Invitation To The European Astrobiology Institute

Dear Astrobiologists,

In addition to the long-standing “European Astrobiology Network Association (EANA)”, several new European networking initiatives have been launched over the last years, such as the COST Action “Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth in the Universe” (http://www.life-origins.com/), the Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership “European Astrobiology Campus” (http://astrobiology-campus.eu/) and the FP7 project “AstRoMap”.

The European astrobiology community has thus gained in maturity and coordination. To build on this momentum and take European Research in astrobiology to a higher level the launch of a European Astrobiology Institute was proposed. This entity will be a virtual institute consisting of research and higher education institutions and organisations as well as other stakeholders aiming to carry out research, training, outreach and dissemination activities in astrobiology in a comprehensive and coordinated manner and thereby securing a leading role of the European Research Area in the field.

The European astrobiology community has gained in maturity and coordination from past actions and now builds on this momentum by launching the European Astrobiology Institute.

An Interim Board was formed consisting of members and employees of the main stakeholders in this field in the European Research Area (ESA, ESF, ISSI, German Aerospace Centre, CNRS, CNES, INAF, Europlanet, EANA, Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Centro de Astrobiología, etc.) to prepare the creation of the EAI. It has elaborated a draft Action Plan mapping out the tasks, structure, governing bodies, activities, funding and administration of the EAI. This Action Plan has been finalised and is now open for discussion with the whole European astrobiology community in summer 2018. Recruitment of institutions is planned to place in autumn and winter 2018/19 and the first General Assembly of the EAI is planned for late spring 2019.

A preliminary website of the European Astrobiology has been set up at: http://www.europeanastrobiology.eu/

The Interim Board invites all members to discuss the plans for establishment of the European Astrobiology Institute. To facilitate the discussion, we have created a Google Group on the EAI. To join please do the following:

  1. Access the Google Group “European Astrobiology” at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/europeanastrobiology
  2. Ask to join

Alternatively, write a message to wgeppert[at]hotmail.com and you will be sent an invitation. To join you should be affiliated to a Research and/or Higher Education Institution or research organisation in Europe. The Interim Board, however, reserves the right to refuse participants to the forum if their connection to astrobiology or research in general is unclear. In accordance with general regulations of Google any kind of insult and slander against individual persons or Institutions and groups will result in the sender being removed from the Google Group.

Relevant documents (Action Plan, Executive summary, Communiques of the meetings of the Interim Board, a promotional folder for the EAI and a proposed time plan for the implementation of the institute) can be downloaded at the webpage: europeanastrobiology.eu/documents.html

We are looking forward to reading your viewpoints and discussing the future EAI with you.

Best regards,
Wolf Geppert

in the name of the Interim Board (the full list of the Interim Board can be found at http://europeanastrobiology.eu/interim-board-1.html)

Astrobiology and Society in Europe Today

This White Paper describes the state of Astrobiology in Europe today and its relation to European society at large. With contributions from authors in twenty countries and over thirty scientific institutions worldwide, the document illustrates the societal implications of astrobiology and the positive contribution that astrobiology can make to European society.

The White Paper has two main objectives:

It recommends the establishment of a European Astrobiology Institute (EAI) as an answer to a series of challenges relating to astrobiology and also to European research, education and society at large.
It acknowledges the societal implications of astrobiology, and thus the role of the social sciences and humanities in optimizing the positive contribution that astrobiology can make to the lives of the people of Europe and the challenges they face.

Τhe document illustrates the societal implications of astrobiology and the positive contribution that astrobiology can make to European society.

Αstrobiology enjoys a great deal of interest among the public, probably more than most other fields of research. It also has implications for human life outside the laboratories and lecture halls. It has the potential of being a flagship of European cooperation in science. It provides an ideal ground for collaborative European projects which support the ethos of cooperating countries. Astrobiology is inherently interdisciplinary and based on collaboration between disciplines, universities and countries. For Europe to take a leading role in this research, it is very important to have a stable structure that can coordinate research, research infrastructure, funding and relations to the surrounding society in an efficient way. The establishment of a EAI, as a consortium of institutions, will provide the perfect forum for such collaborative efforts and should be a key priority for European research institutions as well as the European astrobiology community and the EU. To have an active astrobiology research programme, coordinated and fostered by such an institute, will enhance the international standards of European space research, and of European science in general.

Αstrobiology enjoys a great deal of interest among the public, probably more than most other fields of research.

The EAI will be able to promote astrobiology research, assist in the decision-making processes of relevant European institutions, be involved in mission planning, engage in science dissemination, education and communication, as well as outreach and media work in a much more efficient way than individual research institutions. The EAI will act as a strong voice for the astrobiology community in dialogue with decision makers, funding agencies, the media, other stakeholders and the general public. It will be proactive in the debate on important legal and ethical issues in astrobiology and space research.

The EAI will act as a strong voice for the astrobiology community.

Molecules To Microbes” NoR HGT & LUCA Conference, Athens, Greece

The exact origin of life remains an unfathomable mystery, however this does not mean that it will always remain so. Given that life on Earth did emerge, there must have been physico-chemical reactions that allowed this to happen – in the absence of an omnipotent “being” or an extraordinary event, whereby life arose, once only, more or less in the form of a ready-made unit of cells, bypassing the necessary chemical evolution and dispensing with the laws of physics, as claimed by all religions. Such physico-chemical reactions can result in diametrically opposed viewpoints; that is, either that life-giving reactions miraculously occurred only once, intimating that we are alone in the Universe, or, that the reactions of life are so common that galaxies could be laden with living entities everywhere.

Given that life on Earth did emerge, there must have been physico-chemical reactions that allowed this to happen.

At the centre of these viewpoints is the question of consciousness and intelligence. These human attributes become germane and important, as without these living beings, there would no-one around to ask the question of ” life, the Universe and everything”, to take an extract from Douglas Adam’s 1979 sci-fi book. In short, the emergence and evolution of consciousness and intelligence is also inextricably linked to the origin of life, although during the largest part of Earth’s history (perhaps, over 80%) slime was the only occupant (Seilacher,et al., 1998; Jheeta, 2017); human intelligence having only evolved perhaps less than 100,000 years or so ago. It is from this stance that we will address the topic of Molecules to Microbes (see editorial paper of the same title); the latter gave rise to eukaryotes, which eventually developed into the intelligent observer. Everyone looking back through the history and evolution of the Universe is asking: how did life begin on Earth and is there life elsewhere in the Universe?

The emergence and evolution of consciousness and intelligence is also inextricably linked to the origin of life.

Life is an extremely complex puzzle – how did it begin? To answer this question necessitates extensive co-operation between areas of sciences, even ones such as philosophy because complex and multi-faceted investigation and evaluation processes are required. Other areas which demand our attention are a deeper understanding of the self-organising properties of nature and an appreciation of the fact that the reactions of life may were more probable than improbable. With this in mind, the network of researchers on the origin of life and other like-minded scientists interested in answering the question of the emergence of life on Earth or elsewhere in the Universe are invited to air and share their research or theories at our 2018 conference on the 5-6 November 2018 at the Eugenides Foundation in Athens, Greece.

References
Adams, D, The Hitcher’s Guide to the Galaxy 1979, Pan Books
Seilacher, A.; Bose, P.K.; Pflüger, F. Triploblastic Animals More Than 1 Billion Years Ago: Trace Fossil Evidence from India. Science 1998, 282, 80–83.
Jheeta,S. 2017, Life. 7: 1-11. doi:10.3390/life7020027

Welcome to the online Astrobiology and Society Resource Centre and Knowledge Base!

The centre was founded on March 02, 2018 by Dr. Klara Anna Capova and Prof. Elias Chatzitheodoridis with one ambition: to set up an European online astrobiology resource framework dedicated to raising awareness of astrobiology research and related space sciences and their societal aspects, and to provide access to quality scientific information to any interested subject now and in the future.