Sol Foundation
Stanford University (Credit: Jawed Karim/CC 3.0)

The Sol Foundation, Academia’s New UAP Think Tank, Releases Videos of Lectures from Its Inaugural Symposium

On November 17-18, 2023, a symposium of academics, current and former government officials, and other leading voices in the study of unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP) convened for the inaugural Sol Foundation Initiative for UAP Research and Policy event in Palo Alto, California.

Hosted by the Nolan Laboratory and the Stanford School of Medicine, the event’s stated objectives were to “propose tangible government policies, programs of research, and investment strategies that can meet the challenge of the phenomena,” along with elevating the dialogue and generating new approaches toward resolving it.

The invitation-only event was the first public manifestation of the Sol Foundation and its objectives since the think tank’s official launch on August 15, 2023.

“Welcome to Stanford,” said Garry Nolan, Ph.D., the Sol Foundation’s Executive Director of the Board, as the symposium commenced. “The objective here is to legitimize and professionalize and then to seek from you your ideas.”

Over the course of the next two days, speakers that included Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, Ph.D., computer scientist and venture capitalist Jacques Vallée, Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Wilmington religious studies professor Diana Walsh Pasulka, Ph.D., Canadian House of Commons member Larry Maguire MP, former NOAA Administrator Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet, Ph.D., U.S. Army Colonel Karl Nell, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Christopher Mellon, and many others presented papers and short talks on various approaches toward the study and resolution of UAP, as well as what the impact of these phenomena could represent across various sectors of society.

At the event’s conclusion on Saturday, November 18, a surprise appearance was also made by David Grusch, a former U.S. intelligence officer who first came forward publicly last June with allegations about the existence of a secret program involving UAP and craft of non-human origin acquired by the U.S. government that has been illegally withheld from Congress for decades.

“This is why we have the Sol Foundation,” said Grusch, who it has since been revealed was also a co-founder of the California-based foundation, while joining the event remotely from Washington DC. “We need to basically create a parallel track of research and independent discovery that aren’t necessarily dependent on the U.S. government to provide us all the answers.”

Now, for the first time, videos of presentations featured during the November 2023 symposium will be made available to the public and can be viewed on the Sol Foundation’s official YouTube channel.

“The objective of that is to show openly what it is that the Sol Foundation wants to talk about,” Garry Nolan told The Debrief in advance of the videos appearing online.

“That’s an all-of-society approach. Everything from science to religion, to sociology, to government. We represented aspects of that in all of these talks.”

“Those will all be going public,” Nolan said, adding that the foundation “will welcome now the engagement that comes from that.”

Sociocultural anthropologist Peter Skafish, the Sol Foundation’s Director of Research, told The Debrief that one of the uniting goals he and Nolan shared in launching the Sol Foundation and selecting the speakers for its first symposium involved their acknowledgment of the different approaches toward understanding UAP and that providing an academic floor where they could all be discussed would be a necessity.

“We understood the different parts,” Skafish said. “The intellectual, and social, and political, and I would say ontological quandary of UAP. We both had experience with interacting with people out of federal government on this. We both understood the complexities of the kinds of experience with this that experiencers have.”

“We both understood the need to do this—to study this—in a way that is rigorously and normatively academic and intellectual,” Skafish said, “and adheres to all the standards and takes place within the institution.”

“Yet we also understand that you’re going to have to break some rules,” Skafish added, “and transform some things to pull this off because we don’t actually know that our existing frameworks fit here.”

Drawing from his personal background in the social sciences, Skafish emphasized that information gleaned from those who have had firsthand experiences with UAP, while being viewed as lacking in substance for professionals in the physical sciences, are of great value to sociologists, historians, psychologists, and others in similar disciplines.

“We need to listen to people,” Skafish said. “We wanted to make sure that people, both in attendance but also looking at this from the outside, would understand that it’s not just going to be a matter of having certain kinds of hard data, whether it’s from the government or from astronomical projects.”

“It’s gonna be about the testimony that human beings have to offer about this,” Skafish told The Debrief, “and learning to listen to that in both an open and a responsible manner.”

In the months since the event, an ongoing series of controversies have peppered the UAP landscape, which include an effort to stifle a U.S. Senate-sponsored bill designed to facilitate UAP disclosure, as well as the resignation of Sean Kirkpatrick, the Director of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), and subsequent assertions by the scientist about a pro-UAP stratagem that he says has advanced the UAP narrative from within various areas of government for more than a decade.

The Sol Foundation, too, has become the target of some of the recent controversy and at least a few of the disparaging appraisals that seem to be inescapable artifacts of modern social media culture. Asked about these criticisms and the recent statements made by the former AARO director, Skafish told The Debrief that he is sympathetic to both sides of the current debate. However, he sees his and Nolan’s work as attempting to navigate beyond the discord that often preoccupies those who follow the UAP topic.

“Rather than weigh in on which perspective is true and which is false,” Skafish says, “I’m sympathetic to, actually, all parties here, including very skeptical parties.”

Skafish told The Debrief that the Sol Foundation works to remain focused on how it can provide guidance and make research-oriented contributions to the field.

“I would say what we’re trying to do is really take, ourselves, an evidence-based approach about matters of fact which are social, historical, political [and] legal in nature, and get to the bottom of things to the extent that can be done,” Skafish said.

“If there’s not a ‘there’ there, fine. If there is a ‘there’ there, and we have credible testimony coming from a lot of people in federal government about that, then Congress certainly should pursue that. And academics as well, and journalists should also be pursuing that, asking questions about it, and we’ll eventually settle the matter that way.”

“There is so much emotion in the discussion,” Nolan added, also acknowledging recent commentary featured in Scientific American and from those in the broader scientific community who do not seem to reflect the Sol Foundation’s willingness to engage with the UAP topic.

“I don’t want to get distracted by that,” Nolan said. “Let’s actually now start talking about the data.”

Nolan said that while there has been an obvious effort toward reaching a renewed degree of government transparency on the UAP issue in recent years, he also believes there has been enough pushback from officials to elicit a renewed effort by academics like himself in properly engaging with the topic and interpreting the available data.

“If there’s nothing there to see, let me see the data,” Nolan argues. “And if the remaining five percent you can’t classify yet—and I mean classify in the terms of a scientific classification—then don’t say that there’s no evidence of anything. Don’t conclude that there’s no evidence of anything if in the remaining five percent the evidence exists.”

Reflecting on the November symposium and the lectures the Sol Foundation has now made available for viewing online, Skafish told The Debrief that he felt those in attendance at the event were as important as the speakers it featured.

“That audience was as important to me in organizing as the lineup of speakers was,” Skafish said, “and we were very deliberately careful in evaluating the requests for invitations to make sure that we had people from a broad swath of professions and institutions present.”

“We want the Sol Foundation to be a kind of nerve center in which serious professionals across academia, across government, within investment and technology communities, within civil society institutions such as religious bodies, to be able to come together and be able to network, to listen to cutting-edge research on this, and to be able to incubate their own projects while they’re in a space with a lot of other like-minded individuals.”

“We really see ourselves as being in service to people who are serious about this,” Skafish said.

“And our meetings are going to be an opportunity for that.”

Micah Hanks is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of The Debrief. He can be reached by email at Follow his work at and on X: @MicahHanks.