What is the scientific method? And how does MUFON adhere to it?
What is the Scientific Method?
The scientific method requires open mindedness in the collection and analysis of data. Data or observations are taken without prejudice and without any attempt to point the information collected towards a prejudiced conclusion. Data or observations that are collected must be examined to insure that they were collected in a valid and non-prejudicial manner. Once a significant amount of information is gathered then a hypothesis can be generated to explain the information collected. The next step in the scientific process is to test the hypothesis either through careful experimentation or through additional data collection. If experiments or observational data continues to support the hypothesis and it can stand the test of time then it may be elevated to a theory. A good example is the Theory of Special Relativity.
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
--attributed to Aristotle
The Scientific Method and the study of UFOs
The study of a phenomenon commonly known as unidentified flying objects is a random observational event that makes it difficult to use all aspects of the scientific method but at the same time it is an area where it is very important to use scientific procedures and techniques. The UFO phenomenon does not lend itself to experimentation that allows one to examine the phenomenon in a controlled manner. The Norwegian, Italian, French study of the Hessdalen Lights in Norway is the closest example of a UFO event that reoccurs in a specific geographical area and this type of situation allows a certain amount of repeatable scientific observations and measurements. But the UFO phenomenon as it has been reported since the second World War is a more random observational type of event than what occurs in the area of Hessdalen, Norway. An historical example of a similar phenomenon were meteor showers during the 18th century. The events initially were not predictable and reports of meteor showers were always anecdotal until the beginning of the 19th century when the Leonid Showers were tied to comet Tempel-Tuttle. Our ability to predict a UFO event is equally handicapped.
MUFON's use of the Scientific Method
In the reporting and investigation of UFO sightings, MUFON strives to use the scientific method. Data is collected through online reports that identify specific information that can be used to make reports as accurate as possible. Among the parameters collected on UFO reports include: date, time, latitude, longitude, witness report, witness background and age, UFO color/shape/brightness, and directional information. A MUFON Field Investigator then interviews the witnesses who made the report and collects additional information such as angular size, elevation, azimuth, brightness, if possible the distance to the object, and other measurable information. The Field Investigator looks for the possibility that the witness misinterpreted what was seen. Common objects that a witness may consider to be a UFO include Chinese Lanterns, aircraft, drones, astronomical objects, and light reflections.
In order to augment scientific research into the study of the UFO phenomenon, MUFON created a Science Review Board (SRB) in 2012. The SRB consists of 8-9 scientists with backgrounds in electrical engineering, physics, chemistry, geology, biology, computer science, and astronomy. These individuals are all well versed in the use of the scientific method both through their educational background as well as their occupations. This group oversees science projects within MUFON and instills the use of the scientific method in the analysis of the best cases that are reported each year.