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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2004 > Feb > Feb 15

Re: Off-Season UFOs - Pope

From: Nick Pope <nick.nul>
Date: Sun, 15 Feb 2004 11:10:46 -0000
Fwd Date: Sun, 15 Feb 2004 15:07:28 -0500
Subject: Re: Off-Season UFOs - Pope


>From: Larry Hatch <larryhatch.nul>
>To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
>Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2004 14:36:53 -0800
>Subject: Off-Season UFOs

>We pretty much know where UFOs are seen during the famous waves
>over the modern era. I put up a series of maps showing those,
>including:

<snip>

>The question occurs, where are UFOs seem _between_ the major
>waves?

>To study this, I set up filters on my software to _exclude_ the
>following months/years:

>June-July 1947; Mar-Apr 1950; June-Sept 1952;
>Sept-Nov. 1954; November 1957; August 1965;
>March-April 1966; March 1967; July-Sept 1968;
>Oct-Nov 1973.

>I left the rest of the data in to study the remainder.

<snip>

>I haven't done a fine analysis of the new data yet, but it might
>be fun to compare and contrast those displays with the wave
>years maps.

>Maybe there are some discernible patterns to UFO sightings
>locations "off-season" versus the busiest periods.


Larry,

Thanks for posting this. I know you'll be aware of some of these
factors, but thought I'd share my views on some of the problems
that arise when trying to do statistical analysis of UFO
sightings.

When running the UK Government's UFO project I asked a member of
staff to do a study into the geographical spread of sightings. I
gave her some outline maps of the UK and asked her to go through
the files for the last three years, marking the locations. Here
are some of the issues that arose:

The Ministry of Defence didn't have a monopoly on the data. Some
people reported to us, and there was a national reporting system
that ensured we received reports sent to military bases, civil
airports and police stations. But this reporting system had
broken down in places, and some people were not aware that
reports should have been forwarded. But in any case, we had no
way of sweeping up reports that were sent to civilian UFO groups
or researchers, or to the media. We would find out about some of
these sightings, but by no means all.

Many people who see UFOs don't report them at all, either
because they fear ridicule or because they don't know where to
send their reports. Again, this brought it home to us that we
were plotting only a proportion of the overall sightings.

A straightforward exercise to map UFO sighting reports takes no
account of any analysis of the sightings. Ministry of Defence
and USAF data told me that 95% of sightings were likely to be
attributable to prosaic explanations, or involve situations
where insufficient data existed to make a reliable assessment of
what was seen. To give one example of how this can affect the
data, we knew that a high proportion of UFO sightings were
caused by misidentifications of aircraft or aircraft lights.
Therefore, any meaningful analysis of the geographical spread of
UFO sightings should take account of the location of
flightpaths. There are many other things to factor in: the sites
where weather balloons are launched, areas where airships fly,
etc.

The media can create a UFO wave. When a UFO story runs in a
local newspaper, the article often ends with a request that
other witnesses come forward. This creates a receptive
environment for reports, and UFO witnesses who might otherwise
have said nothing will feel more comfortable about speaking out,
and will have an obvious outlet. There can be a domino effect
here; a local newspaper might run a story and ask for other
witnesses to get in touch; local radio or television may then
pick up the story and make a similar request. Finally, even
national newspapers or television channels may run the story.
Before you know it, you have the next Warminster or Bonnybridge
on your hands. Are such places really UFO hotspots, or are they
just areas that have been portrayed as such? Once an area gets a
reputation as a hotspot, ufologists go on skywatches there, and
may direct reporters and documentary makers to these areas as
opposed to others. Things are seen in these locations because
this is where people are looking. It becomes a self-fulfilling
prophesy.

This point about the media is also important to bear in mind
when looking at apparent peaks in UFO sightings at a particular
time, as well as in a particular location. Media interest in a
UFO story is likely to be short-lived, but the receptive
environment for sighting reports that exists while the media
spotlight is on can skew the figures for anyone trying to plot
whether there are more sightings at a particular time of year.

UFO researchers can create UFO waves. A proactive researcher
will smoke out reports that might otherwise not come to light,
and act as a 'lightning conductor' for such data. In much the
same way as applies in the point about the media, an apparent
hotspot does not necessarily mean there are more sightings in a
particular area. It may simply be that a more receptive
environment has been created for people to make reports, and a
higher proportion of UFO sightings will be reported in this area
as opposed to another.

We need to factor in data on population density. If more UFOs
are seen in a particular area, might it not reflect the fact
that there are more people there to see them? Indeed, the
results of my MOD study produced maps that seemed to reflect
this very point. More UFO reports came from in and around London
than from anywhere else, and there were similar clusters around
major conurbations.

There's an issue regarding how to score multiple witness
sightings. Do we treat a UFO seen by a family of four as one
report or four? What about sightings in broadly the same
location at broadly the same time, but by witnesses not in
precisely the same location?

I no longer have access to the Ministry of Defence's UFO files,
and I'm doing this from memory, so I may have missed out some
important issues. But I hope this has at least highlighted some
of the difficulties we faced when trying to do statistical
analysis of UFO data. I'm sure ufologists ran into exactly the
same problems, and I'd be interested in people's thoughts on
this.

Best wishes,

Nick Pope




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