May 26, 2023 I Paul Seaburn

One-Fifth of University Research Scientists Admit to UFO Encounters

With the amount of attention they’ve been getting in the mainstream media lately, especially after three were chased and one shot down earlier this year, it is hard to find anyone in the general public who isn’t interested in UFOs. Similarly, it seems that most politicians in Washington are interested in unidentified aerial phenomena – even if it is strictly for national security reasons. In the scientific community, it should come as no surprise that scientists at NASA and astronomers in general are interested in the study of UFOs. But what about the rest of the scientific community? It turns out many involved in academic research are VERY involved with UFO research. Why? A new study found that nearly one in five university scientists have seen UFOs themselves. Is it because professors are interested in aliens? Or are aliens interested in professors?

How would you feel if this was on the board on the first day of college classes?

“Despite this topic’s associated stigma, these developments merited asking faculty about their perceptions. In this national study—which is the first to thoroughly examine faculty evaluations, explanations, and experiences regarding UAP of which the authors are aware—tenured and tenure-track faculty across 14 disciplines at 144 major research universities (N = 1460) participated in a survey.”

To conduct research for their study, “Faculty perceptions of unidentified aerial phenomena,” published in the journal Humanities & Social Sciences Communications, social scientist Marissa Yingling, historian Charlton Yingling, and education researcher Bethany Bell sent surveys to more than 39,000 academic researchers at 144 universities across the United States. They were justified in pointing out the topic’s “associated stigma” as only 1,460 researchers responded. While that is a small base, they assumed skeptics ignored the survey while those who responded were probably very interested and possibly even UFO witnesses. They were right about both.

"Results indicate several implications for UAP research generally. Faculty across disciplines are cautiously willing to engage in the UAP topic, many are interested in conducting research, and the credibility of those who initially engage with the topic as well as funding are important factors for faculty."

Marissa Yingling, a psychology researcher at the University of Louisville, said in an interview that the majority of responders stated they believed that academic research and evaluation into UAPs is important. The survey contained questions about the responder’s knowledge and opinions of unidentified aerial phenomena. Of those who completed the questionnaire, 62% were male, 80% white, 10% worked in political science, 10% worked in physics, 10% in psychology and 6% in engineering. That high percentage in political science is a good indicator of how important this subject is becoming with our political leaders. Despite being at research universities, only 4% reported that they had conducted academic research related to UAPs, 36% had interest in it, 43% said they get more involved if a reputable scholar in their discipline was in it, and 55% said they would if they could secure funding … always a challenge in any academic research.

The survey contained no questions about personal experiences with UAPs – sightings, abductions, knowledge of other who were witnesses or abductees, etc. However, it had a space labeled “Please write anything else you would like to say about this topic” and the study’s authors were surprised by the many and detail accounts they received.

“I personally know three physicists who independently report seeing UFOs. They have no explanation for the phenomenon they observed, other than they observed it.”

“Two of my siblings saw it while the rest of us in the house felt it shake and heard a loud noise. We were eating dinner and the shaking was so intense that we all ran outside.” (A witness who saw a UFO in 1976)

“I have seen UFOs twice. I know they exist and we don’t have that level of technology. I used to tell people but they thought I was crazy or lying—so now I’m silent.”

“When I was in graduate school, circa (year redacted), I saw a large, round UAP with rectangular lit windows on the bottom hovering above the ground in the (mountain range redacted) east of (city redacted). I made my husband pull the car over so I could get out and take a closer look. It was quite dark, and the lights on the craft had attracted my attention. Since (state redacted) is pretty far from Area 51, I have never known what to make of this sighting.”

This is a sample of the encounters voluntarily shared by responders. Besides personal sightings dating back decades, there were many who knew someone close to them who had an encounter of some kind. A total of 19% of the responders had a personal connection with UAPs. But even those who had no first-hand or second-hand encounters said that it was “very important” or “absolutely essential” that academia was involved in UAP research - 64 percent of the total who responded. That feeling was across all disciplines, which Marissa Yingling saw as an essential element in all parts of UAP research.

"Humanities and social sciences offer better insight into, for instance, cultures and motives, the language of legislation and reports, and how narratives are made. Arts may offer better insight into image analysis. Science has other domains of expertise and plays an important role."

Is it time for more UFO studies in academia?

When asked who would most benefit from in creased UAP research, the overwhelming response was “All humanity.” Unfortunately, the small response due to the perceived negative stigma indicates that achieving such a goal will be extremely difficult but keeping silent “may prove imprudent.” The study ends with an excellent set of questions whose answers may help accelerate UAP research in academia.

“If scholars think academia should be involved in evaluating information about UAP, how can this transpire? Would faculty confidence in government reports increase if faculty had the sources and resources to independently examine data? How might scholars extract possible facts from possible fiction? Do compelling reasons remain to dismiss the topic outright? What does it mean that in response to an anonymous survey, faculty voluntarily shared detailed and personal UAP experiences, some mentioning that stigma stopped them from sharing these with others? Whatever the aetiology, what is the cost of self-censorship? To whom do scholars cede the topic by not engaging?”

Replace “faculty” and “scholars” with “leaders” and “politicians” and those questions would be perfect to ask at future congressional hearings on UAPs. The last question is one whose answer is critical no matter which group is being asked: To whom do we cede the topic by not engaging? The military? The military-industrial complex? Political leaders? The rich? Someone else?

However you feel about academics, this study makes it clear that we need them in the field of unidentified aerial phenomena.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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