As part of an initiative by the Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities (the CETAF), the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle and 15 European natural history Muséums and botanical gardens won the I3 (Integrated Infrastructure Initiative) projects of the European Community’s 7th framework programme. Their aim: to develop Europe’s natural history collections and associated technological facilities.


SYNTHESYS: collaborative scientific programme to develop Europe’s natural history collections and associated technological facilities.

20 years of collaborative research supported by the European Commission.

Since 1992, the creation date of the Synthesys programme, initially known as PARSYST (1992) then COLPASYST (1996), the European Commission has been committed to promoting European natural history collections and the associated technological facilities.

The member institutions of SYNTHESYS, based in 12 States of the EU (European Union), are also members of the CETAF and have assembled sizeable natural history collections covering the following scientific fields: zoology, botany, palaeobiology, geology and ethnology.

These collections are an essential resource for many scientific disciplines and thousands of researchers around the world.

Synthesys: a European initiative

The SYNTHESYS (SYNTHEsis of SYStematic Resources programme is a European initiative launched in 2004 to create a European research infrastructure (association) in the field of systematics (science concerned with the rational classification of zoological, botanical and mineralogical species, and the establishment of a nomenclature with fixed, universal rules. Source: Larousse).

The 3rd instalment of Synthesys began in September 2013, for a period of 4 years, with one call for projects per year (August-October).

This project, coordinated by the Natural History Museum in London, benefits from a budget of around 11 million euros until 2017, of which 8 million is subsidised by the EU.

The main beneficiaries of this type of collaborative scientific programme are the European bioscience and geoscience community, and in particular researchers working in the fields of biodiversity and sustainable development.

Synthesys: 3 activities to develop the natural history collections and associated technologies

  • Joint research (Joint Research Activities - JRA): "From physical collections to digital collections"
  • Networks (Network Activites – NA): "Sharing knowledge and experiences in order to conserve and use the collections in the best possible conditions"
  • Access (Transnational Access - TA): "Enabling the European scientific community to access the collections and platforms"

Contacts at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle:
Virginie Bouetel (virginie.bouetel@mnhn.fr)
Michel Guiraud (mguiraud@mnhn.fr)

Five areas of action:

  • Analysing European activity in the field of systematics, in terms of human resources, scientific expertise and publication activities. This information will make it possible to implement a coordinated European development plan in this field;
  • Establishing conservation, utilisation, management and access standards for the collections and their associated archives. This enables us to identify the priorities that need to be developed for the collections, and to offer training or professional skills refresher workshops;
  • Developing collection databases throughout Europe to create an access system directly related to the information in these collections. This activity takes place in close collaboration with current international or European initiatives;
  • Setting up new collections such as tissue banks while taking part in promoting molecular research, with the aim of developing communal policies and methodologies. This work includes a consideration of property rights and ethical issues related to these new research activities;
  • The evaluation via new analytic methods of techniques from other disciplines (like CT scan or X-ray computed tomography) is aimed at determining ways of applying these techniques in systematics and other areas of natural history.

More information about the whole Synthesys programme: www.synthesys.info