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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

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

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)

Thogersen et al. (2019): Light on windy nights on Mars: A study of saltation-mediated ionization of argon in a Mars-like atmosphere

Icarus 2019, 332, 14-18, DOI:10.1016/j.icarus.2019.06.025

Link to paper

Laboratory experiments show that sand grain saltation in a Mars-like environment can result in the ionization of argon. This suggests that saltation can be a mechanism for the destruction of methane (CH4) on Mars given the ionization energy of argon is higher than the energy required to ionize methane to a reactive cation. The ionization energy is also higher than the energy to dissociate methane to highly reactive species like CH3, CH2, and CH. The feasibility of capturing the resulting emission glow on a windy Martian night is discussed.
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