The Basics: Members of SoCIA (pronounced SŌ’ SHA, much like “social”), which stands for Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology, seek to create a diverse community of researchers interested in careful exploration of the broader questions surrounding the search for life beyond Earth and the future of life in space. The sorts of issues we seek to address are those that are widely recognized as important, but have yet to receive the kind of sustained, expert treatment their complexity warrants. These tend to involve questions relevant to the underlying science, but that can’t be fully answered by science alone. They range widely, from social and ethical questions such as “What are our ethical obligations to alien life?” and “How can we leverage the popularity of astrobiology to improve science education?” to theoretical questions within science such as “What exactly is ‘life’ anyway?” and “What can be predicted about how extraterrestrial life might evolve and develop?” Our ultimate goals are to further research in these areas and provide a ready pool of experts to help organizations pursuing projects in space better think through the broader aspects of their work.
2018 Meeting: The group held its inaugural meeting last Fall at Clemson University and the website for that workshop might help you get a better picture of what we are all about: http://kcs098.wixsite.com/socia. Our second meeting is currently being planned for the end of March or early April of 2018 at the University of Nevada, Reno. Our first meeting was excellent, combining an emphasis on serious research with an open and informal atmosphere. But we want the second to be even better: larger, more diverse, and more international. We welcome equally both senior researchers and newcomers to the field, and encourage graduate students and younger scholars to present their ideas by working to insure that students’ room and board is free. Finally, we plan to include an option for contributors who can not come in person to join us online and are consulting with NASA on best practices to make such participation truly meaningful.
We hope that each of you will consider submitting a paper or poster abstract for the 2018 meeting. If anyone would like to become a sponsor of the event, this can certainly be arranged. Finally, we would appreciate your helping us spread the word by forwarding this email to anyone you know who might be interested, whatever their core discipline.