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Letter from the president Frances Westall: EANA and EAI
Dear EANA friends,

Many people have come to me to express their concern and, indeed, confusion with respect to the creation of the new European Astrobiology Institute, which had its inaugural meeting two weeks ago in Libliče in the Czech Republic. With this letter to the EANA community I would like to address these concerns.
EANA came into being 19 years ago because of the wish of individual European astrobiologists to have a grassroots structure, governed by individual members, that could facilitate networking between themselves. The statutes of EANA reflect this: « There are a number of centres of excellence in astrobiology in Europe. These centres have decided to promote their work by setting up a European Network to help the sharing of their expertise and facilities. »

The statutes explain that the goals of EANA are:
  • bringing together European researchers connected with astrobiology programmes and to foster their cooperation
  • building bridges between the research programmes in astrobiology at the European level
  • attracting young scientists to this quickly evolving interdisciplinary field of research
  • creating a website establishing a database of expertise in different aspects of astrobiology
  • promoting astrobiology activities in the different European countries and seek financial support to reach the objectives of the Association
  • interfacing the Network with European bodies such as ESA, ESF and European Commission
  • establishing contacts with non European institutions active in the field
  • popularising astrobiology to the public
The annual meetings are a good reflection of these goals; they are a grassroots, bottom-up meeting of individuals coming together to exchange their expertise about astrobiology and to learn about it.
The EAI, on the other hand, is a highly structured, political, top-down entity composed of member institutes from different countries, it is not governed by individuals. However, many of its overall goals are the same as those of EANA.
It is for this reason that many in the community are now confused about the role of EANA in European Astrobiology. My opinion is that both EANA and the EAI reflect the astrobiological situation in Europe: EANA is the grassroots heart of the astrobiology community at the individual level, governed by individuals, whereas the EAI is a political, top-down entity governed at the institute level.

It is my belief that both EANA and the EAI are needed in Europe and both need each other; there is great potential for excellent synergy between them. The EAI is not a forum for individual astrobiologists but it aims to have the political weight to be able to « speak » to the European Commission, which, despite 15 years of proposal-writing EANA has not been able to do, mainly because the discipline of astrobiology is so wide-ranging.
As president of EANA, my feeling is that EANA represents the heart and soul of European astrobiology and individual European astrobiologists, it is a « family » of astrobiologists. The EAI is a necessary but top-down entity that could help the community obtain funding at the European level.
I welcome the creation of the EAI. There is room for both EANA and the EAI in Europe, indeed, both are necessary at this stage of the development of the astrobiological community as a whole. In this respect, it would be logical to hold meetings on alternate years, i.e. EANA one year and the EAI the next year.
I plan to have a round-table discussion about EANA and the EAI and their complementarity during the annual meeting of EANA, 3-6 September, 2019 in Orléans, France. I hope that you will all join me there.

Frances Westall
EANA president

Important Deadlines and News

Upcoming deadlines / important events

Abstract deadline: 2019-06-28
EANA 2019

Deadline for Registration and abstract submission: 2019-07-10
Tenth Moscow Solar System Symposium (10M-S3)

Deadline for Registration and abstract submission: 2020-06-30
Fifth Network of Researchers on the Chemical Evolution of Life (NoR CEL) Conference

Early bird registration deadline: 2019-08-02
EANA 2019

Open University receives £6.7 million to expand Astrobiology research
Congratulations to Dr Karen Olsson-Francis, Senior Lecturer in the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences, Open University!

Added 16 Jun 2019
The National Space Science Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Space Studies Board of U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to invite applications to participate in the 9th and 10th Forums for New Leaders in Space Science. The Forums, initiated in 2014, are designed to provide opportunities for a highly select group of young space and Earth scientists to discuss their research activities in an intimate and collegial environment.
The 9th and 10th Forums will be devoted to Earth observation from space and planetary science (i.e., studies of the solar system's planets, satellites, and minor bodies) and will be held on 15-16 May 2019 (in Beijing, China) and 28-29 October 2019 (in Washington, DC). Application deadline is 31 January 2019.

Added 18 Dec 2018
NASA Astrobiology Program FAQs
The NASA Astrobiology Program has announced a new programmatic infrastructure. Known as Research Coordination Networks (RCNs), and first deployed as the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS), RCNs bring together researchers who are funded from a variety of sources into interdisciplinary, topically-focused research groups. By early 2020, the NASA Astrobiology Program will have activated five RCNs -- four new ones plus NExSS -- each organized around a key research topic identified in the 2015 Astrobiology Strategy: prebiotic chemistry and the early Earth; early metabolism, evolution, and complexity; life detection on other worlds; habitable worlds (initially focused on ocean worlds); and exoplanet system science.

This document contains answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Astrobiology Program organized by topical areas.

Added 9 Nov 2018

Monthly research highlight (-> More highlights)

de Vera et al. (2019): Limits of Life and the Habitability of Mars: The ESA Space Experiment BIOMEX on the ISS

Astrobiology 2019, 19(2), 145–157, DOI:10.1089/ast.2018.1897

Link to open access paper

BIOMEX (BIOlogy and Mars EXperiment) is an ESA/Roscosmos space exposure experiment housed within the exposure facility EXPOSE-R2 outside the Zvezda module on the International Space Station (ISS). The design of the multiuser facility supports—among others—the BIOMEX investigations into the stability and level of degradation of space-exposed biosignatures such as pigments, secondary metabolites, and cell surfaces in contact with a terrestrial and Mars analog mineral environment. In parallel, analysis on the viability of the investigated organisms has provided relevant data for evaluation of the habitability of Mars, for the limits of life, and for the likelihood of an interplanetary transfer of life (theory of lithopanspermia). In this project, lichens, archaea, bacteria, cyanobacteria, snow/permafrost algae, meristematic black fungi, and bryophytes from alpine and polar habitats were embedded, grown, and cultured on a mixture of martian and lunar regolith analogs or other terrestrial minerals. The organisms and regolith analogs and terrestrial mineral mixtures were then exposed to space and to simulated Mars-like conditions by way of the EXPOSE-R2 facility. In this special issue, we present the first set of data obtained in reference to our investigation into the habitability of Mars and limits of life. This project was initiated and implemented by the BIOMEX group, an international and interdisciplinary consortium of 30 institutes in 12 countries on 3 continents. Preflight tests for sample selection, results from ground-based simulation experiments, and the space experiments themselves are presented and include a complete overview of the scientific processes required for this space experiment and postflight analysis. The presented BIOMEX concept could be scaled up to future exposure experiments on the Moon and will serve as a pretest in low Earth orbit.
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