The Biodiversity Synthesis Center (BioSynC) was modeled on highly successful national synthesis centers such as The National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). BioSynC was able to host 4-5 postdoctoral researchers, several students, and organize about 12 synthesis meetings each year. Together with the other partner institutions of the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) and groups of scientists worldwide, BioSynC promoted synthesis of innovative scientific information and encouraged scientists and broader audiences to contribute to the knowledge-base of the EOL.
The scientific mission of the Biodiversity Synthesis Center is to advance synthetic research that addresses fundamental questions in biodiversity science. To achieve this goal, the academic community was invited to submit proposals for synthesis meetings on a set of overarching themes in biodiversity. The following broad topics were meant to serve as a template for synthesis groups to use as a basis for their own unique approach to key questions in biodiversity:
Phylogenetics and the tree of life. BioSynC hosted working groups that explored the linking of taxonomic and phylogenetic databases, and examine ways in which the tree of life may be used to discover and illustrate trends in the evolution of biodiversity. Tree visualization, phylogeny browsers and computational tools for phyloinformatics are areas of special interest.
Biogeography and biodiversity in space and time. BioSynC supported groups that developed new tools for biodiversity mapping, including integration of biogeographic data using the EOL platform. Examples include exploration of the integration of biodiversity hot spot maps, museum specimen data, global geologic history, environmental variables, and ecosystem threats in new ways.
Taxonomy of diverse groups: discovering and describing biodiversity. The synthesis of specimen data and taxonomic information for large, diverse yet understudied or problematic groups of organisms is a key priority for the Encyclopedia of Life and for the BioSynC. BioSynC convened large groups of biologists to consider the EOL content and the integration of biodiversity data for megadiverse groups of organisms.
Conservation of biodiversity. Synthesis meetings targeted towards developing a deeper understanding of biodiversity conservation, climate change and its biodiversity impact, and preservation methods for biodiversity hotspots were encouraged. Integration of biogeography, phylogenetics, conservation genetics and genomics, with policy and identification of critical areas was also encouraged.
High performance computing, data mining, biosemantics and other topics. Many questions in biodiversity require analysis and visualization tools that are only available with high performance computational approaches (supercomputers). BioSynC welcomed synthesis groups developing computational tools for large biological data sets, aims to utilize the resources of the EOL to promote exploration of themes such as data mining approaches for patterns in biodiversity information, linguistic exploration of biodiversity literature and species names, and textual mining to reveal networks of relationships among biodiversity themes and explore the sociology of biodiversity research.