Of course, the problem will be applying scientific standardization to something that might not be scientific at all. Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, and people interpret what they see based on factors such as current events and their scientific, political, and cultural background. “The data you get is socially constructed,” says University of Pennsylvania historian Kate Dorsch, who specializes in the production of scientific knowledge.
UFO sightings began as an American obsession after World War II and the Roswell Incident in 1947, when people in New Mexico discovered mysterious debris that may or may not have come from a crashed military balloon. Sightings quickly spread across much of the world, Dorsch says, and interest in Roswell and the nascent U.S. and Soviet space programs may have led people to think of lights in the sky as alien technology. But, she continues, after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, there were fewer UFO sightings — now that people saw something strange in the sky, they thought it was a man-made spacecraft. And the geopolitics of where you live matter too. Today, she says, when Germans observe strange phenomena today, they often attribute them to Russian and American-made crafts. “When you’re looking for something specific, this is what you’ll see,” she says.
Government agencies have always been interested in UFO reports for national security reasons, as sightings of flying saucers could actually be sightings of a secret rival aircraft. (Or, if the ship was in fact a classified country project, the description of the sighting might show what it looks like to others.)
Agencies in the US government have shown renewed interest in UAP over the past few years. In June 2021, the Pentagon released a report assessing 144 incidents witnessed by military pilots since 2004, only one of which investigators were able to explain in detail. Last May, the House of Representatives UAP hearing, where representatives of the government and the Ministry of Defense spoke about the report and the issues raised in it of national security and flight safety. The Department of Defense also formed a new organization last year, Anomaly resolution management across all domains, to coordinate efforts to “detect, identify and attribute objects of interest” near military areas. they already receive UFO reports.
And in October NASA announced a nine-month independent study to find out how data from government and commercial groups can be used to shed light on the UAP, and what the agency can do in the future to analyze the surveillance data. (A NASA spokesman declined to be interviewed, but said the agency would have an update on the study this spring.)
Enigma Labs is also not the only private company involved with UFOs. To the Stars Academy of Arts & Science, co-founded by Blink-182 guitarist Tom DeLonge, hires scientists and former government officials to promote UFO research, sometimes referred to as ufology.
Dorsch says that no matter who collects the data, she hopes these groups will interact with users transparently and in good faith, without using their data for financial gain or making people feel disrespectful. “I believe that the vast majority of people who have seen UFOs have had experiences that they cannot explain,” she says. “The UFO community deserves to be taken seriously.”