European Cooperation in Science and Technology
The European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST Association) is running an EU-funded programme which enables researchers and innovators to set-up their own research networks in a wide range of scientific topics, called COST Actions. While COST does not fund research activities as such, it provides funding for scientific collaboration in the form of conferences, meetings, training schools and scientific exchanges. In this way, it creates open spaces where people and ideas can grow.
COST's mission is to provide networking opportunities for researchers and innovators in order to strengthen Europe's capacity to address scientific, technological and societal challenges. As the leading networking tool in the European Research Area (ERA), COST works to facilitate access for researchers worldwide to join networks of excellence, especially younger researchers and ones from less-research-intensive countries or regions.
To date, COST has 38 Members and 1 Cooperating Member, having thus a strong reach beyond the European Union. Prof. Paulo Ferrão is currently serving as the President of the COST Association, following his appointment in June 2019.
Founded in 1971, COST is the longest-running European framework for research collaboration. For nearly 50 years, it has increased the opportunities for researchers and innovators to take part in dynamic science and technology research networks in Europe and across the world. Nowadays, it has established a unique place in the European Research Area (ERA) landscape.
In the 1960s, European countries felt the need to begin framing science policies in order to bridge the gap in science and technology between Europe and the USA.
The Ministerial Conference of 22 and 23 November 1971 is generally presented as the official entry into force of COST and at which the first intergovernmental agreements were signed.
The COST governing board, the Committee of Senior Officials, approved the mission that will drive COST throughout the end of Horizon 2020:
“COST provides networking opportunities for researchers and innovators in order to strengthen Europe’s capacity to address scientific, technological and societal challenges.”
The organisation is currently engaging about 45,000 researchers and innovators. In all, nearly half a million researchers have participated in COST over the years.
To continue to be the leading networking instrument in the ERA, COST defined three priorities for its positioning in the remaining part of Horizon 2020, and in FP9:
- Promoting and spreading excellence
- Fostering interdisciplinary research for breakthrough science
- Empowering and retaining young researchers and innovators
The 38 COST Members are: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, The Netherlands, The Republic of North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom.
These countries govern COST via their representatives in the COST Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) – the General Assembly of the COST Association.
Israel is a Cooperating Member and South Africa a Partner Member.
Additionally, COST also supports and encourages the participation of Near Neighbour Countries (NNC) and International Partner Countries (IPC), coming from non-COST Members, in all of its Actions.
COST Near Neighbour Countries include Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Jordan, Kosovo*, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine**, Russia, Syria, Tunisia, and Ukraine. Once their participation is approved, researchers from Near Neighbour Countries’ institutions can participate in the COST Action on the same basis as the COST Members that have signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) – with the exception of the right to vote in the Management Committees or Working Groups of the Action.
International Partner Countries are non-COST Members not being a Near-Neighbour Country i.e. any country (worldwide) that is not included in the previous lists. Once their participation is approved, researchers from International Partner Countries can participate at the Management Committee meetings as Observers, with no voting rights. Researchers connected to institutions from International Partner Countries whose participation in a COST Action has been approved are not eligible for reimbursement.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
**This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the Member States on this issue.
Since its inception, COST has operated according to one main instrument, the COST Action.
A COST Action is a network open to researchers and innovators, collaborating in all fields of science and technology of common interest to at least seven COST Members/Cooperating Members. A huge variety of topics can be covered in COST Actions, including established research areas like history, biology, ecology, astronomy, criminal justice, but also newly emerging areas like systems biology, renewable energy, sustainable architecture or behavioural economics. Actions can adapt as science advances.
Since COST Actions are initiated “bottom up”, researchers can create their own network by submitting a proposal to the COST Open Call.
Funding COST Actions
COST provides international funding for networking, enabling researchers to set up their interdisciplinary research networks in Europe and beyond. Since 1971, COST has been receiving EU funding under the various research and innovation framework programmes, such as Horizon 2020.
COST provides funding for a period of four years which is used for organising meetings, workshops, conferences, training schools, short-term scientific missions as well as communication and dissemination activities. This way it promotes global networking of national-funded research.
The average COST Action support is EUR 130,000 per annum (dependent on budget availability) for participation by typically 25 COST Members. The sum covers travel and meeting support.
The COST Association, an international not-for-profit association under Belgian law, is located in Brussels and carries out all activities related to the Open Call. It integrates governance, management, and implementation functions into a single structure.
The decision-making body of the COST Association is the general assembly of Members, the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO). The CSO is chaired by the President of the COST Association, Prof. Paulo Ferrão.
Another legal body is the Executive Board (EB) which prepares all decisions to be taken by the general assembly and oversees the activities of the COST administration. It is headed by the COST Director, currently Dr Ronald de Bruin.
- "COST | European Cooperation in Science and Technology". COST. Retrieved 2019-09-20.
- "Executive Board". Retrieved 12 November 2019.