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Announcing a Call for Applications to the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, Exploration, and Scientific Innovation

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This is a guest post by Kluge Center Program Assistant Sophia Zahner.

The Kluge Center is pleased to invite interested scholars to apply to the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, Exploration, and Scientific Innovation or to pass this invitation on to a qualified colleague.

As a partnership between NASA’s Astrobiology Program and the Library of Congress, the Blumberg Chair, an annually selected position, supports a scholar in the sciences, social sciences, or humanities to take up residence in the Library’s John W. Kluge Center.

The Blumberg Chair has an opportunity to research the range and complexity of societal issues related to how life begins and evolves, and to examine philosophical, religious, literary, ethical, legal, and cultural concerns arising from scientific research on the origin, evolution, and nature of life.

Within the parameters of NASA’s mission a chair might seek to investigate how innovative quests for fundamental understanding may lead to major developments for the betterment of society. Barry Blumberg, for whom the Chair is named, conducted groundbreaking research addressing a simple but fundamental question: Why do some people get sick while others, exposed to the same environment, remain healthy? That this work unexpectedly led to the discovery of the hepatitis B virus, the development of a vaccine, and the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine illustrates the potential for unconventional thinking about fundamental questions to yield great rewards.

Using methodologies from the history and sociology of science, the philosophy of science, legal, political, and cultural history, and other disciplines, a Chair could tell the story of how a basic research initiative led to completely unexpected discoveries and applications.

Located in the Library’s magnificent Jefferson Building, the Kluge Center offers access to the Library’s vast collections as well as a rich intellectual atmosphere for discussion and exchange of perspectives.


Potential Research Subjects

Possibilities for research subjects are many and wide-ranging in scope. The following potential topics of research are meant to inspire, not limit, your creativity:

  • legal issues related to governance of planets and space;
  • within the parameters of NASA’s mission, “high risk, high reward” initiatives from a historical, legal, philosophical, or ethical perspective or those that draw on several disciplinary modes of analysis;
  • ethical implications of cross-contamination;
  • scientific and philosophical definitions of life;
  • conceptions of the origins of life in theistic and non-theistic religions;
  • comparison of the discussion of these issues in multiple nations and cultures;
  • life’s collective future—for humans and other life, on Earth and beyond;
  • impacts on life and future evolutionary trajectories that may result from both natural events and human-directed activities.


How to Apply

Completed applications are due by October 15, 2021. For further information (including a new, streamlined process which does not require reference letters), please consult the Center’s webpage:

Please email Sophia Zahner at [email protected] with any questions about this chair opportunity or the application process.

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