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Participatory SETI: A Model for Public Involvement
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Copyright © 1997 by H. Paul Shuch, Ph.D.
Executive Director, The SETI League, Inc.
PO Box 555, Little Ferry NJ 07643
email n6tx_at_setileague_dot_org

The following is the abstract to an Invited Paper which Dr. Shuch presented at the SETI in the 21st Century Conference, Sydney Australia, 21-23 January 1998.


Beginning with the promulgation of the Project Cyclops report a quarter of a century ago, the public perception of SETI has been that it required the kinds of facilities which only governments can afford. The 1990's signaled a shift in this perception, culminating in the cancellation of the NASA SETI program. It is now widely held that not even governments can afford SETI. Yet significant advances in microwave circuitry and computer technology have continued to lower the cost and increase the performance of facilities capable of communication over interstellar distances. If our basic assumptions about the abundance of technologically advanced civilizations are correct, equipment which stands a reasonable chance of SETI success is today within the reach of even the dedicated amateur. Yet general misconceptions about the cost and complexity of mounting a viable search continue to limit public interest in, and support of, privatized SETI.

This paper explores recent educational initiatives of the non-profit, membership-supported SETI League to generate more realistic public perceptions as to the requirements for a widespread, privatized SETI effort. Current thinking as to the probable distribution of extra-terrestrial civilizations is explored, and the equipment and coordination costs associated with a global search effort are estimated. The SETI League feels that the public still lacks an appreciation for the true costs and benefits of a large-scale SETI program. Reality probably falls somewhere between the extremes articulated in Hollywood and in Washington.

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