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Astrobiology in the Nordic countries

Frances Westall
Nils G. Holm, Professor of Marine Geochemistry
Department of Geology and Geochemistry
Stockholm University
Nils G. Holm, Professor of Marine Geochemistry
Department of Geology and Geochemistry
Stockholm University

The Nordic Astrobiology 2006 Conference ‘Origin and Distribution of Life in the Universe – a Nordic Perspective’ two years ago was the initiation of a more collective approach to the science of astrobiology in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden) than previously. Astrobiology as a scientific field had, however, been thriving in the different Nordic countries for many years before the conference, although the pace in activities increased at about this time. Initiatives in astrobiology have earlier primarily been carried out on a national basis, often in cooperation with international partners. In Finland astrobiology has been coordinated by the Finnish astrobiology Network (FAN) and in Sweden by the Swedish Astrobiology Network (SWAN). Recently - October 2007 - the University of Turku and FAN organized the 7th Workshop of EANA (European Astrobiology Network Association).  The Faculty of Science at the Stockholm University launched the Astrobiology Graduate Research School supported by the Swedish National Space Board and the Swedish Research Council one year earlier. NORDITA (The Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics), now in Stockholm, Sweden, was situated in Copenhagen, Denmark, until 2006. NORDITA has for a long time pursued astrobiology by, for instance, organizing workshops - often twice a year - involving both Nordic and international participants. There are no astrobiology networks in Nordic countries other than Finland and Sweden, but centers of astrobiology research do exist. In Denmark astrobiology related research is carried out at the universities in Aarhus and Copenhagen and in Norway at the universities of Bergen and Oslo. The University of Bergen was recently granted national Norwegian research money for the funding of an Excellence Centre for Geobiology for the period of 5+5 years. Even though the scientific community of Iceland is fairly small, Iceland organized the international Bioastronomy meeting in 2004.

In summary, the prospects of future research and cooperation in astrobiology in the Nordic countries look extremely good. As an example, the Nordic Council of Ministers under the NordForsk scheme a couple of years ago approved a proposal for the creation of the Nordic Network of Astrobiology Graduate Schools for the period 2007-2010. Participating institutions are the Stockholm University and NORDITA in Sweden, the University of Turku in Finland, the University of Copenhagen and the Aarhus University in Denmark, the University of Bergen in Norway, the University of Iceland, and the University of Tartu in Estonia.

 


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