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:
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.
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