Scientific synthesis has transformed ecological research and presents opportunities for advancements across the sciences; to date, however, little is known about the antecedents of success in synthesis. Building on findings from 10 years of detailed research on social interactions in synthesis groups at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, we demonstrated with large-scale quantitative analyses that face-to-face interaction has been vital to success in synthesis groups, boosting the production of peer-reviewed publications. But it has been about more than just meeting; the importance of resident scientists at synthesis centers was also evident, in that including synthesis-center residents in geographically distributed working groups further increased productivity. Moreover, multi-institutional collaboration, normally detrimental to productivity, was positively associated with productivity in this stimulating environment. Finally, participation in synthesis groups significantly increased scientists' collaborative propensity and visibility, positively affecting scientific careers and potentially increasing the capacity of the scientific community to leverage synthesis for enhanced scientific understanding.
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