I don't think its a waste of money. We need lot of research and experiments to know if UFO really exists. We need to know the presence of UFO's because it will help us to solve some of the mysteries of universe.
The SETI group - supported by many unpaid volunteers - also uses data from other telescopes, such as the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The grid computing model developed for that project has also expanded into other domains - such as medical drug research. Sometimes the benefits of research come in unexpected places.
Even if we received a valid extraterrestrial signal, it would just be a narrow-band tone. How would we decipher any information contained in this carrier, would we know how to demodulate/decode it? Second, even if we got to the point of decoding the signal, how much benefit would such a signal be? If the nearest civilization is say 100 light-years away, any information we receive started 100 years back. How useful is such information; is our assumption that there is a civilization so advanced that even 100-year old information from them is useful?
It would be one thing if we had run out of ideas to solve our world’s problems. But our issue is not a dearth of ideas; almost every idea to solve problems costs money and needs funding. The $3-4 million it costs annually to run this program can be redirected to programs that will achieve results that are important and measurable.
SETI is not a "UFO group" and are not in any way looking for UFO's or contending that aliens flying around our planet. Their focus is on finding the same kind of radio transmissions that our own planet sends out into space. It's a very sober scientific endeavor carried out by *real* scientists.
In fact, SETI is quite frustrating to the tinfoil-hat UFO crowd. In his excellent book "Confessions of an Alien Hunter:A Scientist's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence," Seth Shostak, the chief astronomer at SETI, discusses how unlikely it would be for aliens to *really* visit planet Earth.
What are the chances of success for SETI? Unknown. But the potential benefits are enormous. And we know for sure that if we don't look, the chances for success are exactly zero. For a few million dollars, it's worth every penny to try.
It is hard to get funding to the tune of $millions per year when your only mandate is to search for extra terrestrial intelligence, in a world of overwhelming need. One of the ways that institutes like SETI can more easily get investors is through using their capabilities also to solve today’s problems in our own universe.
The advanced antennas, specialized signal processing, pattern recognition, and other algorithms used by SETI are very applicable to many fields in manufacturing, meteorology, seismology, mining, ONGC, and most important medical - to do early detection and diagnosis in deadly diseases such as cancer. And in wireless communications they can be used to make much more sensitive receivers, so that considerable monies can be saved in network infrastructure and deployments.
I wish that SETI group to get more funds. This research is to be continued so that after a century or so our kith and kins will have benifits.I am sure that life exists in the universe. They may or may not have the same senses ( 5 senses we have). In case if they are with a different set of senses which we do not know then communicating with them is never possible. So the research to move forward to take this point into consideration.