Leaders from synthesis science centers across the globe, including NCEAS’ own Ben Halpern and Frank Davis, published a piece in Bioscience highlighting the critical role these centers play in advancing scientific research and the need for long-term federal funding to sustain their value.
The demand for synthesis science has increased due to the need to address challenges related to global change, which can cut across multiple sectors and disciplines. Synthesis centers offer a unique blend of science, culture, infrastructure, and leadership that create “hot spots” of creative discovery. In addition to supporting transformative science, participation in synthesis center research also fosters lasting increases in collaborative behavior among the participants.
The authors highlight six critical ingredients for a successful synthesis center: (1) the active management of social dynamics and intellectual space for teams by synthesis center staff; (2) cutting-edge computing, data management, and informatics support; (3) the organizational flexibility to accommodate the scientific and intellectual needs of working groups; (4) support for students and postdoctoral and sabbatical fellows; (5) diversity of working group participants; and (6) the offering of time and space for group associative thinking.
The greatest challenge synthesis centers face is financial security. These centers are needed now more than ever to address the multitude of global issues we face. So it will be essential to develop ways to ensure their long-term sustainability.
Synthesis centers as critical research infrastructure
Baron, J.S., Specht, A., Garnier, E., Bishop, P., Campbell, C.A., Davis, F.W., Fady, B., Field, D., Gross, L.J., Guru, S.M., Halpern, B.S., Hampton, S.E., Leavitt, P.R., Meagher, T.R., Ometto, J., Parker, J.N., Price, R., Rawson, C.H., Rodrigo, A., Sheble, L.A., Winter, M.
BioScience, June 2017, doi: 10.1093/biosci/bix053