Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Characteristics of Quality Research

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Definition of Science

Jack Brewer By Jack Brewer
The UFO Trail
"[I]t will be interesting to see how cognitive dissonance will work for this new episode of 'Roswell my love.' In any case I've enjoyed the witness who saw the man who saw the man who saw the man who saw the bear..."

Rosetta, 'UFO Skepticisme'

     There are different kinds of research. Some people and organizations conduct scientific research. Others do quality research that is not scientific but is still professional and credible. There are characteristics of professional research that can be easily identified as either present or absent.

Please keep in mind that the subject of a written work or presentation is not necessarily a primary qualifier of its value. That might be considered particularly important among those interested in such often marginalized subjects as UFOs and conspiracy theories. The topic one chooses to study and present is often not as relevant to the credibility of the finished product as are the manners it is studied and presented.

The professional research community recognizes certain protocols that include staples such as citing sources when making assertions. Such sources should be among those recognized as legitimate, which include, for examples, college websites, newspaper clippings, papers published by qualified experts and declassified government documents.

"Research holding the torch of knowledge"at the Library of Congress
Writer/researchers who are excellent at following such protocols include George P. Hansen and Annie Jacobsen. Please note their differing areas of expertise: Hansen has published a great deal of work on the study of the paranormal, while Jacobsen has delved extensively into the covert and often questionable activities of the intelligence community. Again: It is their standards of research and presentation that make their work professional, not their choices of interests.

Another characteristic that should be expected to be present in quality research, particularly when it involves a group or organization, is the accounting of various aspects of the project, such as personnel and funding. If researchers desire to be granted respect and offered our attention, we should never feel we are prying or asking overly intrusive questions when we desire to know who worked on a project. Similarly, how funds were acquired and allocated should always be presented overtly and prominently if groups received significant financial backing to conduct their endeavors. Once again, please note that such procedures are not necessarily related to the topic of the research project, but its execution and presentation.

Writer/researcher James Carrion addressed such issues during an appearance last year on the Paracast. Highlights of the interview were posted on 'The UFO Trail'.

"This whole subject is so muddied already," Carrion explained, "what you don't need is more cover up, more deception, more obfuscation."

Such cover up and obfuscation are leading indicators of poorly conceived projects. Prior to the 2013 Citizens Hearing on Disclosure, organizer Steve Bassett initially declined to disclose the financial compensation allocated to former members of Congress and described it as "private". He later indicated they were each paid $20,000.

Similarly, UFO researchers participating in the mock hearing repeatedly declined to discuss details of their compensation. Some went as far as to agree by email to field questions yet failed to reply when sent the actual queries. Another deferred to Bassett. None of those asked provided a direct answer about their financial compensation.

In their defense, the failure to be cooperatively forthcoming about financial matters could probably be much better described as an overall ufology shortcoming than an aspect of the CHD. There often seems to be a prevailing feeling that the less said, the better.

Below par financial reporting and questionable project management were inherent to the disappointing Ambient Monitoring Project. Touted and much anticipated as a scientific effort to quantify environmental conditions surrounding reports of alien abduction, project director Tom Deuley repeatedly struggled to publicly explain key issues of funding, including sources and amounts, which were never conclusively disclosed. Board members of organizations involved in the AMP failed to provide direct answers about its financial and operational status for years, often contradicting one another.

In bringing this post to a close, let us consider more of Carrion's statements on the Paracast podcast. Discussing the failed MUFON-BAASS relationship, Carrion said, "There very much has to be a large amount of transparency when you're going to be involved in something of this nature. You can't hide anything. So, for example, when Bigelow hid the source of his funding and would only reveal it to John Schuessler on the MUFON board, that lack of transparency really rubs me the wrong way. That tells me there's something being hidden for a certain purpose and I don't want to be involved in that."

Emphasis mine - and that's arguably the bottom line.

In the end, a very solid point could be made that dissecting the discrepancies and contradictions of questionable projects sometimes only pulls us further into the shell game. Perhaps the wise would tell us that when we identify the omission of characteristics of quality research, we've already learned all we need to know in order to assess the so-called work. When protocols are not followed, a great deal of skepticism is justified.

On the upside, we are empowered to identify high quality research. Moreover, we might consider allocating proportionate attention.


  1. I could not find any research Jack has to his name. I guess he has a blog? Wow

    1. Hi Ryan,

      Pardon my ignorance, are you suggesting something here?



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