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Press release

SYNTHESYS – The World’s Largest Network


A consortium of Europe’s most prestigious natural history institutions, including museums and botanical gardens, has joined together to form SYNTHESYS – the world’s largest natural history network.

The project, initiated by The Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities (CETAF), will bring together an immense resource for scientific research, consisting of collections, institute facilities and expertise, together with integrated information about the natural world.

20 institutions in 11 European countries will create a unique resource of zoological, botanical, entomological, geological and palaeontological specimens. In total the collections comprise more than 337 million specimens. The project will be coordinated by the Natural History Museum and has been awarded £8.7 million (13 million euro) from the Infrastructure Programme of the Sixth Framework Programme – the EU’s main source of science research funding.

For the first time, Europe’s globally important natural history collections and resources will be available in a coordinated way to scientists across Europe. SYNTHESYS will provide an opportunity for exchanging information and stimulating research in areas including biodiversity and the environment. It will provide easy access to the content of these vast collections and will conduct a survey of each institution’s collections, staff, knowledge and expertise.

In addition, SYNTHESYS also aims to raise scientists’ awareness of best practice in handling and sampling collections by offering improved training and workshop opportunities, and guidelines for the care, storage and conservation of collections.

‘SYNTHESYS will ensure that our collections and knowledge are shared and used to the maximum benefit of all,’ said Graham Higley, the SYNTHESYS Project Leader and Head of Library and Information Services at the Natural History Museum. ‘It will allow the partnership institutions to set the highest possible standards in collection care and take on the responsibility for ensuring their long term availability.’

The project competed for funding against 58 project proposals to become one of only 14 successful bids. £6.3 million (9.5 million euro) will provide fully funded visits to the 20 institutions for researchers from all the European Union’s Member and Associate States. This will encourage greater use of the facilities offered by Europe’s premier institutions and provide enhanced training opportunities for natural history scientists.

Marian Ramos, CETAF chair and Vice-Director of Research at the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Spain, said: ‘ With initiatives like SYNTHESYS, CETAF seeks to increase the quality of its member institutions by increasing collaboration, thus optimising utilisation of collections, equipment and facilities, and enriching communication and exchange of scientific expertise. Both the scientific community and society at large will benefit greatly from these enhanced collective efforts.’

- Ends -

Contact information
If you would like to interview Graham Higley on the SYNTHESYS PROJECT or Marian Ramos on CETAF, request images or further information, please contact:

Liz Woznicki or Chloe Kembery at the Natural History Museum, Tel: 0207 942 5278/5880
Email: l.woznicki@nhm.ac.uk(not for publication)

Notes for editors

  • The SYNTHESYS participants are:
    1. The Natural History Museum - London, Royal Botanic Garden, Kew; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, UK;
    2. Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle - Paris, France;
    3. The Natural History Museum of Denmark - Copenhagen, Denmark;
    4. Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC) and Real Jardín Botánico (CSIC) - Madrid, Spain;
    5. Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet - Stockholm, Sweden;
    6. Zoological Museum/University of Amsterdam - Leiden; Amsterdam (TAXIP: Taxonomic Information Processing); Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures - Utrecht; National Natural History Museum Naturalis, Netherlands;
    7. Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Freie Universität Berlin; Museum für Naturkunde, Humboldt-Universität - Berlin, Germany;
    8. Naturhistorisches Museum - Wien, Austria;
    9. Hungarian Natural History Museum - Budapest, Hungary;
    10. Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences - Warsaw, Poland;
    11. Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences - Brussels; Koninklijik Museum voor Midden-Afrika; National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Belgium.
  • The EU: Sixth Framework Programme is the EU’s main instrument for research funding in Europe. It aims to contribute to the creation of a true ‘European Research Area’. The European Research Area is a vision for the future of research in Europe - an internal market for science and technology. It fosters scientific excellence, competitiveness and innovation through the promotion of better co-operation and coordination between participants at all levels. http://www.cordis.lu/fp6/whatisfpb.htm 
    For the Infrastructures Programme http://fp6.cordis.lu/fp6/call_details.cfm?CALL_ID=49
  • SYNTHESYS comprises the seven previous European-funded Major Research Infrastructures (MRI) (Fourth and Fifth Framework Programmes) in Amsterdam (AMTAF), Brussels (ABC), Madrid (BIOD-IBERIA), Copenhagen (COBICE), Paris (COLPARSYST), Stockholm (HIGH-LAT) and London (SYSRESOURCE) plus new partner institutions.
  • For further information on the project and how to apply for a funded visit to one of the 20 participating institutions visit website www.SYNTHESYS.info

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM VISITOR INFORMATION

  • The Natural History Museum is open Monday - Saturday 10.00-17.50, Sunday-11.00-17.50
  •  The Natural History Museum's public enquiries telephone number is 020 7942 5000
  • The Museum is accessible to visitors in wheelchairs. For access details telephone 020 7942 500
  • Nearest tube: South Kensington
  • Entry to the Museum: FREE
Issued 4 March 2004