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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Oct > Oct 15

Re: 'Trained Observers'?

From: Joe McGonagle <joe.mcgonagle.nul>
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2007 16:17:39 +0100
Archived: Mon, 15 Oct 2007 16:58:10 -0400
Subject: Re: 'Trained Observers'?

>From: Jan Aldrich <project1947.nul>
>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2007 01:04:26 -0400
>Subject: Re: 'Trained Observers'?

>>From: Gerald O'Connell <gac.nul>
>>To: ufoupdates.nul
>>Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2007 01:29:59 +0100
>>Subject: 'Trained Observers'?

>>>Source: The San Francisco Sentinel - California, USA



>>There it is again, that ubiquitous yet rarely questioned phrase:
>>'trained observers'.


>Let's see, they are taught to estimate angular position, speed,
>and displacement, aircraft indentification, navigation, weather,

>"Trained observer", is sufficiently vague to be somewhat
>suspect. I don't take to mean that they are somehow infallible,
>but they can describe the location of an object in the sky,
>comment on angular size and displacement.

>That does lend a particular "an enhanced status" to the report.

>I was for 16 years a meteorlogical observer, and as such I
>figure I was a trained observer as being able to also describe
>postions and size and displacement and possibly use
>meteorological cues such as cloud types to determine
>approximately height


While I agree broadly with Jan, people place too much weight on
the "trained observer" aspect of UFO reports. Consideration had
to be given as to what particular observation skills are

Taking Jan's example of a Met officer and relating it to the Met
officer report from the Cosford file report #29 at the bottom of
the page at http://www.uk-ufo.org/cosford/sightings.html), the
following points should be made:

1. The Met officer's particular skills and routine of making
regular observations mean that;

a) directional information;
b) timing information;
c) any height information _in_relation_to_the_cloud_base (which
   was negligible at the time);
d) angular size information;
e) possibly magnitude (relevant brightness) (depending on the
individual's training and interest in astronomy).

carry more weight than would a similar report from an average
member of the public.

2. Any estimate as to height, without reference to the cloudbase
or other point of reference of an unknown object carries no more
weight than it would from any other member of the public.

3. Any estimate of size (other than angular size) of an unknown
object at an unknown height would carry no more weight than any
other member of the public.

4. In this particular case, the witnessed claimed expertise in
helicopter recognition, due to the operational nature of where
he worked. Near the time of the report, he rejected a helicopter
as the cause but later he conceded that it could have been a
helicopter. This has personal relevance to me because I have
witnessed hundreds, if not thousands of helicopter take-offs,
landings, and in-flight in day and night conditions. I have also
flown as a passenger in 4 different models of helicopter in
daytime and night time conditions. In the course of a skywatch
several years ago, a group of us observed something, and I am on
the record on the video tape saying "I don't know what that is,
but it definitely isn't a chopper". Subsequent checks proved
that it was in fact a police helicopter.

Other "trained observers" or "expert witnesses" are frequently
claimed, policemen often being cited along these lines. I
acknowledge that the police are generally better witnesses in
terms of recording the time, or estimating directions due to
their local geographic knowledge, but they are no better than
anyone else when it comes to estimating the size and height of
an unknown object without a fixed point of reference. This
reliance on "trained observer" anecdote is a major flaw in UFO
research, a good example of the unfounded acceptance of such
powers of observation is evidenced at:


The "trained observer" aspect is also a major factor in the
failure of the MoD to correctly assess the reports which have
become known collectively as "The Cosford Incident". I could go
on and list other factors, but that would deviate from the topic
of this thread. If anyone is interested, they can visit the
following sites and draw their own conclusions:




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