CDSLU: Communicating Discoveries in the Search for Life in the Universe


If astrobiologists discover evidence of life beyond the Earth, how should these findings be shared with the public? Which communication strategies and techniques would best support public understanding of findings that are likely to be complex and highly specialized? Astrobiology faces a fundamental tension between the implications of finding evidence of biology or biological processes elsewhere in the universe, and explaining how observations or experiments used to accumulate that evidence will be subject to uncertainty and controversy. How might scientists and science communicators navigate this tension and communicate effectively about this uniquely compelling but challenging research?

This virtual workshop organized by NASA’s Astrobiology Program (NAP) will bring together astrobiologists, science journalists, science communicators, and science content creators for a series of presentations, conversations, and activities aimed at building a greater shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities for each group that such an event might present. By creating a space to exchange perspectives, experiences, professional realities, and foster relationships between scientists and science communicators we hope to explore mutually-beneficial and socially responsible paths towards communicating the discovery of extraterrestrial life.

About the Workshop

The workshop will take place virtually across six half-day sessions over the course of two weeks in early February. These sessions are being facilitated by KnowInnovation, a company that specializes in working with experts to accelerate innovation and achieve actionable outcomes. Sessions will include historical case studies, breakout discussions about the current state of astrobiology and science communication, and collaborative activities based on possible detection scenarios. The workshop will result in a lasting community of shared interest connecting astrobiologists and science communicators as well as a white paper summarizing key insights from the event.

In order to facilitate open, exploratory discussion, we will ask participants to agree to a modified Chatham House Rule.

Who Should Apply?

The organizers are interested in receiving applications from a wide range of disciplines, including but not limited to:

  • Researchers active in the professional astrobiology community or closely related fields
  • Professional science journalists
  • Professional journalists with experience communicating controversial or complex topics
  • Social media content creators with a focus on science or space
  • Historians and social scientists focused on astrobiology
  • Science communication researchers

How to Apply

Space is limited so be sure to apply early! Attendance for the entirety of the workshop is expected to ensure a productive, results driven event.

Application Deadline

The application closed December 1st, 2023

Participant Selection Process

The CDSLU workshop organizing committee reviewed application materials and placed applicants into two tiers of participation. Tier 1 represents the core group of participants who will be actively involved in the bulk of the work and will participate in all activities. Tier 2 participants will have access to all the pre-workshop resources, be invited to the community Slack channel, and are welcome to view and comment on the final workshop presentations.

To place participants into either Tier 1 or Tier 2, the organizing committee carefully reviewed each applicant’s responses to required questions on the application form, including how applicants envisioned contributing to the workshop’s spirit of collaboration, open inquiry, and community-building.

With limited space in Tier 1, owing to the practical limitations of a virtual workshop setting, and hundreds of strong applications representing many different areas in astrobiology, science journalism, science studies, and science content creation, the committee worked to achieve a balance of expertise, career-stage, and backgrounds among Tier 1 participants. Participants in both tiers will have the opportunity to contribute input and insights towards the workshop’s goals.