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The NASA Astrobiology Program’s Professional Advancement Workshop Series (PAWS)

Presentation #111.02 in the session Workforce and the State of Our Profession.

Published onOct 20, 2022
The NASA Astrobiology Program’s Professional Advancement Workshop Series (PAWS)

Successful and sustained career development of early career members of the planetary science and astrobiology communities is an important goal of institutions and mentors. Traditionally, this training has focused on academic careers via research experience in graduate school, but many early career scientists are considering alternative paths for their future careers. Much of this interest is generated by the increasing competition for limited academic jobs and funding. In the worst cases, early career scientists are forced out of academia with little experience of other career paths. Institutions can and should actively support its early career members by bearing the responsibility to prepare them for a competitive job market. One way they can do this is to teach skills relevant to all career paths and provide opportunities to explore non-traditional academic careers.

The Professional Advancement Workshop Series (PAWS) is designed to nurture a more versatile scientific workforce with the ability to pursue careers in academia and elsewhere. PAWS events are directed towards early career researchers, but are open to all members of the Astrobiology community and all career levels. These events are 60–90 minutes long, depending on the topic and whether the event is a panel or a workshop. The topic, speaker, and goals are advertised to the entire NASA Astrobiology community via the dedicated PAWS list-serv, NASA Astrobiology research coordination network list-servs, internal communications platforms (e.g., Microsoft Teams, Slack), and word-of-mouth. Each event is moderated and begins with an introduction that includes a code of conduct. Most sessions are recorded and later published on the PAWS webpage ( The webpage also maintains a list of resources that is updated regularly.

Since beginning this program in August 2021, there have been seven virtual PAWS events and one in-person meet-up in coordination with the Astrobiology Science Conference held in May 2022. Roughly 70% of those who register for events are graduate students or postdocs, indicating the events are reaching the intended audience. Registration for and attendance at PAWS events continues to grow with each new event. PAWS will continue for the foreseeable future. We invite you to join these events and learn with us.

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