The first scientific Roadmap for European Astrobiology was published on Mar. 21. This strategic landmark for European astrobiology has been produced through the European Commission-funded AstRoMap project (2013-2015). In putting this research roadmap document together, the 19 authors relied on the outcome and findings of the AstRoMap project as well as on wide community consultation and four disciplinary workshops organized between 2013 and 2014.
The AstRoMap European Astrobiology Roadmap considers astrobiology in a wide context: it is understood as the study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the context of cosmic evolution; this includes habitability in the Solar System and beyond. This makes this roadmap a transdisciplinary document of relevance for many communities, from astronomers to planetary scientists and from atmospheric physicists to life scientists.
While it addresses life beyond the Earth, topics it puts forward are also very relevant to life in Earth extreme environments and to the understanding of our evolving ecosystem. The AstRoMap roadmap identifies five research topics, specifies several key scientific objectives for each topic, and suggests ways to achieve these objectives in a stepwise approach (in the short -within the next decade-, medium -within the next two decades-, and long -beyond 20 years- terms).
The five AstRoMap Research Topics are:
- Research Topic 1 Origin and Evolution of Planetary Systems
- Research Topic 2 Origins of Organic Compounds in Space
- Research Topic 3 Rock-Water-Carbon Interactions, Organic Synthesis on Earth, and Steps to Life
- Research Topic 4 Life and Habitability
- Research Topic 5 Biosignatures as Facilitating Life Detection
Besides putting forward scientific priority topics the AstRoMap roadmap also strongly recommends that a European Astrobiology Platform (or Institute) should be set up to streamline scientific investigations, maximize interdisciplinary collaboration and optimize the use and development of infrastructures.
The AstRoMap European Astrobiology Roadmap is published in the Astrobiology journal and available open access at http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/ast.2015.1441
AstRoMap was a Coordination Action supported by the European Commission under Grant Agreement 313102 and was coordinated by the Centro de Astrobiologia (Spain). AstRoMap tackled the issues of: i) improving the knowledge of the scientific field of astrobiology in Europe and beyond, ii) providing new networking tools and opportunity for the scientific community and iii) defining future scientific priorities and consolidating them into a research roadmap.
AstRoMap Partners were: the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial - Centro de Astrobiología (INTA-CAB) - Spain,the European Science Foundation (ESF) - France, the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR) - Germany, the Belgian User Support and Operations Centre (B-USOC) - Belgium, the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) - Italy and the European Astrobiology Network Association (EANA)
The European Science Foundation (ESF) was established in 1974 to provide a common platform for its Member Organisations – the main research funding and research performing organisations in Europe – to advance European research collaboration and explore new directions for research. Today ESF provides valuable services to the scientific and academic communities – such as peer review, evaluation, career tracking tools, conferences, implementation of new research support mechanisms and the hosting of high-level expert boards and committees – with the aim of supporting and driving the future of a globally competitive European Research Area. ESF currently has 13 member organisations in 11 countries.