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5 International Partners NASA AND NAI CONCEPTUALIZATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSHIP From the beginning of the development of the NASA Astrobiology program, international involvement was anticipated and desired in view of the strong space science and exobiology research activities going on overseas, particularly in Western Europe. Involvement of foreign nationals was not a specific criterion in the selection of the 15 U.S. nodes for the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), however. As shown in Table 2.2 in Chapter 2, some successful proposals included foreign involvement, while others did not. To foster the growth of programs in astrobiology beyond the United States, the NAI set up an international associate membership program soon after its own creation. This program allowed astrobiology research programs elsewhere in the world to affiliate themselves with the NAI. It was thought that this not only would broaden the scope of the research and researchers involved in astrobiology but also might encourage funding of astrobiology programs by other countries. To initiate this program, the NAI named Spain's Centro de Astrobiology (CAB), which already had obtained government funding for astrobiology, as an acting associate member in 1999. Subsequent to the establishment of this relationship, which was formalized in 2000, the NAI developed a procedure for evaluating additional associate memberships. International proposers to the NAI are requested to outline the following: · The organizational nature of the entity (i.e., government agency, private institution, nonprofit organization, and so on); · The themes of the scientific work being undertaken or proposed and the potential synergy with NAI objectives; and · The specific areas in which near-term exchanges and/or partnerships will be productive and areas for long- term cultivation of interactions. The application package is evaluated in a noncompetitive fashion, that is, on an individual basis. Those entities with stable sources of funding and a vigorous research and teaching program are invited to become associate members of the NAI, and the director of the entity becomes a member of the NAI Executive Council, functioning essentially as one of the NAI principal investigators. Entities that do not meet the criteria or do not 40
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INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS 41 wish to have such a formal relationship are invited to become affiliates of the NAI. Such affiliates are encouraged to interact with NAI researchers but do not have formal governance or advisory responsibilities within the NAI. To date, only the CAB and, more recently, the Australian Centre for Astrobiology have achieved a strong source of stable government funding and attained associate status. Affiliate members of the NAI are as follows: · The United Kingdom Astrobiology Forum and Network, · The Groupement de Recherche en Exobiologie, and · The European Exo/Astrobiology Network Association. Other major astrobiological groups include the Russian Astrobiology Center. There is insufficient space in this report to do justice to the diverse astrobiological activities currently under way outside the United States. To illustrate this diversity, COEL highlights below the activities of three represen- tative groups CAB, the United Kingdom Astrobiology Forum and Network, and the European Exo/Astrobiology Network Association. More information about the groups mentioned above but not described here can be found at their respective Web sites.~-3 CENTRO DE ASTROBIOLOGIA CAB is the most successful example of the galvanizing effect that the creation of the NAI has had on astrobiology in other countries.4 Its founding through private and public funds in Spain was greatly aided by the example set by the founding of the NAI and the promise of affiliate membership in the NAI. Located on a military base outside Madrid, CAB is a rapidly expanding institute that integrates biologists, geologists, astronomers, planetologists, and physicists in a strongly collaborative research environment. Ongoing work includes computer modeling of physical processes related to the origin of life and planetary habitability, gene sequencing of organ- isms with small genomes, geological fieldwork, explorations of a hyperacidic river Spain's Rio Tinto with robotic submersibles, and the creation of a telescopic network to search for planetary transits. CAB's technological and scientific activity may be classified in these groups: · Observation and modeling (in astrophysics, planetary sciences, biology, and ecology), with analysis of phenomena related to astrobiology and creation of models that generate a scientific explanation for them; · Theory, applied to fields that are the focus of theoretical research at CAB (hydrodynamics, emergence, critical phenomena of equilibrium, self-organized criticality,5 fragmentation and fractal characteristics, fractal science networks); and · Supporting technologies for CAB work (bioinformatics, specific-purpose computers, advanced communi- cations systems, and telematics and robotics), through which the connection between scientific research and forefront technologies produce an advantageous alignment. In early 2002, a completely new building specifically designed by and for CAB was completed on the edge of the base where CAB is located (the base's gates can be realigned to afford public access for conferences and other events). The new facility provides for open interactions between scientists of different disciplines while also affording ample space for laboratory and computational facilities. This vastly improved space will enhance educational and postdoctoral programs at CAB. As a result of a detailed presentation to COEL by CAB' s director and a personal visit to the center by one committee member, COEL finds CAB to be a model for any future "bricks and mortar" institute dedicated to astrobiology. Although CAB is self-contained, it is not isolated. The new building is wired with next-generation Internet capabilities and is intended to support remote laboratory operations, as well as comodeling on distributed compu- tational systems. CAB is also not isolated in the sense that its purpose beyond astrobiological research is to infuse Spain and its industries with new stimuli for technological development. One of CAB's main objectives is the development of a local industry network, supplemented by high-quality popularization of science, with benefit to Spanish society on all levels. Besides the education and postdoctoral research at CAB (which will be linked with
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42 LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE the local industrial infrastructure), CAB has a strong program of outreach, directed to kindergarten through secondary education and to adult education. In a different kind of interactive exercise, CAB in 2000 held a joint field excursion with NAI researchers at the Rio Tinto in Spain, which was well attended. CAB is a model that will not be replicable everywhere. The ingredients for success at CAB began with the remarkable vision and entrepreneurial capabilities of its director, Juan Perez-Mercader. They included as well a special moment in time when the government of Spain and the national industries were aligned toward the enhancement of Spanish technological development in the context of the European Union. In addition, the encour- agement of NASA and the NAI, both symbolic and practical, in the form of CAB's being the pathfinder for international associate membership in the NAI, lent validity and credibility to the endeavor essential for the provision of space and funds from governmental and industry sources. COEL applauds the leadership of CAB for its extraordinary accomplishment in starting and bringing to fruition a "ground-up" astrobiology center, and for the consequent articulation of the value of astrobiology as a science and as a lever for technology development within Europe. NASA and the NAI also deserve recognition for doing their part in fostering the growth of CAB through encouragement and the creation of associate membership status in the NAI. U.K. ASTROBIOLOGY FORUM AND NETWORK The United Kingdom Astrobiology Forum and Network (UKAFN) represent a different kind of international astrobiology effort.6 The U.K. Astrobiology Forum, a committee of the British National Space Centre, was established in 1998 to encourage and promote the science of astrobiology within the United Kingdom.7 The eight members of this group are leaders in promoting astrobiology research in the United Kingdom. The forum became an affiliate member of the NAI in October 2000. The U.K. Astrobiology Network (the second component of this combination) is a larger and more informal network of astrobiologists in various fields, set up to promote commu- nication among those involved in the science of astrobiology in the United Kingdom.8 The founding of the UKAFN was stimulated both by the creation and early activities of the NAI and by the strong interest in astrobiology-related research in the United Kingdom. Unlike CAB, however, the UKAFN does not constitute a formal institute that is directly funded by governmental or industry sources. It is an association and a network of groups and facilities doing government- and industry-funded research in areas that encompass astrobiology as defined by NASA's Astrobiology Roadmap. Thus, associate membership in the NAI is not appropriate, because there is no central principal investigator within either the forum or the network who controls a source of central funds and therefore could represent the interests of all of the U.K. researchers in the program. Affiliate membership provides a more informal means of interaction and creates a kind of "organizational hyperlink" that encourages frequent communication. EUROPEAN EXO/ASTROBIOLOGY NETWORK ASSOCIATION The objectives of the European Exo/Astrobiology Network Association (EANA) are these:9 · To bring together European researchers connected with exo/astrobiology programs and foster cooperation and interactions, including those through (but not limited to) a Web site database; · To attract young scientists to the field; · To promote exo/astrobiology activities in various European countries and seek financial support; · To interface with European governmental entities such as the European Space Agency, European Science Foundation, and European Commission, and extend contacts to non-European institutions; and · To popularize astrobiology. EANA was formalized in May 2001 during the first European Workshop on Exo/Astrobiology, held in Frascati, Italy. The association is administered through an executive council of 24 members.
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INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS 43 THE SHAPE OF INTERNATIONAL INTERACTIONS WITH THE NAI Astrobiology is a good recent example of the United States leading the rest of the world into a new discipline area and new forms of research. In addition to those described above, other international partnerships with the NAI are being defined (e.g., with Russia) or have already been defined (e.g., with Australia and France). Each one of these interactions will be different, because research is organized and funded differently in the respective coun- tnes. Opportunities for multinational consortia, which seem most promising in Europe as the countries of the European Union more tightly integrate in terms of financial and political institutions, could lead to astrobiology projects on much larger scales than are seen today. To date, Japan has not been involved significantly in NAI consortia nor, to COEL's knowledge, been approached to establish an affiliate membership. A resourceful, ex- tremely well-organized research community in Japan includes many researchers actively involved in areas perta~n- ing to astrobiology, and the NAI might direct its attention to establishing linkages. The committee encourages NASA and the NAI to continue to seed efforts in astrobiology worldwide through the free exchange of scientific information, experimental techniques, and computational results. Association or affiliation with the NAI ought to be used as a tool to encourage international efforts in this regard, but it should be approached with care so as not to give the impression that the United States is pressuring other countnes. One way to ensure that astrobiology becomes a truly international endeavor is to realign the structure of the NAI so that foreign affiliate members become, instead, the nodes of an international astrobiology institute, with the NAI as one member among many. It may be premature to make such a change at the present time when the international programs are just getting started, but it should be considered by all concerned as those programs mature. Finally, the committee notes that the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) will continue to make it difficult for scientists to fully interact on astrobiology projects internationally. ITAR will prevent foreign nationals from collaborating with the NAI or with NASA in general on astrobiology instrumentation intended for flight or on laboratory techniques that have application to international terrorism issues, without formal and specific Memorandums of Understanding for each instrument or technique.~° The changes to ITAR that came into force in April 2002 may ease this situation by making it clearer that fundamental research collaboration does not require an ITAR license and that the exchange of most forms of technical information in the public domain can proceed without impediment with nationals of NATO and a few other allied countnes. Some problems remain, especially collaboration with foreign scientists and students from non-NATO countnes, so it is important for NASA to continue to monitor the situation and to help ensure that ITAR does not have a suffocating effect on the free exchange of space and biological sciences research. NOTES AND REFERENCES 1. More information about the Australian Centre for Astrobiology is available online at . 2. More details about exo/astrobiological activities in France are available online at . 3. For more details about the Russian Astrobiology Center, see, for example, the Web site . 4. For more details about CAB, see the Web site . 5. J. Perez-Mercader, "Scaling Phenomena and the Emergence of Complexity in Astrobiology," pp. 337-360 in Astrobiology: The Quest for the Conditions of Life, G. Horneck and C. Baumstark-Khan, eds., Springer, Berlin, 2002. 6. More information is available online at . 7. For more details, see the Web site . 8. For more details, see the Web site . 9. For more details, see the Web site . 10. See, for example, the State Department Web site containing updates to ITAR, at .
Representative terms from entire chapter: