October 3, 2012 Call for Applications: NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology

Press Contact: Donna Urschel, Office of Communications, (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Jason Steinhauer, John W. Kluge Center, (202) 707-0213

The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress is accepting applications and nominations for the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology. The chair, established in the fall of 2011, focuses on an important area of human inquiry—the cultural, philosophical, ethical and societal implications of astrobiology.

Applications and nominations must be postmarked by Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. For information, guidelines and forms, visit www.loc.gov/loc/kluge/fellowships/NASA-astrobiology.html. Further questions about the chair can be directed to scholarly@loc.gov.

Residency is for a period of up to 12 months. The astrobiology chair receives a stipend of $13,500 per month. Tenure for this chair is expected to begin in the fall of 2013. This is an appointment made by the Librarian of Congress on the recommendation of a selection committee, which considers both applications and nominations.

Astrobiology addresses three fundamental questions: “How did life begin and evolve?” “Is there life beyond Earth?” and “What is the future of life on Earth and beyond?” Before the advent of modern science, these questions were largely in the realm of philosophy, theology and ethics. Today, the tools of science are increasingly being brought to bear to address these questions. The astrobiology chair represents an opportunity for high-level collaboration in understanding the interface between astrobiology and human society.

Examples of research topics that might be addressed are: the societal implications of discovering life beyond Earth or discovering that life is rare in the universe; the ways in which astrobiology influences and is influenced by culture; the role of astrobiology in promoting science and technological education and public literacy; ethical considerations arising from exploration for life on the planets and moons of our solar system; and the role of astrobiology in contributing to and shaping the future of life on Earth and beyond.

The astrobiology chair is a distinguished senior research position housed within the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. Using the collections and services at the Library, the chair holder conducts research at the intersection between the science of astrobiology and its humanistic aspects, particularly its societal implications. The chair holder is expected to give at least one public presentation and to organize workshops, symposia, small conferences or other activities that engage the broader academic community and the public.

The chair honors the late Baruch Blumberg, a Nobel Prize-winner in medicine, former member of the Library’s Scholars Council and the founding director of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, who actively promoted research and development across disciplines. The first NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, David Grinspoon, begins his one-year tenure Nov. 1, 2012.

For more background on the establishment of the chair, see the Library’s original announcement: www.loc.gov/today/pr/2011/11-202.html.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate and energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For further information on the Kluge Center, visit www.loc.gov/kluge/.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 151 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.

The NASA Astrobiology Program supports research into the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), an element of that program, is a partnership among NASA, 14 U.S. teams, and 10 international consortia. NAI’s goals are to promote, conduct, and lead interdisciplinary astrobiology research; train a new generation of astrobiology researchers; provide scientific and technical leadership for spaceflight missions; use modern information technologies to connect widely distributed investigators; and share the excitement of astrobiology with learners of all ages.


PR 12-188
ISSN 0731-3527