Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

============== INSIDE UFOLOGY June 1988 ============== REFEREED JOURNAL A GIANT STEP FORWARD ParaNet Alpha 06/20 -- Between the furor over the Gulf Breeze case, the nebulous MJ-12 evidence, the death of Coral Lorenzen and the demise of APRO, UFOlogy needs some good news to bring to the MUFON Symposium in Lincoln this month. Now it appears it has some. According to Dr. Michael Swords, the Hynek Center for UFO Studies will soon be publishing UFOlogy's first refereed science journal. OK, so its not as exciting as the latest abduction tale, or as titillating as a John Lear hypothesis. But to those who advocate serious, scientific study of the UFO phenomenon, its a giant step forward. The Journal of UFO Studies, as it will be called, will contain articles submitted by experts in virtually every facet of the phenomenon, including psychology, sociology, astronomy, physics, and history. The articles will be screened by the Journal's Board of Editors, which, according to Swords, reads like a Who's Who of UFOlogy. Heading the board and editing the Journal will be Swords, himself a professor of genetics at Western Michigan State University and a board member of CUFOS -- one of UFOdom's heaviest hitters. After screening, each submission will undergo further review by a professional in the same field, "preferably," says Swords, "someone who has little or no previous connection with UFOs." The reviewer, or "referee," is free to comment on the scientific, logical or historical validity of the work, and if the work satisfies the basic requirements for publication, those comments are also published in the same or a subsequent issue of the Journal. The author can then answer the referee's comments, and so on. The result is an ongoing dialogue, framed in an objective, academic setting that most mainstream scientists would at least find palatable, if not downright credible. This system of "peer review" has been one of the missing elements separating scientific UFOlogy from the mainstream. Long accused of practicing "pseudo-science," UFOlogists have sought to improve their methods and bring them in line with the standards of other, more established sciences. One of those standards is the refereed publication. In the past, UFO researchers who were otherwise academically qualified would submit their works to the refereed journals of other disciplines, only to meet with almost universal rejection -- usually accompanied by a sneer. UFOlogy was, and for the most part still is, considered something of a poor cousin to Science with a capital "S". Its simply "unfit" for consideration by "real" scientists, we are told. That is beginning to change. While the release of the Condon Report in 1969 caused an exodus of news reporters to the cynical side, their departure has overshadowed a slow but steady trickle of mainstream scientists and academicians into the "believer" camp -- or more accurately, the "let's-take-an-objective-look" camp. But these professionals have been frustrated at the low standards of existing UFO investigation, research, analysis, and reportage. Combine this with the palpable sneering of their peers and the lack of a suitable outlet for their research findings, and its easy to see why many scientists keep a very low profile in the UFO community. Indeed, its almost certain that there are other interested scholars out there who could and would make a valuable contribution to the field, but stay away completely for fear of scarring their reputations. To such potential converts, the Journal of UFO Studies could represent a watershed, a new demarcation of safe ground. It could send a signal to the reluctant UFOlogist, saying, "It's alright, its safe to come in here. We're younger and bolder and we're groping in the dark, but we're just like the big boys." Swords claims to have already received favorable responses from several academics, otherwise unconnected with the UFO field, who have tentatively agreed to act as referees. Also, those who have written negatively about UFOs in the past will be contacted to pass judgement on submissions. Swords named as an example Dr. Robert Baker of the University of Kentucky, who wrote a scathing denunciation of the abduction syndrome for CSICOP. "As long as they are capable of keeping things objective and scholarly," says Swords, "their submissions are welcome." Swords did not comment on whether this included Phil Klass; however, presumably he does not qualify as a scientist or academic. Certainly his past writings have belied an inability to remain objective. Swords hopes to publish the Journal quarterly, but admits that may be unrealistic. "I think its more likely that it will wind up being semi- annual." However often it comes out, it may just be the best thing to happen to UFOlogy since Hynek's conversion. Its certainly the best news I'VE heard this year. --Jim Speiser


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank