Richard: There are a great number of people interested in the study of the paranormal; some are looking for education within the field to provide them with the intellectual tools to proceed, what would be your recommendation?
Dr. Watt: Joining the Parapsychological Association (PA) is a good place to start. The PA also has a page on its website about educational opportunities in parapsychology. In terms of reading, I have co-authored an introductory textbook with Harvey Irwin, which reviews the scientific literature on parapsychology. It’s fairly densely-packed, but informative. For something more accessible, there’s always my online course…
Richard: I understand you lead an online course through Koestler Parapsychology Unit. Who do you feel this course is best suited for?
Dr. Watt: My course runs twice a year (next run is in April) and is open to anyone who can use the internet. It attracts individuals from around the world who want to know more about parapsychology, both believers and skeptics. If readers are interested, they can find out more about the content of the course on the Koestler Parapsychology Unit website.
Richard: Your career in parapsychology is an inspiration too many people, what advice would you give to those who want to pursue serious work in this field?
Dr. Watt: First of all get a good quality undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline. Psychology is probably the degree that most parapsychologists have, but it depends on where your interests lie. Other relevant disciplines are physics, philosophy, and anthropology. You should make sure you have high level (MSc in the UK) methodological training that is appropriate for the area or question that interests you. Become familiar with the relevant literature, and approach a university-based academic who publishes in that area to see if they would be willing to supervise a PhD on that topic. (Of course, you have to be good enough to apply for a PhD in the first place!) Technically, there are no PhDs in “Parapsychology” (not from a reputable institution, that is). Rather, the PhDs are in mainstream subjects such as Psychology but specializing on a parapsychological question and supervised by an academic who is expert in that area.
Richard: Can you tell us a little bit on the work you have done in near death experiences and your conclusion that all aspects of these experiences are based in neurological responses?