Explore novel biosignatures and pioneer new research directions in astrobiology


The Exobiology research program in NASA’s Planetary Science Division solicits research regarding biosignatures - as defined in the call:

  • Biosignature studies, including research focused on defining, understanding, or characterizing biosignatures in samples from Earth sites thought to be analogues of other planetary environments that might potentially harbor life will be considered as part of NASA's broader interest in the search for life in the Universe.

As highlighted in Origins, Worlds, and Life: A Decadal Strategy for Planetary Science and Astrobiology 2023-2032, research that has the potential to significantly advance our understanding of new, unambiguous biosignatures to accelerate our efforts towards the search for life is of particular interest to the Astrobiology Program.

The Challenge

Current biosignature research has been somewhat limited by challenges in characterizing the detectability, reliability, and preservation and by relying heavily on our understanding of life on Earth. We are interested in working beyond traditional methods and looking for the next generation of biosignatures - particularly going back to fundamentals to identify ways that different types of biosignatures and other corroborating or contextual measurements can work together to provide a more robust interpretation. We expect to see the attendees work in interdisciplinary teams to identify new potential biosignatures and research directions to verify the applicability of these biosignatures.

What is an Ideas Lab?

An Ideas Lab is a short intensive, interactive workshop – in this case, held as a hybrid three-day in-person, three-day virtual event — in which 25-30 participants, from a diverse range of disciplines, are brought together by a funding agency to produce radically innovative research proposals that address a Big Challenge in science.

During an Ideas Lab, you will be expected to engage with other participants in a creative, free-thinking environment - away from your everyday routines and responsibilities - and immerse yourself in a collaborative process around an important problem or challenge. Over the course of the six days, you will be a part of a multidisciplinary group of scientists who will work to build a shared understanding of the Ideas Lab challenge, define specific research questions, and generate novel ideas for research proposals.

About the Event: Format and Outcomes


Attendees will create teams and develop new and innovative grant proposals through real-time peer review over the course of a hybrid workshop. This hybrid experience will have several virtual pre-meetings, followed by three days of in-person sessions (e.g. 9am-8:30pm), and conclude with three full-day virtual sessions.

Travel and accommodations will be paid for attendees for the in-person travel. Please come ready to fully participate during the in-person days, and do not expect to get other work completed, as post-session interactions with other participants (e.g. during dinner) are just as important as interactions during the sessions. During the virtual days, please plan to participate for the full day, and do not schedule conflicting meetings.


We expect to select for funding (~3) proposals - that would meet the Exobiology program requirements - produced as a result of this process.

Who Should Apply?

If you are a scientist at a US institution who is passionate about the search for life beyond Earth, interested in biosignature research, and eager to collaborate in interdisciplinary teams to discover and innovate in the field of biosignatures, we invite you to submit an application.

When applying, please be prepared to provide information about your qualifications, your research focus, and why you are interested in and qualified for the NASA Ideas Lab: Biosignatures. Applications will be reviewed by our selection committee, and all personal information will be kept confidential.

If you have questions or need additional information, please email our organizing team at donnalyn.roxey@knowinnovation.com

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