2005 Annual Science Report
University of Hawaii, Manoa Reporting | JUL 2004 – JUN 2005
AFAR: Adaptive Framework for Astrobiology Research
In this new project, for which we have recently submitted two funding proposals, we plan to build AFAR (Adaptive Framework for Astrobiology Research), a distributed interdisciplinary collaborative system that allows astrobiology researchers to identify strong research questions and potential collaborators; teachers and students to explore this burgeoning field; and the media and general public to gain an understanding of the motivations behind astrobiology-related research and missions. At the heart of this system will be a knowledge base containing a representation of the state of the field: the questions, hypotheses, data, missions, references, people, and the connections between all of these, that make up the field of astrobiology. The interface to the knowledge base will be highly adaptive, with different representation and navigation techniques depending on the role (e.g. researcher, teacher, student, journalist, etc.), expertise (e.g. PhD in geology, high-school biology, etc.) and focus (e.g. water on Mars, early evolution of life, etc.) of the user. It will be a kind of knowledge map, allowing researchers to home in on interesting areas and to add new knowledge quickly, while giving students, educators and the general public an engaging way to explore this exciting field and learn about scientific methodology.
The research method integrates ethnographic fieldwork with participatory design in an iterative multi-phase model. The primary data collection methods will be interviews, observations and analysis of documents and scientific data. We will collect data at NAI centers at UH and the University of Colorado at Boulder (UCB), test the resulting system at UCB, UH and three other NAI centers, and deploy it throughout the NAI. A primary design goal is to make entering and updating knowledge extremely simple and efficient, so that researchers will be willing to take the few minutes necessary to add their knowledge to the system.