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Program The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress

Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, Exploration, and Scientific Innovation

About the Program

The NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, Exploration, and Scientific Innovation represents an opportunity for high-level scholarship to understand the interface between human society and the scientific exploration of the cosmos. In the spirit of Barry Blumberg, whose life and work spanned multiple disciplines, the Blumberg Program is interested in the concept of exploration broadly defined to include any aspect of space exploration within the parameters of NASA’s mission to “reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.” The program is most interested in proposals that consider the philosophical, humanistic, legal, ethical, and policy dimensions of exploration.

Possibilities for research subjects are many. The following are meant to inspire, not to limit creativity: legal issues related to governance of planets and space; the ethical implications of cross-contamination; scientific and philosophical definitions of life; conceptions of the origins of life in theistic and non-theistic religions; comparison of the discussion of these issues in multiple nations and cultures. The Chair may also consider life’s collective future—for humans and other forms of life, on Earth and beyond, examining the impacts on life and future evolutionary trajectories that may result from both natural events and human-directed activities.

Within the parameters of NASA’s mission, a chair might also seek to investigate how innovative quests for fundamental understanding may lead to major developments for the betterment of society. Barry Blumberg, for whom the Chair is named, conducted groundbreaking research addressing a simple but fundamental question: Why do some people get sick while others, exposed to the same environment, remain healthy? That this work unexpectedly led to the discovery of the hepatitis B virus, the development of a vaccine, and the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine illustrates the potential for unconventional thinking about fundamental questions to yield great rewards. Using methodologies from the history and sociology of science, the philosophy of science, legal, political, and cultural history, and other disciplines, a Chair might study and tell the story of how a basic research initiative led to completely unexpected discoveries and applications.

Additionally, the concept of “high risk, high reward research” continues to find traction among a number of US Government agencies and is at the heart of international competition in science. Focusing on projects within the parameters of NASA’s mission, the Chair could also study a “high risk, high reward” initiative from a historical, legal, philosophical, or ethical perspective or one that draws on several disciplinary modes of analysis.

The Chair is in residence at the Kluge Center, in the Library of Congress. The Library is at the heart of serious conversation among scholars and policymakers and the Kluge Center’s distinctive mission is to bridge the gap between scholarship and the policymaking community. As such, the Blumberg Chair holds a highly visible, public role. The Library is particularly interested in scholars who are able and willing to speak beyond their disciplinary home in a way that is accessible and compelling to a broad audience.

The Chair is open to scholars and leading thinkers in the fields of philosophy, history, religion, astrobiology, astronomy, planetary science, the history of science, paleontology, Earth and atmospheric sciences, geological sciences, ethics, literature, media studies, or other related fields.

Current Chair

David Baron

David Baron is a journalist, author, and broadcaster who has spent his thirty-year career largely in public radio. He has worked as an environment correspondent for NPR, a science reporter for Boston’s WBUR, and health and science editor for PRI’s The World. At the Kluge Center, Baron is working on a project examining the "Mars craze" at the turn of the last century.

During his tenure with NPR in the 1990s, David reported extensively on the growing conflict between people and wildlife, including struggles to coexist with deer, beavers, grizzlies, and cougars. He further explored these issues as a Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado, which led to the writing and publication of The Beast in the Garden in 2003. Baron is also the author of the 2017 book American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World.

View past chairs

The Setting

Uniquely situated for research, analysis, and serious discussion of America’s and the world’s relationship to the earth and the moral and philosophical questions of life in the universe, the Library of Congress offers facilities for scholars, universal collections spanning more than 470 languages, broad language and subject expertise of the Library staff, the central position of the Library on Capitol Hill, and the inspiring atmosphere of the magnificent Thomas Jefferson Building.


The Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, Exploration, and Scientific Innovation is made possible through a unique interagency agreement between the NASA Astrobiology Program and the Library of Congress. Established in 2011, the collaboration by NASA and the Library of Congress owes a great deal to the vision of the late Dr. Baruch S. Blumberg, Nobel Prize winner and founding member of the Library’s Scholars Council. Dr. Blumberg served as the founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute in 1999. The funding for the position is provided by NASA, and execution of the agreement is by the Kluge Center in consultation with the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

Program Details

Research Areas

Research on astrobiology, exploration, and innovation, with emphasis on their societal implications.


Open to distinguished scholars worldwide.


$13,500 per month (up to 12 months).

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For More Information

The John W. Kluge Center
Phone: (202) 707-3302
(202) 707-3595

For More Information

The John W. Kluge Center
Phone: (202) 707-3302


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