Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Survey finds nearly one in five academics report some experience with UFOs

Even the federal government has become more interested in answering the question, "Are we alone?"

(CN) — A recent survey of academics across a broad swath of disciplines found that nearly one out of five respondents have witnessed or know someone who has witnessed unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP — observations of some object in the sky that cannot be readily identified. More than a third of those surveyed expressed some degree of interest in conducting research into UAPs.

The survey was sent nearly 40,000 professors and assistant professors from 144 different universities in the United States. The response rate was not terrific — about 4%. Of those who did respond, about 10% studied or taught political science, 10% psychology, and 10% physics; 62% were male and 80% were white.

Nearly 40% of respondents said they did not know what the most likely explanations for UAP were, while 21% attributed them to natural events. Another 13% blamed "devices of unknown intelligence."

Some of the respondents shared, anonymously, stories of their close encounters.

"My entire family and I witnessed a UFO around 1976," said one academic in the field of communications. "It was over our house in the rural northeast [state redacted]. 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. It ended abruptly. We recently spoke of the incident and remember it well. My siblings still describe the object they saw and how fast it moved away from the house. We are all still living, and I’ve always wanted to tell someone about this story."

Another respondent, in the field of art and design, wrote: "I have seen ufo[s] 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."

Once thought to be primarily the domain of cranks and oddballs, UFO and/or UAP sightings are being taken more seriously than ever. In April, Pentagon officials announced that the government is investigating hundreds of unidentified aircraft sightings. And the head of the Pentagon’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, Sean Kirkpatrick, co-wrote a draft of a paper arguing that officials should at least consider "the possibility that an artificial interstellar object could potentially be a parent craft that releases many small probes during its close passage to Earth, an operational construct not too dissimilar from NASA missions."

The paper lays out some of the possible explanations for the government's newfound interest in discussing the mysterious sightings: "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. Potentially, a blend of factors is possible, which complicates evaluation.”

The three professors who put the survey together, and who published their findings Monday in the journal Humanities and Social Science Communications — Marissa Yingling, Charlton Yingling and Bethany Bell — argue the results offer weight to the argument that academics should be investigating the source of all the purported UAPs.

"Without opening a discussion about UAP, academia will not have the vocabulary necessary to contribute to the con- versation. Without a vocabulary, academia might relinquish a much-needed voice on a topic already complicated by classification, stigma, and perception management," the authors write in their conclusion. "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?"

They add: "By offering these results on faculty perceptions regarding this fraught subject, we ask our capable peers across a range of disciplines equipped with unique methods and insights to consider not only answers to these inquiries but to form even better questions about what is occurring."

Follow @hillelaron
Categories / Science

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.