The SETI Post-Detection Committee

[formally "Taskgroup on Post-Detection Science and Technology of the IAA SETI Permanent Study Group "]

Background: Why do we need a "SETI Post-Detection Committee"?

There are good and plausible arguments that suggest that there are likely to be many other civilisations in our Galaxy, with whom we may be able to communicate. There are other good and plausible arguments that suggest that these other civilisations are likely to be rare or absent. Frankly, our knowledge of how life evolves is inadequate, and the only way that we will know if there is "anyone out there" is by going and taking a look.

The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a worldwide effort involving several different groups. These groups (see links below) use radio-telescopes or other detectors to try to eavesdrop on communications from these other civilisations. Our level of technology happens to be passing through a critical threshold at the moment, such that if other civilisations are common, and are using the types of signal that we are searching for, then we are quite likely to get our first detection some time in the next few years.

If we do get such a detection, how will we react? How will we know whether it is a real detection or a hoax? The "SETI Post-detection committee" was set up to "advise and consult on questions stemming from the discovery of a putative signal of extraterrestrial origin". It consists of experts from a number of different fields (astronomy, engineering, signal processing, computer science, biology, sociology, etc) who have already spent some time thinking through the issues involved.

The SETI Post-detection committee is a sub-committee of the "SETI Committee" of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). The IAA is a scientific institution devoted to fostering the development of astronautics for peaceful purposes. At present the IAA is composed about 1140 Members from 60 countries, and has close associations with the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) and the International Institute of Space Law (IISL).

Note that the Post-Detection Committee does not itself investigate or follow-up claimed detections, but would only become involved after a putative detection had been supported by an internationally recognised scientific institution or organisation.


Further Information


Last updated: 13 June 2004

Ray Norris (

Staff space