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Nearly 1 in 5 academics admit close encounters of the anomalous kind

Boffins call for end to UFO stigma

A survey of academics has found that nearly one in five reported an experience with unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAPs, previously known as UFOs and unidentified aerial phenomena), which researchers say signals the need to ditch the stigma surrounding sightings and broaden inquiries.

In a paper published today in Nature, a trio of scholars said they surveyed 1,460 tenured and tenure track faculty at 144 "major research universities" to learn about their attitudes toward UAP research and reports.

Their findings uncovered an academic community curious about UAPs while retaining a healthy reservoir of skepticism. Despite around a fifth of respondents saying they may have witnessed a UAP, nearly 40 percent chose to exercise their academic integrity by reserving judgment.

Fewer chose to proffer an explanation, with slightly less than a quarter saying UAPs were caused by natural events, and 13.14 percent leaning hard into the "devices of unknown intelligence" explanation.

For those curious what uni faculty claim to have witnessed, the report includes a dozen descriptions of encounters. Explanations ran from a parent having served in the military and having experience with UAPs to physicist colleagues telling the respondent they observed UAPs and couldn't explain them. One respondent claimed to have twice encountered a UFO. "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," they said. 

That stigma, according to the authors, is what's holding more independent academic research into UAPs back – 64 percent of respondents said getting academics involved was either very important or absolutely essential.

NASA announced last year that it was commissioning a study to review UAPs and classify them as either explainable or extraterrestrial, for which the agency says there's no current evidence. The space agency eventually settled on a panel of 16 experts, including former NASA astronauts, Federal Aviation Administration representatives, academics and others.

More recently, the Pentagon's All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office backed up NASA's claims when it told US congressional representatives it had found no evidence that ET was responsible for the hundreds of cases it was still reviewing.

"As faculty themselves conveyed, recent developments might be involved in perception management or propaganda, a ploy for increased military or space funding, testing of secret technology, unfamiliar atmospheric events, a cascade of credulity, or a slow rollout of data points that point beyond consensus anthropocentric bounds to date," the paper's authors said of recent UAP news.

Still, the majority of respondents to the faculty survey agreed that "all humanity" stood to benefit from an increase in transparent, publicly available research results into UAPs. "Meaning for science might pique this necessary conversation. Meaning for society could be what sustains it," the paper's authors said. 

"Silence now due to a stale specter of stigma may prove imprudent," the researchers concluded. ®

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