(from left to right): Prof Ole Petersen, Prof Sierd Cloetingh, Prof Adrian Harwood, Abdul Rahim, Prof Phil Jones and Sir John Skehel
Professor Sierd Cloetingh, President of Academia Europaea and President of the COST Association, presented an overview on COST. It currently involves 36 countries and close to 50,000 researchers, and its mission is to promote and spread research excellence in Europe. COST provides different instruments like workshops, dissemination activities and short-term scientific missions, but the most important network tools are the COST Actions. These enable the building of a community, foster interdisciplinarity and are open to all fields, all countries and all career stages. They are also unique in the fact that once the action has been approved, researchers from additional countries can join. Professor Cloetingh highlighted two essential aspects of COST: its appeal to researchers as a bottom-up initiative, and its role as a gateway to the European Framework Programme, with a success rate of 28%
Professor Adrian Harwood, Co-Director of Research and Co-Director of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute at Cardiff University, shared his experience as Action Chair of the COST Action Maximizing Impact of Research in NeuroDevelopmental Disorders (MINDDS). He explained that, to be able to conduct research, his team needs data from certain individuals who are very rare and very difficult to identify. The solution proposed was to generate a pan-European network of researchers, clinicians and patient representatives to create a trans-national cohort of patients and standardise the methodology. They decided to apply for a COST Action and, after a first attempt, the second submission was successful. The Action has just been set up with 19 COST countries, 6 of which are inclusiveness target countries, and the objective is to build up a network of about 30 European and international countries. He underlined the bottom-up character of the COST Actions as the best feature of the programme, and the openness of the network as the biggest challenge.