What is COST?
COST is an intergovernmental framework for European Cooperation in Science and Technology, allowing the coordination of nationally-funded research on a European level. COST contributes to reducing the fragmentation in European research investments and opening the European Research Area to cooperation worldwide.
The goal of COST is to ensure that Europe holds a strong position in the field of scientific and technical research for peaceful purposes, by increasing European cooperation and interaction in this field. This research initiative makes it possible for the various national facilities, institutes, universities and private industry to work jointly on a wide range of Research and Development (R&D) activities.
COST – together with EUREKA and the EU framework programmes – is one of the three pillars of joint European research initiatives. These three complementary structures have differing areas of research.
COST has clearly shown its strength in non-competitive research, pre-normative cooperation, and solving environmental, cross-border and public utility problems. It has been successfully used to maximise European synergy and added value in research cooperation and is a useful tool to further European integration.
Ease of access for institutions from non-member countries also makes COST a very interesting and successful tool for tackling topics of a truly global nature.
Nine Key Scientific Domains
As a precursor of advanced multidisciplinary research, COST plays a very important role in building a European Research Area (ERA). It anticipates and complements the activities of the EU Framework Programmes, constituting a “bridge” towards the scientific communities of emerging countries. It also increases the mobility of researchers across Europe and fosters the establishment of scientific excellence in the nine key domains:
- Biomedicine and Molecular Biosciences
- Food and Agriculture
- Forests, their Products and Services
- Materials, Physical and Nanosciences
- Chemistry and Molecular Sciences and Technologies
- Earth System Science and Environmental Management
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Transport and Urban Development
- Individuals, Societies, Cultures and Health
In addition, Trans-Domain Proposals allow for broad, multidisciplinary proposals to strike across the nine scientific domains.
How Does COST Work?
COST does not fund research itself but provides a platform for European scientists to cooperate on a particular project and exchange expertise. These projects are called "Actions".
Each COST Action is a network centred around nationally-funded research projects in fields that are of interest to at least five COST countries. COST provides the COST Actions with financial support for joint activities such as conferences, short-term scientific exchanges and publications. Each COST Action has an objective, defined goals and clear deliverables. COST Actions have located their topic into one of COST’s scientific Domains.
One of COST's main characteristics is its flexibility, allowing for an easy implementation and light management of the research initiatives. Activities are launched following a "bottom-up" approach, meaning that the initiative of launching a COST Action comes from the European researchers themselves. The member countries participate on a "à la carte" principle, in that only countries interested in the Action participate.
Researchers who wish to launch a new Action first submit a short proposal to the continuous COST Open Call for Proposals, which is then evaluated by the Domain Committee. If the proposal is accepted, the applicantis are invited to submit a full proposal with a complete Technical Annex (the scientific and managerial description of an Action). The full proposal is then assessed through a peer review process.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) provides the formal basis of an Action. The proposal for a new Action must fulfill certain formal and qualitative criteria, and if the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) approves the MoU, the COST countries wishing to take part in the Action can agree to it.