UFOs, recently renamed unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP), are attracting public attention in the U.S. in a way we haven’t seen for decades. Ex-government officials, prominent politicians, intelligence agencies, major news outlets and civilian scientists are all looking into the prospect of extraterrestrial visitors, making them no longer seem quite so far-fetched.

Even NASA, once disinclined to take the subject seriously, convened an independent study team to create a road map for future study of sightings.  The team’s final report, which includes this road map, notes there is no evidence pointing to extraterrestrials. However, the questions asked of NASA officials at their recent press conference showed that aliens and cover-ups remain firmly on the minds of many observers.

Not everyone has welcomed the UFOs’ newfound measure of legitimacy in the meantime, and critics have questioned both thescience and the money behind the resurgence.

But for all their wrangling, advocates for and against the serious investigation of UAP share something in common: they all focus on the question of whether the phenomenon is something that exists in nature, whether worldly or other-worldly.

We don’t conclusively know if UAP physically exist beyond the mundane, but we do know this: UFOs are social facts. Debate about them is transforming our politics and culture—with effects that are largely overlooked.

Social scientists should weigh in on UAP, now. It is a task for which they are well equipped. They not only offer effective techniques for assessing social change, but for decades, social scientists have been conducting research on such relevant topics as human-technological systems, behavioral factors in manned space travel, public attitudes toward UFOs, and the psychophysical and cognitive aspects of sightings.

To read more, click here.