Monday, June 09, 2008


Trials and Tribulations of the Canadian UFO Survey

I'm continuing to slog away at the 2007 Canadian UFO Survey data. Even spending several hours this past weekend sitting and typing, I'm still just up to August, with about 400 cases so far. It's hard to tell if the total will be higher than last year.

It's taking a while for a number of reasons. First of all, I didn't have a chance to start entering data until April. I should have been entering cases as I got them, but it's been busy. As it is, I'm six months behind the 2008 cases. But I digress...

Another reason is that it takes a while to find all the cases. Many years ago, when we started doing the surveys, those who were investigating UFO sightings in Canada understood what we were trying to achieve and cooperated with us by sending us case summaries or lists at the end of the year. Some investigators still do this, but others don't.

Also, some "ufologists" receive reports from witnesses thousands of miles away, but don't immediately pass along contact info to local investigators or researchers so that the cases can be investigated properly. In going through the 2007 data, I came across several sightings from as close to me as about a mile or two, but without contact info, I can't talk with the witness and investigate. The result is that evaluation of UFO reports involves mining the available information and deducing what was seen based on my experience in investigation and in dealing with UFO case data. It's easier than it sounds; the real unknowns jump out at you, and the ones that are probably stars and planets do too.

MUFON has an advantage that it can notify local State investigators right away so cases can be investigated relatively quickly. CUFOS operated this way too, in its heyday, when police and newspaper offices throughout the US had local investigators' numbers tacked to their blotters and scratch pads.

But Peter Davenport of NUFORC gets so many cases each day he simply can't pass along witnesses' contacts to regional investigators. He's great at providing info when requested, and we've been able to get some really nice reports this way, so he should get a lifetime achievement award in ufology for his diligence and devotion to the field.

So the process of compiling the annual Survey involves locating info on all the Canadian UFO cases during the year, reading it all through, pulling out details like time, place, duration, etc. (amazingly absent from many published accounts), evaluating the cases based on the info and then entering it all into a database.

And this all takes time, especially since I do this during evenings and when I have some free time. (I write that with great amusement.)

Once that's done, I pass it along to Geoff Dittman for number-crunching and web design. Then I have to prepare the written report for the year. It's a long, drawn-out process, and certainly not the exciting part of ufology, and far removed from what Mulder and Scully seemed to do each week.
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