Priorities for synthesis research in ecology and environmental science

Benjamin S. Halpern* (Corresponding Author), Carl Boettiger, Michael C. Dietze, Jessica A. Gephart, Patrick Gonzalez, Nancy B. Grimm, Peter M. Groffman, Jessica Gurevitch, Sarah E. Hobbie, Kimberly J. Komatsu, Kristy J. Kroeker, Heather J. Lahr, David M. Lodge, Christopher J. Lortie, Julie S. S. Lowndes, Fiorenza Micheli, Hugh P. Possingham, Mary H. Ruckelshaus, Courtney Scarborough, Chelsea L. WoodGrace C. Wu, Lina Aoyama, Eva E. Arroyo, Christie A. Bahlai, Erin E. Beller, Rachael E. Blake, Karrigan S. Bork, Trevor A. Branch, Norah E. M. Brown, Julien Brun, Emilio M. Bruna, Lauren B. Buckley, Jessica L. Burnett, Max C. N. Castorani, Samantha H. Cheng, Sarah C. Cohen, Jessica L. Couture, Larry B. Crowder, Laura E. Dee, Arildo S. Dias, Ignacio J. Diaz-Maroto, Martha R. Downs, Joan C. Dudney, Erle C. Ellis, Kyle A. Emery, Jacob G. Eurich, Bridget E. Ferriss, Alexa Fredston, Hikaru Furukawa, Sara A. Gagné, Sarah R. Garlick, Colin J. Garroway, Kaitlyn M. Gaynor, Angélica L. González, Eliza M. Grames, Tamar Guy-Haim, Ed Hackett, Lauren M. Hallett, Tamara K. Harms, Danielle E. Haulsee, Kyle J. Haynes, Elliott L. Hazen, Rebecca M. Jarvis, Kristal Jones, Gaurav S. Kandlikar, Dustin W. Kincaid, Matthew L. Knope, Anil Koirala, Jurek Kolasa, John S. Kominoski, Julia Koricheva, Lesley T. Lancaster, Jake A. Lawlor, Heili E. Lowman, Frank E. Muller-Karger, Kari E. A. Norman, Nan Nourn, Casey C. O'Hara, Suzanne X. Ou, Jacqueline L. Padilla-Gamino, Paula Pappalardo, Ryan A. Peek, Dominique Pelletier, Stephen Plont, Lauren C. Ponisio, Cristina Portales-Reyes, Diogo B. Provete, Eric J. Raes, Carlos Ramirez-Reyes, Irene Ramos, Sydne Record, Anthony J. Richardson, Roberto Salguero-Gómez, Erin V. Satterthwaite, Chloé Schmidt, Aaron J. Schwartz, Craig R. See, Brendan D. Shea, Rachel S. Smith, Eric R. Sokol, Christopher T. Solomon, Trisha Spanbauer, Paris V. Stefanoudis, Beckett W. Sterner, Vitor Sudbrack, Jonathan D. Tonkin, Ashley R. Townes, Mireia Valle, Jonathan A. Walter, Kathryn I. Wheeler, William R. Wieder, David R. Williams, Marten Winter, Barbora Winterova, Lucy C. Woodall, Adam S. Wymore, Casey Youngflesh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract Synthesis research in ecology and environmental science improves understanding, advances theory, identifies research priorities, and supports management strategies by linking data, ideas, and tools. Accelerating environmental challenges increases the need to focus synthesis science on the most pressing questions. To leverage input from the broader research community, we convened a virtual workshop with participants from many countries and disciplines to examine how and where synthesis can address key questions and themes in ecology and environmental science in the coming decade. Seven priority research topics emerged: (1) diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ), (2) human and natural systems, (3) actionable and use-inspired science, (4) scale, (5) generality, (6) complexity and resilience, and (7) predictability. Additionally, two issues regarding the general practice of synthesis emerged: the need for increased participant diversity and inclusive research practices; and increased and improved data flow, access, and skill-building. These topics and practices provide a strategic vision for future synthesis in ecology and environmental science.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4342
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Early online date11 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

We thank the National Science Foundation grant #1940692 for financial support for this workshop, and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and its staff for logistical support.


  • complexity
  • coupled systems
  • diversity
  • ecological scale
  • justice
  • predictability
  • use-inspired science


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