Humanities and Social Sciences Communications                          volume  10, Article number: 246  (2023 )

Faculty perceptions of unidentified aerial phenomena

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2023-05-23 18:00:06

Humanities and Social Sciences Communications volume  10, Article number: 246 (2023 ) Cite this article

Recently, former and current government officials, legislators, and faculty in the United States have called for research on what their government terms Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP, now called Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena). Investigative journalism, military reports, new government offices, and scholarship have piqued broad attention. Other countries have begun conversations about UAP. The United States government is undertaking new hearings, reports, and investigations into UAP. What might the implications of this issue in academia be? Despite this topic’s associated stigma, these developments merited asking faculty about their perceptions. In this national study—which is the first to thoroughly examine faculty evaluations, explanations, and experiences regarding UAP of which the authors are aware—tenured and tenure-track faculty across 14 disciplines at 144 major research universities (N = 1460) participated in a survey. Results demonstrated that faculty think the academic evaluation of UAP information and more academic research on this topic is important. Curiosity outweighed scepticism or indifference. Overwhelmingly and regardless of discipline, faculty were aware of reports but not legislation. Faculty varied in personal explanations for UAP, and nearly one-fifth reported UAP observations. We discuss the implications of these results for the future of the academic study of UAP.

In 2021 the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (2021) confirmed that Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, now called Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP)—the broader, clarified rebrands of UFOs—exist. After largely ruling out natural occurrences, airborne clutter, and technical glitches, their report indicated that UAP cannot be readily attributed to the United States military arsenal nor that of its allies or adversaries. Pentagon researchers thus assigned 143 of 144 incidents, primarily from two years of United States Navy reports, to a “catchall ‘other’ bin”. Congressional hearings in May 2022 pursued these concerns (C-SPAN Director, 2022). In addition to “sensor limitations”, one constraint is “disparagement associated with observing UAP, reporting it, or attempting to discuss it with colleagues”, a stigma limiting dialogue in the Pentagon and elsewhere in society (Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2021, p. 4).

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