The Astrobiology Program has been the sole source of funding for biennial AbSciCons from their beginning. However, restrictions on federal spending on conferences and budget limitations due to sequestration have led us to determine that the Program cannot support an AbSciCon next year. We regret this decision as much as you do, and it was a hard one to make.
The good news is that we are taking a number of steps to raise the profile of astrobiology at other science conferences and to ensure that the Program will be able to support an AbSciCon in 2015.
In addition, moving AbSciCon to 2015 - instead of to 2014 - may be advantageous. In 2014 it would be competing with a Gordon Conference on the Origins of Life, January 12-17 in Galveston, Texas, and with Origins 2014, the second ISSOL (International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life and Astrobiology Society)-Bioastronomy (International Astronomical Union Commission 51) joint international conference, July 6-11 in Nara, Japan.
Another advantage of postponing AbSciCon until 2015 is that the planning of the next AbSciCon can follow the negotiations between the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), the organizers of the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), and NASA on future NASA support for LPSC. NASA granted a one-time waiver of restrictions on conferences and travel by civil servants to enable LSPC to go forward this year as planned. It is not yet certain what will happen with future LPSCs. If a viable way for NASA to support these types of conferences emerges from their negotiations, we will try to apply this process to future AbSciCons.
Meanwhile, we are working with the LPI, as they organize the next LPSC, on expanding the presence of astrobiology on the agenda for LPSC 2014 and in future years as well.
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