Because of their demonstrated interest in and expertise concerning the question of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, the discoverer should simultaneously inform the following international institutions of the discovery and should provide them with all pertinent data and recorded information concerning the evidence: the International Telecommunication Union, the Committee on Space Research, of the International Council of Scientific Unions, the International Astronautical Federation, the International Academy of Astronautics, the International Institute of Space Law, Commission 51 of the International Astronomical Union, and Commission J of the International Radio Science Union.
A confirmed detection of extraterrestrial intelligence should be disseminated promptly, openly, and widely through scientific channels and public media, observing the procedures in this declaration. The discoverer should have the privilege of making the first public announcement.
Got that so far?
How is the Public Informed?
Assuming that SETI is the group that first receives the signal, we, the public would be informed by the media. If this information is indeed made public by the media, some scientists believe that since the media is not only a news agency, but also in the entertainment business, their report will be aimed at delivering a message that the public could understand, but some important scientific facts may be distorted, or left out altogether.
Others don't like the idea of the first public announcement being made by a scientific group; the news might be too technical, and a lot of us may not understand exactly what we are being told, and the seriousness of the situation.
Interestingly, the United Nations is not top dog here. Remember the discoverer of the signal has the right to first inform the correct scientific representatives of his/her own country. Unfortunately, many countries do not accept the SETI guidelines, and the United Nations and SETI are not kissing cousins.
Direct Contact by Presence
All of this being considered, there is another problem, a big problem; direct first contact. This is contact by let's say a large alien craft flying over a large city, as portrayed in 'Independence Day," or "The Day the Earth Stood Still." We might not hear directly from the aliens at first, but think how word would spread around the globe, and the anxiety and mass confusion it might cause.
Should this type of scenario occur, it could happen in a number of ways, and create immeasurable problems. If you know anything at all about UFO reports and case files, you would know that many different events have occurred where contact of a sort has already occurred.
Cases of Contact
These reports are replete with warnings from aliens about how we are treating our planet, and each other. The proliferation of nuclear power has been a favorite topic of the warnings. We have also been warned about war, and I must say that what has come from these "personal" contacts is good advice, no matter where they originated.
Science vs. Ufology
The problem with these cases is that they are believed by UFO proponents, and not accepted by the majority of science. As far as they are concerned, none of it happened. Unless an alien craft hovers over a major city, lands on the White House lawn, or contacts us directly through SETI, there will be no "official" confirmation of alien contact.
So, where does that leave us? If SETI receives a confirmed signal from another race of beings, we do have guidelines to deal with it. But, if we have direct contact via an extraterrestrial ship, all bets are off, and we enter a state of total confusion, fear, social upheaval, and who knows what else.
Is it possible that official contact is imminent?