Wednesday, 7 November 2012

UFO reports up, UFO reports down: The media’s roller coaster reporting

On November 5, 2012, the International Business Times and other media outlets published stories claiming that UFO sightings are on the decline. The source for this claim is a press release issued by the UK-based Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP). This group asserts that “ufology has seemingly been in global decline” since the 1980s, and that “in many parts of the world, UFO sightings have exhibited a general downward trend.”
But wait. I thought UFO sighting reports were at near-record levels.
The Winnipeg-based group Ufology Research tracks UFO sighting reports in Canada, and data published in their 2011 Canadian UFO Survey concluded that 2011 was a near-record year for UFO sighting reports in Canada. The year’s numbers were just shy of the record set in 2008.
In August, 2010, the Halifax Courier published a story titled, “UFO sightings on the rise.”
In June, 2011, published a story titled “UFO sightings in Argentina on the rise.”
In October, 2011, Finnish news site Yle Uutiset published a story titled, “UFO Sightings on the Rise in Finland.”
In July, 2012, Australia’s Herald Sun reported that, based on data from UFO Research (NSW) Incorporated, “UFO sightings in Australia are on the rise.”
In January, 2012, Lee Speigel of the Huffington Post published an article titled, “UFO Sightings Skyrocket Into 2012.”
Although these headlines, and many more just like them, were published during the past couple years, that did not deter several media outlets from publishing recent headlines like “UFO Sightings on the Decline, Scientists Debate Possibility Aliens are an Urban Legend,” and “Aliens may not exist after all,” in response to the recent release by ASSAP.
Roger Marsh, editor of the Mutual UFO Network’s (MUFON) journal, responded to these headlines and the claims made by ASSAP by citing statistical data in a recent article. The data from MUFON indicates an increase in reported UFO sightings in the U.S.:

2007, 2,203 reports; 2008, 4,220 reports; 2009, 4,990 reports; 2010, 4,534 reports; 2011, 5,137. During the first 10 months of 2012, MUFON has received a total of 7,272 reports.
(Credit: Open Minds/MUFON)
MUFON’s Executive Director, David MacDonald, told Marsh that “ufology was alive and well.”
It is unclear whether or not ASSAP truly believes the statements made in their recent release. The purpose of this release was to promote their upcoming event titled “Seriously Unidentified – A Summit on the Future of UFOlogy.” If their intent was to create headlines and spark discussion, that goal has been achieved.