step to reestablishing
credibility within the field. This mystery is bigger and more
important than any individual or ego and the sooner we treat it
as such, the quicker we may be able to pull ourse lves out of
the quagmire within which we find ourselves today.

Best regards,

Karl Rotstan

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