A new email newsletter for SETI research
A few months ago I became frustrated with the difficulty in conducting academic research on SETI (that is the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence). Specifically it can be challenging to read the academic literature on SETI because articles are few, and are published in a variety of outlets.
SETI is a controversial topic, both for funding and for "legitimate" research, because it is often associated with conspiracy theories and blatant speculation. There's a lot of this kind of junk on the internet, so I'll let you find it if you're interested... but this material poses an extra layer of obfuscation towards scientists trying to read through the literature. When you search Google for SETI research you have to wade through a lot of junk.
Furthermore, professional astronomers have largely avoided publishing about SETI due to a lack of data. When new technology or new cutting edge datasets become available there's usually a handful of papers written about new imaginative ways we might detect alien life, or conversely that Earth might be detectable using similar techniques on other worlds. These papers get put in to any of a large number of academic journals that, despite heroic efforts by NASA and Harvard/SAO, still take a good deal of effort to read through.
Finally, given the low rate of academic papers on SETI research, it is easy for the occasional bit of brilliant work to slip by unnoticed by scientists. Like many astronomers, I read through the latest daily batches of papers on the "astro-ph" preprint server on arXiv.org every day. This can be dozens of new research articles to scan over each day. Typically I only read the titles for every paper, and the abstracts for only those that stand out. Sometimes I don't even see papers that I'm a co-author on appearing due to the volume of papers to look over!
For all these reasons, SETI is a difficult topic to learn about and stay abreast of!
After chatting with some folks who shared this concern, I decided one way to help was to start an email newsletter each month that highlights new research articles about SETI (and related topics). It's called SETI.news, it's free, and if you're interested in keep up to date on SETI research you should subscribe!
Each month, SETI.news simply sends a brief email listing articles I find on the arXiv that mention SETI. If there are other sources of research results (say, a GitHub project, a Zenodo group, or just a paper not on the arXiv) then I would also list those if people send them to me! SETI.news is not an academic journal or publisher, though I think an open journal of SETI research (run by academics, with editors, referees, etc) would be a great idea for collecting this material.
Check out the March edition of SETI.news here, and be sure to subscribe!
Written Thursday, March 31, 2016