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.
To date, COST has 38 Members and 1 Cooperating Member. Prof. Paulo Ferrão is currently serving as the President of the COST Association, following his appointment in June 2019.
Founded in 1971.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.