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2010 Annual Science Report

University of Hawaii, Manoa Reporting  |  SEP 2009 – AUG 2010

Quantification of the Disciplinary Roots of Astrobiology

Project Summary

While astrobiology is clearly an interdisciplinary science, this project seeks to address the question of how interdisciplinary it is. We are reviewing published works across a broad range of scholarly databases, comparing disciplinary indicators such as subject terms, journal titles and author affiliations, and creating a computational model to identify and compare the makeup of astrobiological research literature in terms of the proportion of work that come from constituent fields.

4 Institutions
3 Teams
0 Publications
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

We have identified the most relevant databases of scholarly literature in astrobiology and related fields, crafted initial search strategies designed to isolate a core corpus of astrobiology publications across multiple databases, and have continued work on a term co-occurrence analysis to relate the literature of astrobiology to relevant work from diverse fields. Initial results across diverse subsets of our corpus of astrobiological literature suggest that astrobiology does demonstrate a fairly unique disciplinary profile. While most fields have a dominant subfield corresponding to 50% or more of its literature, our initial results suggest that astrobiology’s dominant field, astronomy, accounts for only about 30% of its works, followed by near-equal distributions of geological, chemical and biological sciences.

In this figure, a 2,400 record subset of astrobiology literature was analyzed by broad subject category. Future refinements will include investigating the “Other” category and identifying documents that could be classified in multiple categories.

    Rich Gazan
    Objective 1.1
    Formation and evolution of habitable planets.

    Objective 1.2
    Indirect and direct astronomical observations of extrasolar habitable planets.

    Objective 2.1
    Mars exploration.

    Objective 2.2
    Outer Solar System exploration

    Objective 3.1
    Sources of prebiotic materials and catalysts

    Objective 3.2
    Origins and evolution of functional biomolecules

    Objective 3.3
    Origins of energy transduction

    Objective 3.4
    Origins of cellularity and protobiological systems

    Objective 4.1
    Earth's early biosphere.

    Objective 4.2
    Production of complex life.

    Objective 4.3
    Effects of extraterrestrial events upon the biosphere

    Objective 5.1
    Environment-dependent, molecular evolution in microorganisms

    Objective 5.2
    Co-evolution of microbial communities

    Objective 5.3
    Biochemical adaptation to extreme environments

    Objective 6.1
    Effects of environmental changes on microbial ecosystems

    Objective 6.2
    Adaptation and evolution of life beyond Earth

    Objective 7.1
    Biosignatures to be sought in Solar System materials

    Objective 7.2
    Biosignatures to be sought in nearby planetary systems