There is increasing demand for solutions to urgent and complex ecological questions requiring multidisciplinary participation and trans-disciplinary insight. At the same time, we are drowning in information. Synthesis centres, of which there are a number around the world, offer a unique amalgam of culture, infrastructure, leadership, and support that facilitates creative discovery on issues crucial to science and society. They lower the “activation energy” necessary to promote creativity and the cross-fertilization of ideas. Synthesis centres are explicitly created and operated as community-oriented infrastructure, with scholarly directions driven by the ever-changing interests and needs of the scientific community. The last decade has seen a rise in the number of synthesis centres globally but also challenges to the sustainability of the infrastructure for this key research strategy. Alison shall present the rationale for and role of the synthesis centre, and explore some of the options for their sustainability.

About the speaker

Alison is an adjunct of the School, with unique expertise in the function of synthesis centres. She is currently director of the French synthesis centre, CESAB, having established the Australian synthesis centre, ACEAS (now closed) and the international synthesis consortium. She is actively engaged in many aspects of the management, preservation and discovery of valuable ecological data.