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Research in the Dark: Are you Keeping your Findings to Yourself?

PSI asks why the science revolution of the last 40 years has passed the paranormal by. The answer might be rather close to home.

The last forty years has seen gargantuan steps in most matters scientific and technological. We have seen space travel, computer proliferation and an unprecedented advancement of science in general. Paranormal psychology is almost as old as psychology itself, so why does almost every other area of psychology churn out a hundred times more research?

There’s no doubt that one rather palpable reason is that mainstream science does not treat the paranormal with the seriousness afforded to other subjects. Professional academics and research grants are few and far between in a modern scientific world where professional research is central.

But there is one huge advantage that paranormal research has over other areas of research: the enormous number of amateur paranormal researchers, many striving towards professional standards.

A somewhat clumsy analogy might be that of Astronomy. There are thousands of amateur astronomers that make a huge contribution to the field of astronomy: tracking and sharing with the field at large.

So why haven’t the thousands of lay paranormal researchers made that same contribution to psychical research? Why haven’t important discoveries been made that, with the help of professional researchers, made massive strides in the psychology of anomalous experience?

We can seek to blame society and mainstream science as much as we like, but the core of the problem rests with us. A number of branches of science started with part-time researchers working away and convincing the world of their progress, so why should the same principle not apply today?

The problem with much of paranormal research is the separatism and rejection of the fields’ accumulated wisdom, such as it is. Mainstream science, amateur or professional, has always benefited from shared results and shared wisdom. So many paranormal groups exist in a state of isolation, often marked by extreme paranoia of anyone in the same field. The ethics of confidentiality must be paramount, but there are always ways of fully sharing your results with the world.

There is also no need to constantly reinvent the wheel: thousands of hours are wasted every year covering the same subjects others have covered, we could achieve so much more by learning from what others have discovered and learned first.

The most tragic aspect of our field is that if we isolate ourselves and just pop up if we’ve discovered something great it is likely to be treated with suspicion or, worse, ignored. If even half of us worked in a fully transparent and scientific way, sharing with and learning from one another, the advancement of the paranormal could be significantly sped up. The alternative is one of hard work by thousands of people leading to no significant advances in our lifetimes.