NWO has allocated funding to eight research programs addressing groups of questions from the Dutch National Science Agenda. These interdisciplinary programs receive up to 2.5 million euros each. The Kapteyn Astronomical Institute participates in the program Origin of Life - on Earth and in space. With this money, the Origins Center will be set up.
NWO has judged the proposal of the Origins Center as ‘excellent’. With the allocated seed money, a first, surveying phase of an ambitious research program can be carried out. Several dozen researchers from Dutch astronomy, earth- and planetary sciences, molecular and evolutionary biology, chemistry, informatics, (bio)physics and mathematics - spread over 17 universities and research institutes - will use this first phase for several projects, and lay the foundations for large-scale scientific research into the origin, functioning, and future of life in a changing environment, from molecular to planetary scale.
To support the program, the plan envisions a virtual platform, the Origins Center, the goal of which is to bring together several lines of research. Furthermore, the Origins Center will carry out an outreach program, with as main audience those who submitted questions about the origin of life to the Science Agenda. The Center will be officially opened on the occasion of the symposium Fundamentals of Life in the Universe, August 31 and September 1, 2017, on the Zernike Campus of the University of Groningen. Leading the program is Nobel prize laureate prof. dr. Ben Feringa of the University of Groningen. From the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, prof. dr. Inga Kamp, prof. dr. Floris van der Tak, and dr. Frank Helmich participate in the Origins Center. According to Van der Tak, the awarded grant ‘is a major step forward in joining forces for research into the fascinating question of the origin of life’.
The Dutch National Science Agenda contains the nearly 12000 questions submitted by Dutch citizens in 2015 to ‘science’, which have been organized into 'clusters' and connected by ‘routes’, one of which is 'The Origin of life - on Earth and in space'. In September 2016, the Dutch Ministry of Education announced an investment of 30 million euros into the Agenda. The bulk of this, 20 million euros, is going into the newly awarded seed money, and is intended for research into the eight themes.
More information: Jan-Willem Mantel
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