IAA SETI Permanent Committee
Subcommittee on Post-Detection Science and Technology
Houston, TX, USA, October 16th, 2002

In the absense of Chairman Ray Norris, a meeting of the subject Taskgroup was convened by Acting Chair Jill Tarter on Wednesday, 16 October 2002, from 0900 to 1030 hours Central Daylight Time, in Room 306E of the George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston, TX, USA. The following Agenda was adopted:


  1. Discussion Points
    • The future of the SETI Post-detection Committee
    • Representation of the media on the SETI Post-detection Committee
  2. The future formal status of the SETI Post-detection committee
  3. New members
  4. Activities
  5. The Rio Scale
  6. Further information


  • Jill Tarter, Acting Chair
  • Seth Shostak
  • Tom Pierson
  • Doug Vakoch
  • H. Paul Shuch
  • Allen Tough
  • Steven Dick
  • Gary Coulter
  • James Gardner
  • Carol Oliver
  • Robert DeBiase


Tarter read to the Committee a letter from Norris, which made the following points:

  1. It is difficult to continue the Committee with no activity
  2. We should consider whether the IAA is the correct home for the Committee, or whether we should also be affiliated in some way with IAU
  3. We should find a way to test Oliver's and Shostak's Action Plan, as presented at a previous meeting

New Members:

The following individuals were recommended for membership:

  • Ivan Almar
  • Paul Davies
  • Carol Oliver
  • Allen Tough

Rio Scale:

Steps to validate and implement the recently adopted Rio Scale dominated the remainder of the meeting. Tarter noted that there is at least one Hollywood film each year dealing with extraterrestrial contact. She suggested that we invite members of the media to rate these on the Rio Scale, and to include the Rio Scale score in any film review. She further suggested that all members of the Committee should rate all new works of fiction dealing with contact.

Vakoch pointed out that the scores for the various terms of the Rio Scale are arbitrary, but that quantifying a Rio score implies a certain degree of precision. He noted that others than the members of this Committee have expertise in psychometrics and subjective measurement scales. He suggested we involve Al Harrison in this activity.

Shostak replied that Delta is the only truly important descriptor, and that its value is most subjective and only loosely defined. Tarter suggested we assign a group to try out the Rio Scale on various scenarios. Vakoch volunteered to check with colleagues and find a psychologist to participate. Tarter assigned an Action Item to all members of the Committee: over the next year, look at two science fiction films and rate them on the Rio Scale, so an Analysis of Variance between independent evaluators can be performed.

Oliver asked who would determine Rio Scale values if a detection claim were made "tomorrow". Shostak suggested that an expert panel of perhaps ten individuals should be convened, and that the first six Rio Scales received from this group should be tabulated, and an average (and range of values) be announced as the official Rio Scale value. Tarter suggested that Norris should name the panel members, and requested names for consideration. The Committee brainstormed the following recommendations, with geographical diversity and inclusion of various SETI organizations in mind:

  • Jill Tarter
  • Frank Drake
  • Ian Morrison
  • Seth Shostak
  • Dan Werthimer
  • Guillermo Lemarchand
  • Paul Shuch
  • Ron Eckers
  • Ray Norris
  • Stelio Mongebugnoli


Shostak recommended moving the secure pages of the Post-Detection Committee Website (now hosted by Norris) to the new domain iaaseti.org. He suggested Shuch set up a message board there to allow dialog between Committee members, and that we use it as a mechanism for accomplishing a first Rio Scale test. As iaaseti.org webmaster, Shuch agreed to pursue implementing this suggestion.

Post-Detection Action Plan:

Pierson read a letter from Billingham, suggesting we make up a fictional CW detection scenario as a trial run, to test Oliver's and Shostak's previously suggested Early Warning System. Oliver expanded the suggestion, recommending we develop and try out a Crisis Plan. Tarter offered to coordinate with Norris whether, and how, a test scenario should be done.