If you are interested in this matter you may wish to read my Interview With Dave Woods, Chair of ASSAP on the changes, which I posted later and which clarifies many aspects of the proposals.
OK, I’m back from the ASSAP Seriously Strange conference now, and heard the “big announcement”. And yes it is big and yes it might well change things forever at least for a lot of small paranormal groups. It won’t however effect anyone outside the UK, but basically, from what we were told, ASSAP, the Association for Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena has been recognised by the UK government as the Professional Body of “paranormal investigators”. That does not mean the UK Government believes in the paranormal in any way: far from it, all it means is that it recognises that “paranormal investigators” deal with potentially distressed clients, and that it is in the public interest to allow some form of self regulation of the sector.
Now the announcement was made last night, and I mentioned it then as word started to filter out, but an afternoon session today allowed us to put questions to David and Nicky of ASSAP: some were not directly answered, but many were. Firstly they were keen to point out this is NOT a takeover bid: they envisage many small groups continuing to operate, etc, etc, just as now. It may have ramifications for the “Paranormal tourism” industry and people running commercial events – but what they will be is completely unclear at this time, and will be subject to consultation with the industry. From the response to my question I also question whether groups will be recognised, or merely the individuals within those groups. ASSAP already has a certification process for paranormal investigators which involves attending a training event (next one January, around £29 to attend the weekend course as I recall?) — but ASSAP will not have the scope to train everyone in the area.
However enforcement will not be by ASSAP kicking in your door and taking away your EMF meter. I think its more likely that everyone will be asked to *voluntarily* sign up to a Code of Practice or similar. At this stage ASSAP appear to have the government recognition, and their website has changed to www.assap.ac.uk, but are still in the process of consultation and working out how they will operate as a professional body.
The SPR already serves as a sort of professional body for academic psychical researchers, the Parapsychological Association for parapsychologists, and there will be no impact on members of those organisations.
There may be education and even qualification options down the line, but for now the whole purpose seems to be providing ethical guidelines, assistance and recognition and representation for the paranormal investigation community in the UK. I’m still unsure how who counts as a paranormal investigator will be decided, but clearly it may have to be more than “people who say they are” at some point, else this could be a professional body for amateur enthusiasts, which seems all rather contradictory! I rather like the idea of a professional body, as that means there must presumably be a profession – will Cheltenham Job Centre offfer me a post as a Paranormal Investigator? I have already said I will create a Union :)
It’s all incredibly vague, and some obvious questions can’t be answered yet. Everyone, ASSAP member or not, is strongly encouraged to get involved in the consultation process – ASSAP are very keen to point out they are not going to try and impose anything on people without consultation, and indeed it all seems rather voluntary – recognition, in exchange for ASSAP acting as a sort of “paranormal ombudsmen” – and ending up being asked no doubt to get involved in a million small group politics struggles ;)
Anyhow, despite probably a couple of hours snatched at the conference talking to ASSAP chair David Wood, I’m still really vague about almost everything, but my honest advice is “don’t panic!”. This is big, but I don’t think any group is going to be hurt or damaged by this, unless that group is filled with unethical tossers who actually harm people they are supposed to be helping – and if you mainly just hunt ghosts in public venues likes pubs, castles and so forth, it may not effect you much at all?
Despite being a speaker at the conference we were not told anything till it was announced, and so I have had no time t think it through properly, but we have all heard horror stories about traumatized families and loonies masquerading as researchers, burning furniture, vandalising and trespassing, etc, etc. Regulation will I guess end all that! Is it a good thing? I have no idea at the moment, but I see the potential, and yes I think it might be. Sceptics have been complaining about unregulated self-appointed paranormal experts for years – well now that’s no longer the case, maybe!
Look here for the details of the official announcement later tonight. I’m off to catch a few hours sleep after a fantastic conference…