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Keywords:

  • Data sharing;
  • education;
  • informatics;
  • interdisciplinary;
  • ontology;
  • scientific culture;
  • visualization

Synthetic science promises an unparalleled ability to find new meaning in old data, extant results, or previously unconnected methods and concepts, but pursuing synthesis can be a difficult and risky endeavor. Our experience as biologists, informaticians, and educators at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center has affirmed that synthesis can yield major insights, but also revealed that technological hurdles, prevailing academic culture, and general confusion about the nature of synthesis can hamper its progress. By presenting our view of what synthesis is, why it will continue to drive progress in evolutionary biology, and how to remove barriers to its progress, we provide a map to a future in which all scientists can engage productively in synthetic research.