What happens when we find them?

This paper by Forgan et al. (2016) talks about the protocol that needs to be followed if  when we find extra terrestrial intelligence. To understand the need for this, one only needs to look at the commotion and media frenzy caused by Tabby’s star and Oumuamua.

The existence and search for ET has always been a favourite of popular media, simply because it catches the eye of the general public. It is a topic that attracts people from all age groups irrespective of their age group. The question of whether we are alone in the Universe is one of the fundamental questions that transcends Astronomy and science, and goes into philosophy and anthropology. It starts delving into the arena of religious beliefs and the anthropocentric view that biases us.

Considering the above, it is important to understand the importance of the search for ET. Any kind of media coverage of this topic is almost guaranteed to get good viewership / readership. Therefore any researcher associated with this field must tread very lightly and be cautious about any kinds of claims made or results published, which even REMOTELY can be interpreted to imply the existence or our successful detection of ET.  This does not mean that one must hide their research or not go public with it, for fear of rebuke. However, as the article discusses, there should be a framework that is followed before a search is conducted and transparency, once it is done and the data has been analyzed, and results obtained.

The article further lays forth a possible path to follow to release the data and clue in the media as to the results and the need for independent verification. Another step that the authors alluded to, is that an international consensus must be built. Currently the only body which has such a mandate is the United Nations. Within the United Nations, perhaps UNESCO? It could get interesting, albeit tricky if the UNESCO is tasked with building up an international opinion and charting a path forward. Namely because the United States of America has decided to withdraw from UNESCO as a member starting 2019.

Going by the past record and partisanship in the UN, it could be problematic for all the nations to reach a consensus. Since, any kind of interaction with an alien civilization could have far reaching consequences for all of humanity today and in the future, it is something that should definitely involve all the stakeholders, or at least their chosen representatives. We still divide the Earth with borders, however Space cannot be (at least not yet). Its contents and inhabitants (?) affect all of humanity. Could the answer be  Asgardia?