April 23, 2014


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Review of the NASA Astrobiology Institute

Review of the NASA Astrobiology Institute

Project Scope

An ad hoc committee, operating under the auspices of the Space Studies Board (SSB) will conduct a review to evaluate the progress made by the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) in developing the field of astrobiology, both from the perspective of NAI members and that of the larger community of NASA-supported scientists, both within the NASA Astrobiology Program and outside of it. The goal of this review is to help guide NASA in assessing and shaping the future of the NAI, particularly in its preparation of a solicitation that would be issued to help select future teams to carry the NAI into a second decade.

This review should evaluate the success of the NAI in achieving its stated goals of:

1. Conducting, supporting, and catalyzing collaborative interdisciplinary research;
2. Training the next generation of astrobiology researchers;
3. Providing scientific and technical leadership on astrobiology investigations for current and future space missions;
4. Exploring new approaches, using modern information technology, to conduct interdisciplinary and collaborative research amongst widely-distributed investigators; and
5. Supporting outreach by providing scientific content for K-12 education programs, teaching undergraduate classes, and communicating directly with the public.

In evaluating the NAI's success, the committee should address the following broad questions:

1. Has the NAI developed, as envisioned, as an evolving experiment in cutting-edge, distributed, collaborative science and education in astrobiology?
2. Does the NAI provide a unique and useful complement to other Astrobiology Program support mechanisms (e.g., individual grants to principal investigators), and if improvements need to be made in this area, what are they?
3. Are the research, training, and public educational activities of the NAI appropriately balanced in terms of investments and outcomes, services to NAI members and external partners, and activities that engage and support the wider astrobiology community and the needs of young professionals?
4. How effective are the current management approach and structure of the NAI, how can they be improved for the proposed continuation of the NAI, and how can they be made more responsive to changing needs?
5. What other activities/roles not currently undertaken by the NAI might be appropriate in the future?


Assessment of the NASA Astrobiology Institute

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