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Astrobiology. 2018 Feb;18(2):224-243. doi: 10.1089/ast.2017.1713. Epub 2018 Jan 29.

The UK Centre for Astrobiology: A Virtual Astrobiology Centre. Accomplishments and Lessons Learned, 2011-2016.

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1 UK Centre for Astrobiology, Scottish Universities Physics Alliance, School of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Edinburgh , Edinburgh, UK .
2 Eberhard Karls Universitaet Tuebingen, Center for Applied Geoscience (ZAG) , Geomicrobiology, Tuebingen, Germany .
3 Centre for Exoplanet Science, SUPA, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of St Andrews , St Andrews, UK .
4 Division of Microbial Ecology, Department of Microbiology and Ecosystem Science, Research Network "Chemistry Meets Microbiology", University of Vienna , Vienna, Austria .
5 Geomicrobiology Research Group, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester , Manchester, UK .
6 Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh , Edinburgh, UK .


The UK Centre for Astrobiology (UKCA) was set up in 2011 as a virtual center to contribute to astrobiology research, education, and outreach. After 5 years, we describe this center and its work in each of these areas. Its research has focused on studying life in extreme environments, the limits of life on Earth, and implications for habitability elsewhere. Among its research infrastructure projects, UKCA has assembled an underground astrobiology laboratory that has hosted a deep subsurface planetary analog program, and it has developed new flow-through systems to study extraterrestrial aqueous environments. UKCA has used this research backdrop to develop education programs in astrobiology, including a massive open online course in astrobiology that has attracted over 120,000 students, a teacher training program, and an initiative to take astrobiology into prisons. In this paper, we review these activities and others with a particular focus on providing lessons to others who may consider setting up an astrobiology center, institute, or science facility. We discuss experience in integrating astrobiology research into teaching and education activities. Key Words: Astrobiology-Centre-Education-Subsurface-Analog research. Astrobiology 18, 224-243.

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