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Come together to study life's origins

Researchers working on the origins of life tend to fall into two camps — those who investigate artificial life and those who study the origins of life on Earth four billion years ago. The communication gulf between the two needs to be closed if the field is to progress.

Artificial-life researchers are less concerned about how life originated on Earth than with the idea of life as a universal phenomenon — including its emergence and self-organization. And those pursuing experimental verification of mechanisms for terrestrial origins are seldom drawn to the broad theoretical ideas of artificial life.

The Earth-Life Science Institute's Origins Network, working with members of the research community, has issued a statement to encourage fresh approaches to the subject (C. Scharf et al. Astrobiology 15, 1031–1042; 2015). We suggest that origins-of-life research requires inspirational innovation, cross-disciplinary collaboration and reassurance from institutions that such research will be supported. We hope that these proposals will help to train a new generation of scientists to think more broadly and less tribally.

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Correspondence to Caleb Scharf.

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Scharf, C., Virgo, N. & Cleaves, H. Come together to study life's origins. Nature 529, 25 (2016).

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