A major multinational, interdisciplinary consortium of 49 world-renowned experts, centered at 8 leading academic institutions, will put the ‘Extended Evolutionary Synthesis’ (EES) to the test through an extensive coordinated program of empirical and theoretical research. The EES represents a new way of thinking about evolution, with its own assumptions, structure and predictions. It sets out to provide a coherent conceptual framework capable of inspiring novel research in evolutionary biology and adjacent fields.

The utility of the EES perspective cannot be evaluated with a single experiment, but requires an ambitious and highly innovative series of experimental and theoretical projects specifically designed to sort between novel and traditional interpretations. The objective of this application is to initiate such a program of work, comprising 22 interlinked projects, carried out by world-leading researchers.

The extensive data generated will provide definitive evaluations of the significance of hotly contested processes in evolution (e.g. niche construction, nongenetic inheritance), clarify the evolutionary importance of individual responses to the environment (plasticity), devise new theoretical approaches for complex genotype-to-phenotype relations, and establish to what extent developmental processes explain long-term trends, parallel evolution, biological diversity and evolvability. Basic research will be supported and promoted through conferences, workshops, symposia and public-engagement activities.

The program, amongst the most ambitious ever proposed for evolutionary biology, will constitute a major step forward for the field, leaving it a richer, more diverse and more pluralistic discipline, with a deeper understanding of underlying process, and stronger links to adjacent fields.