History matters. We can learn a great deal from the past, and anyone who thinks otherwise would be well served to keep the famous quote by Santayana in mind: "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
On the other hand, one can spend too much time looking for answers to present problems in the past. The worst kind of general is the one who assumes that a current war is going to be fought like the last one - millions of men died from 1914 to 1918 because their leaders made assumptions like that.
So, where does that leave the study / investigation of the UFO phenomenon, which seems mired in the past, as UFO researchers continue to debate cases that are decades old? Is there a way to move forward, while at the same time building on the work that has come before?
Maybe, but the first thing that people are going to have to recognize is that the old model of after-the-fact investigation is inherently flawed, and will never lead to real answers. This method is based on eyewitness testimony which, while useful to a point, just doesn't provide enough reliable information upon which one can build a solid, working hypothesis, much less draw an irrefutable conclusion. No matter what UFO researchers will tell you, eyewitness testimony is always questionable. Stan Friedman likes to say that people are good observers, but poor interpreters of what they saw, but that's not true - most people aren't good observers, including pilots and police officers and military personnel, the three most oft-cited professions of quality eyewitnesses. There are exceptions, of course, such as the Santa Barbara Channel case of 1953, where you had two groups of very good witnesses seeing the same thing independent of each other, but these kinds of cases are rare.
What is needed is measurable data. What makes the RB47 case from 1957 so valuable is that you have not only eyewitness testimony, but multiple corroborative radar and electronic monitoring data. It still won't tell you what the UFO involved was, but it makes it impossible for anyone but the most fundamentalist of debunkers to claim with a straight face that there was nothing anomalous about the case that is worth investigation and consideration.
The problem is that UFOs don't appear on command. For sixty years the pattern has pretty much been that a sighting happens, i.e. people see something, and then investigators of varying degrees of competence show up after the fact to talk to them. Roswell epitomizes this flawed methodology in the worst possible way, given that the investigation didn't actually start until 30 years had passed.
UFO researchers can't rely on the government for their data either.
So where do they get it from?
I would suggest that the serious researcher take their cue from people who investigate ghosts and hauntings. I've worked with some good ones recently, and I'm engaged in investigations myself as we film our ghost investigation series. We're not trained scientists, but we can still gather data by actually going to the allegedly haunted site and setting up cameras and audio recorders and so forth. Upon review of one case we recently investigated, we discovered multiple instances of anomalous audio data that seems to corroborate an eyewitness story we were told, as well as what at the moment appears to be some very interesting video data which we're still analyzing.
A haunted house is a bit easier to cover than UFOs, of course, because it's one specific location, but the same general methodology could be employed in any area that is known to experience UFO sightings. MUFON, for example, could direct its resources towards the equipping of a rapid response field research team that could travel directly to an area in the United States (and perhaps Canada) that is in the midst of a UFO "flap" or "wave". Or it could set up a team in the New Mexico desert for a month or so to monitor the sky for any anomalous events. With alleged alien abductees, surely someone could set up a monitoring system over a prolonged period of time to see if anything really was happening. And so on.
There are plenty of bright people interested in the UFO phenomenon. If they really want to get some answers, however, it's time they re-thought the way that they approached the investigation of the enigma. In short, it's time they stopped fighting the last war, with outdated tactics, and looked to new ways of gathering useful data which may actually yield some answers.