Astrobiology (general)

Call For A Framework For Reporting Evidence For Life Beyond Earth

By Keith Cowing
July 23, 2021
Filed under
Call For A Framework For Reporting Evidence For Life Beyond Earth
Early life

Ours could realistically be the generation to discover evidence of life beyond Earth. With this privileged potential comes responsibility. The magnitude of the question, “are we alone?”, and the public interest therein, opens the possibility that results may be taken to imply more than the observations support, or than the observers intend.

As life detection objectives become increasingly prominent in space sciences, it is essential to open a community dialog about how to convey information in a subject matter that is diverse, complicated, and has high potential to be sensationalized. Establishing best practices for communicating about life detection can serve to set reasonable expectations on the early stages of a hugely challenging endeavor, attach value to incremental steps along the path, and build public trust by making clear that “false starts” and “dead ends” are an expected and potentially productive part of the scientific process.

Here, we endeavor to motivate and seed the discussion with basic considerations and offer an example of how such considerations might be incorporated and applied in a proof-of-concept-level framework. Everything mentioned herein, including the name of the confidence scale, is intended not as a prescription, but simply as the beginning of an important dialogue.

James Green, Tori Hoehler, Marc Neveu, Shawn Domagal-Goldman, Daniella Scalice, Mary Voytek

Comments: 12 pages, 1 figure, 1 table
Subjects: Physics and Society (physics.soc-ph); Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph)
Cite as: arXiv:2107.10975 [physics.soc-ph] (or arXiv:2107.10975v1 [physics.soc-ph] for this version)
Submission history
From: James Green
[v1] Fri, 23 Jul 2021 01:03:29 UTC (1,352 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻