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Potocnik and MEPs recognise COST's contribution to ERA

Prominent figures from both the European Commission and the European Parliament sung the praises of COST (European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research) at the inauguration of the week-long COST 'A vision for European Science' exhibition at the Europea...

Prominent figures from both the European Commission and the European Parliament sung the praises of COST (European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research) at the inauguration of the week-long COST 'A vision for European Science' exhibition at the European Parliament, from 18 April. COST brings together research teams from different countries working on specific topics, and finances the networking of nationally funded activities by supporting meetings, conferences, short term scientific exchanges and outreach activities. The organisation does not fund research itself, but is currently supporting more than 200 'Actions'. Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik agreed with a number of MEPs from the Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE) that COST is making a genuine contribution to the European Research Area (ERA), and should continue to do so under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). MEP Jerzy Buzek, ITRE's rapporteur on FP7 reassured those present from COST, that although his committee has around 1,300 amendments to the FP7 proposal, none of them will affect COST. On the contrary, some of them may indirectly benefit COST, he said. Reading the words of Pia Locatelli, who was unable to attend, MEP Catherine Trautmann called for COST to receive adequate funding from the European Commission, in line with the increased budget of FP7. 'Competitiveness and excellence will only succeed with a strong research community, and the community needs funding and networking in order to be strong,' she said. This is a view clearly shared by COST. Francesco Fedi, President of the COST Committee of Senior Officials outlined how the organisation hopes to increase the number of actions it funds from 200 to 260 per year from 2007. For this COST will need 280 million euro over four years from FP7, he said. A number of speakers highlighted COST's support for networking. Both Mr Potocnik and Ms Locatelli are enthusiasts for COST's initiatives for networking young researchers, while Giles Chichester, chair of the ITRE committee highlighted the importance of networking for the continued competitiveness of European research. While Europe has a tradition of measuring itself against the US, the US is only too aware of what is now happening in India and China, said Mr Chichester. 'We'd better get in there and network with them,' he continued, referring to Indian and Chinese scientists. In 2004, the COST secretariat moved from the European Commission to the European Science Foundation (ESF). The move should not be seen as a break between COST and the European Commission, Mr Potocnik assured his listeners, speaking of the 'significant potential' of the new partnership, as well as its 'added value'. Bertil Andersson, CEO of the ESF, admitted that there was a lot of scepticism when the COST-ESF partnership was first formed. 'But we have made it a success,' he added. 'In FP6 we built a common platform. In FP7 it's harvest time,' he concluded.