b. Several important new research directions have been proposed which cross traditional NASA discipline and programmatic boundaries. For these, a funding commitment to support new research is recommended. This program should be designed to support an average grant interval of approximately three years (the length of time usually needed for a graduate thesis). It is recommended that astrobiology research proposals be solicited using a NASA Research Announcement and peer reviewed by a multidisciplinary panel organized by the Chief Scientist's office at NASA Headquarters (HQ) or "hosted" by each of the participating HQ Offices in turn: Space Science, Life and Microgravity Science, and Mission to Planet Earth.
c. Based on the high level of interest expressed by the Workshop participants, a funding commitment from Ames Research Center is recommended to sponsor one focused conference (nano-fossils was proposed as a topic to follow-on to the ALH84001 results) per year to follow up on the high priority research topics that require further refinement and one general conference every 3 years to present the latest results of research important to astrobiology. The results will be made available to HQ and its advisory committees for consideration and programmatic action as appropriate.
b. While fostering cross-agency cooperation, and with the likely support of Congress and the public, the workshop participants recommended that NASA also rededicate an appropriate fraction of its R&A to "interdisciplinary" research. Teaming across discipline boundaries is not always efficient at the beginning, but can be a critical step towards creative insights as each team member assimilates the knowledge of other disciplines while remaining an expert in their own right. Providing tangible incentives for working scientists to move in this direction is perhaps the most obvious tack. Policy-level adjustments to the R&A program priorities or practices might be appropriate; short "learning" sabbaticals might be encouraged to a greater extent under the grants programs; NAS-NRC associateships in interdisciplinary "new direction" research might be endowed.
Workshop participants urged more multidisciplinary discussions and interactions. Some Workshop participants are interested in teaching courses in astrobiology. Workshop participants also urged that a special effort be made to ensure that scientists interested in astrobiology have easy access to the latest findings, including access to the results of new research efforts described above. Four mechanisms are proposed to respond to this interest.
a. In addition to future astrobiology workshops and conferences, astrobiology may be a topic or session at other scientific conferences such as the American Society of Gravitational and Space Biology, COSPAR, the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life, the Gordon Conference, and others.
b. A Web page will be established that will not only present formal work but will also allow discussion and interaction via chat rooms and dialog groups. Part of this Web page may be an "electronic textbook" accessible to the public to support education efforts in this area. Interdisciplinary communication can be furthered by using web-based connections to allow motivated discipline experts better insight into other communities.
c. A lay person's summary of the results of the current Astrobiology Workshop will be developed for presentation in a publicly accessible medium such as The Planetary Report, Discover Magazine, Scientific American, etc.
d. Special workshops will be convened for educators and students.
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Last updated Feb-11-1997
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