Research & Activities


Workshop "Puzzles and Solutions in Astrobiology"

May 14, 2018 - May 18, 2018

Where: Earth Life Science Institute, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan

Venue: ELSI Hall conference hall inside the ELSI 1 building at the Tokyo Institute of Technology campus. The campus has easy access to nearby cafés, restaurants, hotels, public transport and other amenities.

What: For decades (if not centuries) scientific researchers have wondered about the existence of extra-terrestrial life. Due to recent technological advances we now know that the Milky Way galaxy is filled to the brim with planets of all shapes and sizes, opening up the prospect of other galaxies hosting similar worlds.

The field of Astrobiology is an umbrella term that combines scientific expertise from astrophysics, planetary and Earth science, chemistry, biology and other scientific disciplines to understand how habitable worlds form and evolve with time. Yet the nature of the formation and evolution of these worlds and their proclivity to support a (long-term) biosphere remains obscure. It makes sense at this time to synthesise what we know, highlight key points of agreement and contention, and to provide recommendations for scientific progress.

Focus: Our goal is to host a small meeting of thirty to thirty-five people of broad scope with key speakers of international standing. We aim to unite ourselves to discuss barriers to progress, propose solutions and identify and foster future collaboration that will advance the field as a whole. We intend to formulate a coherent pathway towards the necessary conditions that nurtures extra-terrestrial life on billion-year timescales.

Structure: The meeting will last five days and will be a mélange of presentations and discussions. All five days will consist of contributed presentations from invited members showing the current state-of-the-art in their fields, and possible summary presentations at the end. The final session before dinner comprises an open forum for discussion and voluntary contribution of new ideas and/or results that encourage understanding and future collaboration.

Science and Local Organizing committee: Muriel Gargaud (France) and Ramon Brasser (Japan) (co-chairs), Henderson Cleaves (Japan), Satoshi Akanuma (Japan), Carlos Briones (Spain), Manuel Güdel (Austria), Emmanuelle Javaux (Belgium), Purificación López-García (France), Daniele Pinti (Canada), Sudha Rajamani (India) and Franck Selsis (France).

Workshop programme

General schedule

Morning: (Mon-Fri):
09h00 - 10h20: 2 talks of 40' ( 25' + 15' for Q&A)
10h20 - 10h50: coffee break
10h50 - 11h30: 1 talk of 40' ( 25' + 15' for Q&A)
11h30 - 12h30: General debate (speakers + the SOC members concerned)

12h30 - 14h00: lunch and informal discussion

Afternoon: (Mon-Thu):
14h00 - 15h20: 2 talks of 40' ( 25' + 15' for debate)
15h20 - 15h50: coffee break
15h50 - 17h10: 2 talks of 40' ( 25' + 15' for debate)
17h10 - 18h10: General debate (speakers + the SOC members concerned)


1) The host star: what matters for planetary atmosphere formation and evolution?


- Feng Tian, Tsing Hua University, China
- Theresa Lüftinger, University of Vienna, Austria
- Jim Kasting, Penn State University, USA

2) Do we need plate tectonics for the emergence of life, and for long term habitability?


- Tilman Spohn, DLR, Germany
- Lena Noack, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
- Vinciane Debaille, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
- Jean Bédart, Natural Resources Canada, Canada

3) Prebiotic chemical inventory: "Plausible" vs "Viable"


- Jim Cleaves, ELSI, Japan
- Dougal Ritson, University of Cambridge, UK
- Addy Pross, Ben-Gurion University, Israel

4) Replication-first vs. metabolism-first


- Andrew Pohorille, UCSF, USA
- Daisuke Kiga, Waseda University, Japan
- Ulrich Muller, UCSD, USA (replication-first)
- Eric Smith, ELSI, Japan (metabolism-first )

5) Early Earth environment and the emergence of life


- Akihiko Yamagishi, Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Science, Japan
- Francis Albarède, ENS Lyon, France
- Pierre-Alain Monnard, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

6) Origin of eukaryotes/multicellularity/complexity: chance vs determinism


- Eugene Koonin, NCBI, USA
- Shin-ichi Yokobori, Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Science, Japan
- Maureen O'Malley, University of Sydney, Australia

7) Astrodynamical processes: planetary migration and accretion


- Sean Raymond, Universite de Bordeaux, France
- Audrey Bouvier, University of Western Ontario, Canada
- Guillaume Avice, CalTech, USA
- Stephen Mojzsis, CU Boulder, USA

8) The early (isotopic, morphological, molecular, mineral) traces of life: how reliable are they?


- Mark van Zuilen, IPGP, France
- Linda Kah, University of Tennessee Knoxville, USA
- Julie Cosmidis, Penn State University, USA
- Yuichiro Ueno, ELSI, Japan