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ELSI Origins Network Holds Third Annual Meeting

The Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) Origins Network (EON) recently held its third annual meeting in Odawara January 5th-6th, 2018.

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EON was instantiated at the Tokyo Institute of Technology on July 1st, 2015 through a generous competitive grant awarded by the John Templeton Foundation, an American philanthropic organization based in Philadelphia, PA, USA. The grant was coordinated by ELSI Professor Piet Hut, who is also a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton NJ, USA. Funding for EON's first phase runs until March 31st, 2018.

ELSI was founded in 2012 as part of MEXT's World Premier International (WPI) program, and now has two buildings dedicated to cutting-edge research regarding the origins of life and the planets which are able to host it, and about a dozen faculty members and several dozen postdoctoral researchers working in areas from astrophysics to geophysics, to chemistry and biology, as well as the physics of complex systems and aspects of computational science and high-performance computing.

EON was formed to build a cohesive and lasting global network of researchers working to address questions relating to the origins of life. EON supports research across a wide range of disciplines that contributes to the following questions: How did life arise on Earth? How common is life in the Universe? and What fundamental principles explain the emergence of life?

EON has created a global interdisciplinary network, now totaling over 500 members, centered at ELSI for research into the origin of life. Its goal is to bring together existing ideas from different sciences to shape their development, and create a collaborative research community with a global vision which can recognize and ask the next generation of questions in many fields. The EON program was designed to support ELSI's goal to be a worldwide destination for leading-edge research in all aspects of the Origin of Life, and to internationalize research and higher education in Japan.

The EON meeting in Odawara was attended by 55 international scientists who are part of the collaborative network, including 12 of EON's international Post-Doctoral Scholars, who all gave presentations of the research they conducted during their tenure. EON Scholars split their time during their 2-year research appointments between ELSI and an external center. External centers include the Carnegie Institution of Washington, NASA Goddard and NASA Ames Space Flight Research Centers (USA), Cambridge University (UK), CalTech (USA), Emory University (USA), the University of Southern California (USA), the University of Vienna (Austria), the University of Southern Denmark, the University of California, San Diego (USA) and the ISIR, Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris, France), the Rutgers University (USA).

Also in attendance were EON's Global Science Coordinators, who help recruit members and publicize EON as an institution, and include scientists from NASA headquarters, Columbia and Harvard Universities and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Finally, EON advisory board member Marcelo Glaser (Dartmouth University) presented the keynote talk for the meeting.