IAS Visiting Scholar, October-December 2024


Dr Elliott has been a leading contributor for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) post-detection research and development, since the late 1990s. Since then, he has served as a member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) SETI Permanent Committee, where he has contributed significantly to the endeavour, via many roles, publications, and initiatives: e.g., Post Detection Task Force, Journal Editor, and IAA Conference Organising Committee.  In 2012, with Lord Martin Rees as patron, he co-founded the UK SETI Research Network, for which he is currently the Chair.  In 2022, he founded the SETI Post Detection Hub at the University of St Andrews, which now has an active and growing membership of international experts that currently comprises over 40 subject areas, working together on one of humanity’s most multi-disciplinary undertakings: https://seti.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/.

His [SETI] pioneering research work involves and merges many disciplines: from human language ‘universals’, computational linguistics, signal processing, and dolphin communication, to metapolicies, and global impact strategies to manage dissemination and societal impact.  In 2002, Arthur C Clarke stated that his work “was of great importance “and more recently (in All About Space science magazine) he was featured and named as one of the “5 most important people in the hunt for life on other planets”. His work has been presented at numerous high-profile events, including the Royal Society, Royal College of Arts, and many Universities, TV and Radio programs, newspapers, science magazines and reports, which includes multiple citations in NASA’s 2018 Technosignatures report, which looked at the “current field and state of the art for technosignatures searches.”. In January 2024, he featured in an article for the UK government’s House magazine: “Signal in the Noise”.

In 2019, his particular focus on post-detection challenges formed a major component of the St Andrew’s led “From Afar”, Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, which presented developing capabilities for signal content analytics, decipherment of unknown phenomena and message construction. This has now led to the “From Afar” exhibit being featured at this year’s British Science Festival, as well as his involvement with the Royal Society, on their project for “Safe and Sustainable use of Space”, with particular focus on the future governance of humanity’s activity in Space.

Educated at the University of Leeds [BSc, MSc, and PhD], his main employment tenure was at Leeds Beckett University, where his roles included, Senior Lecturer (Computing / AI) and Reader in Intelligence Engineering. Dr Elliott is now an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews [Computer Science], having previously held the post of Honorary Fellow at the University of Manchester [Astronomy, Astrophysics, and Cosmology].

At Durham, Dr Elliott will be both assisting discussions in exploring how the proposed ‘Centre for Cosmic Impact’ could best place itself for contributing towards our future preparedness, regarding discovering extraterrestrial life, and providing guidance [supervision] for related student projects.


Sample Publications

Elliott, J., Dominik, M., Genevieve, K., Denning, K., Baxter, S., Profitiliotis, G., & Finer, E. (2023). The SETI Post-Detection Hub: Preparing for Discovery. In 52nd IAA SYMPOSIUM ON THE SEARCH FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL INTELLIGENCE (SETI) – The Next Steps

Herzing, D. Denning, K. & Elliott, J. (2018) Beyond Initial Signal Categorization and Syntactic Assignment: The Role of Metadata in Decoding and Interpreting Nonhuman Signals, COSPAR conference, Pasadena, USA.

Elliott, J. Beyond an Anthropomorphic Template, (2015) Volume 116, November–December 2015, Pages 403-407 Acta Astronautica.

Elliott, J. (2012) Constructing the Matrix Acta (2012) Volume 78, 26-30 Acta Astronautica.

Elliott, J. & Baxter. S The DISC Quotient, (2012) Volume 78, September–October 2012, 20-25 Acta Astronautica.

Baxter, S. and Elliott, J. A SETI metapolicy: New directions towards comprehensive policies concerning the detection of extraterrestrial intelligence, (2012), Acta Astronautica, Volume 78, 31-36.

Elliott, J. The Filtration of Inter-Galactic Objets Trouvés and the identification of the Lingua ex Machina Hierarchy, (2011) Volume 68, Issues 3–4, February–March, 399-405 Acta Astronautica.

Elliott, J.  First stage identification of syntactic elements in an Extraterrestrial Signal, (2011) Volume 68, Issues 3–4, February, Pages 389-398 Acta Astronautica.

Elliott, J. Detecting the Signature of Intelligent Life, (2010) Volume 67, Issues 11–12, December 2010, 1419-1426 Acta Astronautica.

Elliott, J. A Human Language Corpus for Interstellar Message Construction, (2011) Volume 68, Issues 3–4, February–March 2011, 418-424 Acta Astronautica.

Elliott, J. A Semantic ‘Engine’ for Universal Translation, (2009) doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2009.06.006 [volume 68, February–March 2011 435-440]  Acta Astronautica. 

Elliott, J. A Post-Detection Decipherment Matrix, (2007) Volume 61, Issues 7–8, October 2007, 712-715 Acta Astronautica.

Elliott, J & Atwell, E.  ‘Is anybody out there: the detection of intelligent and generic language-like features’, (2000) 53 Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 13 – 22


Elliott, J & Atwell, E. (1999) Language in signals: the detection of generic species-independent intelligent language features in symbolic and oral communications: in proceedings of the 50th International Astronautical Congress, pp. IAA-99-IAA.9.1.08: International Astronautical Federation.