British academic researchers and leaders want to restart the British SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program in hopes of finding signs of intelligent life in the universe. They argue that there really isn’t a program that truly looks for alien life in a coordinated and pragmatic way. It is argued that with just a half a percent of the UK astronomical budget it is possible to create a program that is competitive with the private-funded American SETI program (Extremetech, 2013).
According to Dr. John Elliot of the SETI Research UK website the primary purpose of the program is to decipher space messages for intelligent structure. The programs include detecting a signal signature of ET technology, the impact of such a signals on humanity, protocols for ET communication. The program focuses on trying to connect with and send signals to possible extra terrestrial life.
The program also known as UKSRN was announced recently at the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting in St. Andrews, Scotland (NBC, 2013). At present the leading program is the U.S. based California SETI Institute that has a much larger budget than the $250,000 initial proposal by the UK SETI program and the $1.5 million annual budget the group hopes to raise.
The problem with such research is that it has few benchmarks for failure and one initial benchmark for success (i.e. finding extraterrestrial life). The participants have announced that they are hoping to partner with a number of satellites as well as focus on the development of better language analytical models. Their work will include the search for intelligible language as well as finding large artificial structures based upon previous astronomical research.
At a time when research budgets are under pressure such programs often take a back burner and must fight for limited government and philanthropic funds that appear to have more practical outcomes. It does make one wonder if the group broadened their scope to include the development of new communication languages or the enhancement of space communication whether or not they would have better funding opportunities.
It can be beneficial to include corporate funds in the funding mix due to the potential broad and ambiguous benefits of such programs. If the researchers focus on finding patterns within noises and sounds from space it may be possible to also use that information to develop new communication languages or methods. A slightly broader scope may draw additional stakeholders with investment money if they can capitalize on such research for future products. Finding patterns and developing patterns is not that different but there are multiple opportunities for partnerships.