Synthesis Meetings

Global collaborations to create and use the EOL

At the Biodiversity Synthesis Center (BioSynC), we host and fund synthesis meetings on a wide range of topics in biodiversity, evolution and conservation relevant to the EOL.

We host 8-10 meetings annually and encourage meeting planners to develop groups with a variety of professional perspectives (student to faculty), to foster gender and ethnic diversity, and to involve international participants.

Check out our recent meetings or propose a meeting.

Proposing an EOL synthesis meeting

The synthesis of biodiversity information holds great promise as a source of scientific progress in many areas of biology and related disciplines. The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is becoming a nexus for integration of biodiversity information from many fields, and the EOL Biodiversity Synthesis Group, through its Biodiversity Synthesis Center, provides a central location for scientific working groups to convene and explore new ideas and develop tools for synthetic analysis in biodiversity science. We invite proposals for bringing together diverse groups of people to advance biodiversity science and contribute to the EOL.

Synthesis Meetings are held on a wide range of topics in biodiversity, evolution, and conservation. Synthesis Meetings may be held in Chicago at BioSynC or at other national or international venues. Proposals should be focused on biodiversity informatics, involve the formulation of novel scientific ideas, build new bridges among disciplines, and/or deal with a timely issue in biodiversity or conservation. All proposals must have a direct relation to EOL. We anticipate supporting 5-7 Synthesis Meetings per year, with each meeting budget ranging from about $10,000 up to $40,000. We encourage graduate student and postdoctoral researcher involvement in Synthesis Meetings and hope that they will gain valuable training and insight from participation. We strongly encourage diverse, international participation in hopes of fostering novel collaborations.

We welcome Synthesis Meeting proposals at any time, but set 3 target dates for review each year: 1 March, 1 July, and 1 November.

The review process takes at least 8 weeks.  Please allow a minimum of 4 months between your proposal submission and your target meeting week.

Some topics of interest to EOL

Taxonomy and systematics of megadiverse species groups. Developing consensus species-level taxonomies of large and under-studied species groups, including review of names and synonyms, planning for EOL page content and the synthesis of biogeography and evolution in hyperdiverse taxa.

Conservation biology and climate change. Addressing the challenge of how the EOL can become a tool for scientists studying climate change, including such topics as integration of theory and empirical data, identification of hotspots and conservation priorities, identifying the role of organisms and ecosystems in climate cycles, and the development of practical tools to aid biologists and policy makers in identifying and preserving biodiversity.

Biogeography. Synthesis of biogeographic data, development of tools for biodiversity mapping in space and time, incorporating current and historical distribution records, fossils, predictive range maps, illustrating connections among species (e.g. food webs) on the EOL.

The marine realm. Regional or taxonomic synthesis topics that will make a strong contribution to our understanding of marine biodiversity, biogeography, evolution and conservation.

Phylogenetics and evolution. Integrating the tree of life in the EOL, development of new tools for visualizing phylogenies and patterns of biodiversity on phylogenetic trees, and advancing evolutionary ideas in the Encyclopedia of Life.

Computing and software applications. New software that integrates and visualizes patterns in biodiversity information, as well applications for the use of supercomputers and grid networks for high performance bioinformatics applications as related to the EOL.

Citizen science and digital learning. Developing sound, innovative education tools, applications and products to effectively teach life sciences. Creating new web-based tools and models of engagement for local and global-scale community-based science activities.

How do I submit?

We welcome Synthesis proposals at any time, but set 3 target dates for review each year: 1 March, 1 July, and 1 November.  The review process take about 8 weeks.  Please allow a minimum of 4 months between your proposal submission and your target meeting week.

Email applications to

Proposals should be brief (about 4-7 pages) and include:

  • Title  
  • Full contact details for group leaders
  • Project summary
  • Statement of meeting goals
  • Statement of applicability to EOL
  • Identified participant list (Include full name, title, institutional affiliation, nationality, and U.S. visa status, if applicable, for each participant. Clearly identify junior or student participants.)
  • Statement of novelty (How will the combination of participants or the meeting product be novel?)
  • Tentative agenda or topics to be covered
  • Tentative meeting logistics (ideal location, duration, timing – please do not request EXACT dates, rather request a 7-10 day window)
  • Meeting outcomes and products (i.e. specific EOL content, taxonomic lists, novel programs or applications, potential EOL curators, larger grant proposals, educational tools or curricula, community-vetted taxonomic bibliographies for the Biodiversity Heritage Library, etc.)
  • Itemized meeting budget (see What a Proposal Budget Should Contain for detailed instructions)

Please note:  Each funded synthesis meeting is required to produce a summary report appropriate for journal submission within 8 weeks of meeting conclusion. Acceptance of offered funding constitutes agreement to produce a report.

Also note:  EOL is open access and open source. All content and applications committed to EOL must meet and maintain these standards.

Please contact Mark Westneat ( or Audrey Aronowsky ( for more information or to discuss proposal development.

Strong proposals usually contain ideas and questions that are novel and forward thinking regarding biodiversity science, and also make a solid commitment to helping the EOL develop content or realize novel uses or interpretations of EOL content.  International, institutional, career-level and other forms of diversity of attendees are important to our mission. Moderate sized meetings (10-15 people) are often more effective than large (25-30 people) meetings, for some themes.