On September 28th, the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French government agency responsible for shaping and implementing France's space policy in Europe, announced that it had created a steering committee to oversee the monitoring of Unidentified Aerospace Phenomena (i.e. UFOs) - the first meeting of the committee was held on September 22nd.
The Committee is chaired by Yves Sillard, the former Director General of CNES (1976 - 1982), Chief of Defence Procurement , and NATO Assistant Secretary General for Scientific and Environmental Affairs. The membership of the Committee includes the Deputy Director of the Toulouse Space Centre, the Director of External Communications, Education and Public Relations, and the Ethics Officer, as well as representatives of the gendarmarie, police, air force, civil protection agency, civil aviation agency, Meteo-France national weather service, and members of the research community. Meetings of the Committee are to be held at least twice per year, with a yearly report to be submitted by the CNES officer responsible for activities related to UAP.
The activities of the committee cover three areas:
1. Data collection and capture, and archiving of reports in a database;
2. Analysis of information gathered, working with correspondents providing related domain expertise; and
3. Communication to target audiences, publication of periodic reports, and management of access to archives.
The committee came about as a result of an audit of the now-defunct SEPRA UFO study in 2001-2002, which was made by Francois Louange, an image analysis specialist who had worked for SEPRA and its predeccessor, GEPAN, and who was a member of the Scientific Review Panel of the Sturrock Panel (see also GEPAN/SEPRA).
In an interview with Radio France International on September 29th, Sillard stated that "it is necessary to tackle [the subject of UFOs] with rigour, seriously, and without any preconceived ideas."
We'll see where this goes (sometimes these things don't work out as well as one might hope), but it is definitely a positive development, which advocates of this kind of study / program in other countries, including Canada, can point to as an example of what can be done in terms of an objective investigation of the UFO phenemenon.
See... not all the news in 2005 was bad!
Now the only question which remains is - what is #1??