The DISC Quotient

John R. Elliott*, Stephen Baxter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


D.I.S.C: Decipherment Impact of a Signal's Content.

The authors present a numerical method to characterise the significance of the receipt of a complex and potentially decipherable signal from extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI). The purpose of the scale is to facilitate the public communication of work on any such claimed signal, as such work proceeds, and to assist in its discussion and interpretation.

Building on a "position" paper rationale, this paper looks at the DISC quotient proposed and develops the algorithmic steps and comprising measures that form this post detection strategy for information dissemination, based on prior work on message detection, decipherment. As argued, we require a robust and incremental strategy, to disseminate timely, accurate and meaningful information, to the scientific community and the general public, in the event we receive an "alien" signal that displays decipherable information. This post-detection strategy is to serve as a stepwise algorithm for a logical approach to information extraction and a vehicle for sequential information dissemination, to manage societal impact.

The "DISC Quotient", which is based on signal analysis processing stages, includes factors based on the signal's data quantity, structure, affinity to known human languages, and likely decipherment times. Comparisons with human and other phenomena are included as a guide to assessing likely societal impact. It is submitted that the development, refinement and implementation of DISC as an integral strategy, during the complex processes involved in post detection and decipherment, is essential if we wish to minimize disruption and optimize dissemination. (c) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-25
Number of pages6
JournalActa Astronautica
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Communication
  • Decipherment
  • DISC Quotient
  • Dissemination mechanisms and rationales
  • Dynamic analysis
  • Linguistic analysis
  • Post detection decipherment strategy
  • Signal analysis
  • Societal impact


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