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Assessment of the NASA Astrobiology Institute
of astrobiology seminars and research results—are second to none in NASA. But those aspects of the utilization of information technology outside the direct control of NAI Central—e.g., the use of collaborative work tools by the researchers affiliated with NAI teams—has been less successful. The lack of success most likely results from social rather than technical factors. Thus, with respect to the goal of exploring new approaches using modern information technology to conduct interdisciplinary and collaborative research among widely distributed investigators, the committee finds that:
The substantial efforts by NAI Central to improve communications among NAI members have achieved some significant successes; and
The NAI has been less successful in promoting the use of collaborative work tools by the researchers affiliated with its participating teams.
The committee recommends that the NAI should vigorously pursue new approaches using modern information technologies to increase the effectiveness of the NAI nodes. In particular, additional efforts by NAI Central are needed to ensure that new communications tools are used to enhance the effectiveness of interdisciplinary and collaborative research and training. Suggestions as to how this recommendation might be implemented can be found in Chapter 5.
NAI Goal 5—Education and Outreach
The public’s interest in the subject matter of astrobiology has enabled the effective leveraging of funds, partnerships, and expertise far greater in scope than those made available by the NAI itself. Thus, with respect to the goal of supporting outreach by providing scientific content for K-12 education programs, teaching undergraduate classes, and communicating directly with the public, the committee finds that the NAI has:
Successfully promoted astrobiology as a field with broad-based public appeal;
Developed effective programs for outreach to the general public; and
Enabled minority educational activities.
The committee makes the following recommendations:
The NAI should be more strategic in exploiting synergies among nodes in K-12 education, minority education, and teacher training; and
The NAI should address the specific requirements for teaching astrobiology at the undergraduate level.
Suggestions as to how these recommendations might be implemented can be found in Chapter 6.