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  1. Executive Council Charter


    The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) has established itself as a leading force within the science community advancing interdisciplinary research in astrobiology. The research and other activities of the NAI are conducted largely through competitively-selected Teams distributed across the U.S. The science objectives fundamental to astrobiology, and hence to the NAI, are articulated in the Astrobiology Roadmap, a document that presents both long-term goals and nearer-term objectives. The Roadmap is the product of, and is periodically revised by, the science community at large. Education and public outreach objectives of the Institute are governed by the plans of several relevant NASA organizations.

    The mission of the NASA Astrobiology Institute is to develop astrobiology as a new field of knowledge within the context of the Astrobiology Roadmap by:

    1. carrying out, supporting, and catalyzing collaborative interdisciplinary research;
    2. training the next generation of astrobiology researchers;
    3. providing scientific and technical leadership on astrobiology investigations for current and future space missions;
    4. exploring new approaches using modern information technology to conduct interdisciplinary and collaborative research amongst widely-distributed investigators; and
    5. supporting outreach by providing scientific content for K-14 education programs, by teaching undergraduate classes, and by communicating directly with the public.

    Institute Structure

    NAI Teams are selected competitively through periodic peer reviewed solicitations. Selected Teams are supported for five years through a cooperative agreement with NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) or, for a Team at a NASA field center, by the direct transfer of funds from NASA HQ. Each Team is directed by a Principal Investigator (PI) who organizes the activities within the Team and represents the Team to the NAI Director, the NAI Executive Council, and to the administrative center (at Ames Research Center) known as NAI Central. PIs are required to designate a Deputy Team Leader who may speak for the Team when the PI is not available.

    The PIs are responsible for the direction of their Team’s collaborative and interdisciplinary research and for the encouragement and supervision of their Education and Public Outreach projects. Their role is to promote cohesion among members of their Team; to encourage cross-team, international, and other external collaborations; to assist in communicating NAI and NASA business among members of their Team; and to supervise all required communications with, and reporting to, NAI Central. They are also accountable for the management of funds provided to them for the conduct of NAI-funded research and associated activities, including addressing any issues that may arise with recipients of subcontracts or grants issued through their home institution.

    The PIs, together with the NAI Director and Deputy Director, comprise the Executive Council of the NAI during the period of performance of their awards. The NAI Director leads the Institute by developing a scientific and institutional vision for the NAI and is the Institute’s primary advocate to its sponsors and customers and to the science community. The NAI Director chairs the EC and acts as its Presiding Officer. The NAI Deputy Director is the NAI Director’s immediate alternate and delegate.

    Role of the EC

    The Executive Council is charged with the following specific roles:

    1. raise, discuss, and provide insight into issues such as Institute-wide research objectives, astrobiology mission opportunities, and priorities for technology development;
    2. consider and analyze proposals to form NAI Focus Groups and other similar bodies;
    3. consider and comment on proposals for external partnerships (e.g., international, interagency, or corporate);
    4. consider and provide perspective on other astrobiology issues at the request of the Director.

    In addition to the roles enumerated above, the EC may undertake additional activities or interactions that the members consider to be within the scope of the NAI, germane to the goals of the Institute and the interests of the astrobiology science community, and/or important to NASA. Such additional activities must be endorsed by the NAI Director.

    Meetings of the EC

    The EC shall normally meet monthly by videoconference. Meetings shall be scheduled for ninety (90) minutes, and a draft agenda shall be distributed at least four (4) days prior to the meeting. Any member of the Council may suggest items for the agenda. Minutes shall be taken, distributed, and archived. Videotapes of the meetings shall be archived and will be accessible by request.

    In-person EC meetings will be held periodically, normally at one of the NAI Team sites. The schedule for these meetings shall be set annually for the next calendar year at the last such meeting of the year. There shall normally be three in-person meetings each year. These meetings will not be recorded, but minutes shall be taken, distributed, and archived. There shall always be the opportunity for a private meeting of the PIs during the periodic in-person meetings. When held, a brief report from this meeting shall be provided to the NAI Director and Deputy Director by a designated representative of the PIs present. The content of the in camera session reporting is at the discretion of the EC. There will be no regular EC videoconference for the month in which an in-person meeting is held. Additional meetings of the EC may be called at any time, depending upon the requirements of the Institute’s business.