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Provision of Scientific, Technical and Administrative Management of COST

Final Report Summary - COST II (Provision of Scientific, Technical and Administrative Management of COST)

Executive Summary:
COST is a unique means for European researchers to jointly develop their own ideas and new initiatives across all scientific disciplines through trans-European networking of nationally funded research activities. Based on a European intergovernmental framework for cooperation in science and technology, COST has contributed since its creation more than 40 years ago to close the gap between science, policy makers and society throughout Europe and beyond.

As intergovernmental framework, COST allows trans-national networking of researchers through its “bottom-up” initiatives on a pan-European level. COST, as an integral part of the ERA, enables break-through scientific developments leading to new concepts and products and thereby contributes to strengthen Europe’s research and innovation capacities. COST is putting particular efforts in reinforcing its activities, visibility and impact in lesser performing European countries in the field of Research and Innovation to develop their capacities and strengthen excellence.

COST is governed by the COST Committee of Senior Officials (CSO), which is composed of representatives of 35 COST Member Countries (plus one Cooperating State) and elects its President for a mandate of three years.

COST is financed by the EU through a budget from the Framework Programmes for research, technological development and demonstration activities and has been implemented between 2003 - 2014 by the European Science Foundation (ESF) as implementing agent through Grant Agreements signed with the European Commission. Under Horizon 2020, the COST Framework has been implemented by the COST Association, international non-profit organisation.

The ESF was supporting COST in the implementation of its activities through the COST Office, guaranteeing professional management. The COST Office was exclusively dedicated to the implementation of the CSO decisions by ensuring the scientific and technical management of COST networking, strategic and other activities; it provides support to the COST CSO on a continuous basis.

Under the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) the “COST II Grant Agreement” entered into force on 2 June 2007 and is amended yearly. The amendments 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 included revisions of work packages in the original Grant Agreement with the aim of updating them through optimising efficiency, increasing quality assurance, further focusing the science and technology networking activities and enhancing scientific inter-disciplinarity as well as through promoting outreach activities to raise public awareness on COST.

Following the successful Mid-Term Evaluation report in 2010, the European Commission accredited COST with additional 40 Mio EUR in support of its science and technology networking activities, increasing the overall support for the duration of the FP7 to 250 Mio EUR.

Project Context and Objectives:
The COST FP7 II Grant Agreement entered into force on 2 June 2007 under the 7th Framework Programme (FP7). The contract was amended in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 in order to align the Work Packages to the daily needs of the COST Framework implementation.



The COST Member Countries during the reporting period are Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina (joined in 2009), Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Cooperating State Israel.

The Presidents of COST during the reporting period:
Professor Francesco Fedi: 2004-2010
Dr. Angeles Rodriguez-Pena: 2010 - present

The COST Office Directors:
Mr. Tony Mayer: 2003 - 2005
Dr. Martin Grabert: 2005-2010
Dr Monica Dietl: 2011 – present

The Presidents of ESF during the reporting period:

Professor Pär Omling 2012 – present

The Chief Executive of ESF during the reporting period:
Enric Banda
Bertil Andersson
John Marks
Professor Marja Makarow 2007 – 2011,
Mr Martin Hynes 2012 - present

COST was providing the scientific and administrative support to the COST Actions which are research networks with a common Scientific and Technological (S&T) topic, a defined structure, work and budget plan, receiving support from COST for its coordination and networking activities through a series of “networking tools”. Actions normally have a lifetime of 4 years and an average budget at around 130.000 EUR per annum.
In order to receive new proposals for new COST Actions, it was operating the Open Call system, with two collection dates per year and funded 40 new Actions on average per collection dates.

The COST funding is provided to the COST Actions mainly through the COST Grant System (CGS) which was introduced in 2009 and for which the transition for all the COST Actions was completed in 2012. Grant Holders are supported through a web-based tool, called e-COST, which incorporates the legal and administrative procedures related to the implementation of COST Actions. At 31 December 2014, 321 COST Actions were running under the CGS. During 2014, COST also developed and implemented an additional new online tool, the COST Action Management Tool (e-CAMT), allowing for a full electronic processing of the Action Grant Agreements and related amendments, as well as for a full electronic negotiation of the Action Work and Budget Plan.
Furthermore, the “Trans-Domain Proposals Standing Assessment Body” (TDP-SAB) was launched in early 2008. Trans-domain proposals covered two or more earlier existing COST Domains. The preparation and development of a new pilot evaluation and selection procedure, on the base of Trans-Domain Proposals (the “TDP Pilot”) started during 2012 and the pilot was launched in February 2013.

As part of the preparation for continuing the operation of the COST Framework during Horizon 2020, COST provided a revision of its scientific operation. It followed the recommendations of the High Level Expert Panel and in 2014 the CSO decided to set up the COST Scientific Committee composed of one distinguished person per COST Member Country.

During the reporting period, different types of strategic activities were conducted and COST carried out the implementation of strategic decisions taken by the CSO. The COST Office produced dissemination materials such as flyers, displays and marketing materials for distribution at the CSO members’ outreach activities, national COST information days held by the CSO members, COST Action or Domain activities or at external events via disseminators or ERA actors. The arrangement with ESF continued for the organisation of High Level Research Conferences. COST provided a range of strategic activities through synergy activities conducted by the COST Actions as well as through the COST Office.

In line with the promotion of COST as a framework in the ERA contributing to international cooperation of the European research community on the base of mutual benefit, COST supports the participation of Near Neighbour Countries (NNC) and International Partner countries’ (IPC) researchers in COST Actions who can benefit the COST Actions as described in COST International Cooperation and Specific Organisation participation document (COST 135/14). As a result of COST’s strategy to favour scientific cooperation at a global level, the interest to participate in COST Actions has grown over the past years achieving at the end of 2014, a total 750 participations in COST Actions.

It is clear that trends of participation of young investigators (Early Stage Researchers, ESR) and of participants from less research intensive countries are showing positive trends both in terms of increased number of participants as well as in the increased share of the funds received.

COST continuously supported the CSO, its Executive Group (JAF and then EB) and its working groups as well as task forces. In June 2012, the Council Secretariat informed the CSO of the restructuring of the General Secretariat of the Council leading to the termination of its support to the CSO at the end of FP7 (December 2013). As a consequence, COST took over all the tasks performed by the Council Secretariat.

The COST FP II Grant Agreement brought the 40th anniversary of COST whose celebration at a dedicated event in the European Parliament, was organised in October 2011 to highlight COST existence and particularly successful COST Actions. A special COST Exhibition highlighting the 40 years of COST and showcasing successful COST Actions was parallel organized and implemented according to the CSO – ‘Visibility Strategy for 2011’ and the Outreach Strategy defined by the CSO (4213/10).

The latest COST Ministerial Conference was held on 15 June 2010 where ministers widely recognised the success of COST as an optimal tool to network and coordinate nationally funded research activities, contributing to strengthen the European Research Area and to Europe's competitiveness and socio-economic development.

Following the successful Mid-Term Evaluation report in 2010, the European Commission accredited COST with additional budget in support of its science and technology networking activities, increasing the overall support for the duration of the FP7 to 250 Mio EUR.

The resources available for the implementation of the COST Framework were exploited to both serve COST needs and respect the agreed limitations while increasing efficiency. It is also reflected in the renewed organisation chart that has been in place since 1 June 2013. This chart was adapted to the new challenges the COST Office has been facing and to best respond to the COST mission and future.

During the course of FP7 COST operations continued to be managed through the joint efforts of COST in Brussels and essential direct and indirect ESF support in Strasbourg.

In line with the last Amendment of FP7, COST has been transferred from ESF to the newly created COST Association. This implied significant coordination among the parties involved in order to ensure a proper transfer of activities, staff and contract from one legal entity to the other. At the end date of the transition, 30 November 2014, all COST activities were transferred to the COST Association, which was able to properly start managing the activities

Graphs: see attached pdf
Number of running COST Actions per year – 2007 - 2014



Number of Early Stage Researchers reimbursed per year semester








The cumulated number of eligible proposals during FP7



Project Results:
The COST Framework is a funding scheme providing financial assistance to excellent networks of researchers, the COST Actions. The funding supporting the research is coming from national sources. On this basis, the S&T results belong to the COST Actions and to the researchers working in them.

Nevertheless, the Final Review of FP7-COST II Grant Agreement 2014 stated that “a notable conclusion of a review of the outcomes of COST activities in the FP7 –COST II GA period is that from a scientific perspective they are notably positive”.

Furthermore, the COST Office organised and/or participated in a number of events and contributed to a number of publications. See relevant section below.

COST is also promoting Open Access and encourage availability of results published thanks to COST funding and thereby contributing to boost worldwide visibility of European science and technology.

The COST Action Management Committee, MC, has the responsibility to establish specific provisions linked to the management, share, creation, dissemination or exploitation of knowledge, including Open Access policy and management of Intellectual Property that may rise from an Action. These provisions must comply with national, European or international legislation and the need for protecting the participants’ legitimate interests;

If in the course of an Action results are obtained or expected, which could give rise to intellectual property rights, the MC should take the necessary steps either by written agreement among the participants or otherwise, in order to protect these rights, with respect to the principles set out in "Rules for Participation in and Implementation of COST Activities" and corresponding guidelines.

The COST Action organisation comprises:

‒ The Action Scientific & Technological (S&T), research and development activities necessary to achieve the objectives;
‒ The internal organisation of the Action in to Working Groups and other managing structures needed for the successful implementation of the Action;
‒ The work plan including efficient use of the networking tools – meetings (MC meetings, Working Group meetings, workshops, conferences), Short Term Scientific Missions, Training Schools and Dissemination activities to share ideas and knowledge and create added value;
‒ The timeline for the implementation of the Action activities and the achievement of objectives within the Action lifetime.

Further to the above described, all COST Actions are monitored during their implementation and are assessed at their completion. The exercise is performed via a documented analysis of the results and outcomes of COST Action S&T and networking activities and aims at contributing to the best dissemination and exploitation of COST Action results and outcomes as well as to maximise the potential impact of COST Actions.

The COST Open Call Submission, Evaluation, Selection and Approval (SESA) Guidelines describes COST Action results and outputs in the following way :

COST Action results and outputs are the “direct results stemming from the COST Action activities. Outputs can be, among other, codified knowledge, tacit knowledge, technology, and societal applications:
Codified knowledge: Knowledge expressed through language (including mathematics, music etc.) and thus capable of being stored on a physical support (i.e. transferrable knowledge) –e.g. publications; patents, websites.
Tacit knowledge: Not formalised knowledge, resulting from the participation in the COST Action networking activities and the social interaction among its members that can also be re-invested in other contexts.
Technology: Knowledge embedded in artefacts either ready to use or not, such as machinery or software, new materials or modified organisms –e.g. a prototype, a database.
Societal applications: Use of any kind of knowledge (codified, tacit, technology) to perform specific tasks. Societal applications require the active participation of stakeholders (such as business enterprises, practitioners, regulators, users) within the lifetime of an Action. If stakeholders are not involved, then societal applications may only be considered as possible future impacts resulting from the envisaged outputs, rather than direct Action outputs (e.g. use of a methodology developed by the Action by a community of practitioners not participating to the Action).”


Potential Impact:
For all figures and graphs, see attached pdf

COST commissioned a full Impact Analysis and Customer satisfaction survey in 2009 as well as in 2013. The current part of the report bases itself to the later report whose findings are most relevant to this point. The COST Impact Study and Customer Satisfaction Survey was conducted by Technopolis and was undertaken between December 2013 and May 2014 under the guidance of the COST Impact Analysis Expert Panel.

The COST Impact Study states that the networks established through the COST Actions are large, pan- European, open to international partner countries and in most cases highly interdisciplinary. A distinct feature of COST is the number of participants working together in one single Action. On average a COST Action has 50 participants in the Management Committee. Participants in the Management Committees of the Actions represent 80 countries in total. Academic participants dominate the networks (87 per cent), although during recent years there has been a slight shift towards including more non-academic representatives such as industrial partners, policymakers and NGOs.

The 2014 COST Impact Study fund that COST had impacts in four main aspects.

 Impacts on networking and network building

The impacts on networking are the strongest and most important feature of COST’s activities. Networking and pan-European collaboration are at the core of every COST Action, as COST does not provide funding for the research activities per se, but for the creation of science and technology networks. COST’s contribution to promoting European and international research collaboration is indisputable, acknowledged by every stakeholder consulted as part of this study (over 3,200 stakeholders).

COST delivers benefits to Action participants by providing the means to extend the scope of their networks, improve their national and international profiles and their embeddedness in European networks. There is a clear increase in the cross-border co-publication activities of both the Early Stage Researchers as a group and researchers from the New Comer countries after their participation in the COST Actions. It also increases their ability to secure other funding.

Many of the COST Actions are sustained after their completion, and continued through international, European or national research projects. The most commonly used European Funding instruments include the Framework Programmes also including ERC and ERA-NET grants, further to funding from the Lifelong Learning Programme, the LIFE Programme and the Structural Funds.

Benefits of COST’s funded networking activities go beyond the participants. Most of the Actions also create linkages and build relations with already existing national, European and international networks, key organisations and stakeholders. Introducing new ways of collaboration and establishing extended networks is of particular importance to the researchers from the COST Inclusiveness Target Countries as well as to Early Stage Researchers.

To illustrate COST impact on networking and network building the submission of follow-up project proposals is used as a proxy for the sustainability of the networks. It has to be added that follow up proposal submission is also subject to the availability of funds on topics relevant to the one a COST Action is working on. What the measure shows, is that with limited funds for research one can quickly expand or enter the COST network.

Figure 1 Submitted international follow-up project proposals
Funding year of the Action

Total
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
SP SFP SP SFP SP SFP SP SFP SP SFP SP SFP
Total 293 168 119 69 291 157 205 91 201 83 1109 568
Note: SP submitted proposals, SFP – Successful follow-up projects

Additionally figure 2 shows the main network relation in Europe.








Figure 2 COST main network, zoomed in on Europe


Technopolis based on COST monitoring data
Note: Arrow colour (red-green) displays intensity of collaboration. The country’s symbol size represents the centrality in the network; how important the country is for connecting other countries to each other

Figure 3 Network evolution over time

Indicator 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Nr of unique countries 58 63 77 78 80
Nr of Actions 77 102 157 217 277
Nr of MC participations 3.436 4.575 7.387 10.627 13.944
Average nr of participants
per Action 44 44 47 48 50
Average age of participants 45 45 45 45 45
Density of the network 0.83 0.82 0.75 0.76 0.75
Average degree 47.7 50.9 57.4 58.4 59.8
Average path length 1.16 1.18 1.25 1.24 1.24
Diameter 2 2 2 2 2


 The impacts on capacity building

Capacity building lies at the core of COST’s mission. It is fostered though COST’s inclusiveness policy, that allows the formation of pan-European, trans- and multidisciplinary networks that create and share useful knowledge, while building a critical mass of people with necessary competences. In particular, there is a large emphasis put on the engagement and development of Early Stage Researchers and researchers from COST Inclusiveness Target Countries in the COST Actions.

Training schools and Short Term Scientific Missions (STSMs) are the two most important tools to foster the training and career development of Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) and are used extensively by every funded Action. The benefits of these two instruments are highly visible through individual examples, and looking at the overall results of the study. COST is effective in including and integrating ESRs in the networks established.

COST delivers especially well in terms of access to new knowledge and techniques, further to the increased interdisciplinarity of research. In addition behavioural changes are evident among the researchers and are of high importance. Through the European and international networks and cooperation, collegiality, trust, sharing of research results and increased cultural understanding are established impacts among the Action participants.

COST promotes capacity building while maintaining a strong focus on excellence. The bibliometric analysis of the publications of the leaders of the COST Actions suggest that COST engages highly performing researchers as the leaders of the Action whose performance is either in line with or above the average (which was more common) of their respective scientific fields.

To illustrate COST impact on capacity building figure 4 demonstrates stakeholders’ views beyond the benefits to the individuals. These views underline COST’s significance in bring together a sufficient number of people with necessary competences, increase the stock of useful knowledge and enabling ECIs to gain experience and visibility.

Figure 4 Impact of COST Actions - capacity building elements

Extent to which the Action did / will…

Not at all To a
small extent To a
moderate extent To a
large extent
Nr of responses
Bring together a sufficient number
of people with necessary competences
0%
6%
31%
63%
3,221
Increase the stock of useful
knowledge 1% 8% 43% 49% 3,257
Enable early stage researchers to
gain experience / visibility 1% 9% 31% 58% 3,052
Inspire engagement in research by a new generation 3% 15% 39% 42% 3,140
Surveys of MC Chairs/Participants and STSM Participants, DC members and CSO/CNCs.
Excludes ‘don’t know’ answers.


 Impacts on structuring and agenda setting

Coordination of scientific work coupled with more effective collaboration and faster dissemination are the main impacts of COST on the structuring of research. These results are also furthered by open access to Actions’ result and dissemination activities aimed at the scientific communities as well as wider audiences.

Official standards and/or norms are important instruments to ensure the coordination and harmonisation of research, that allow for the comparison of results. Many COST Actions demonstrate notable results in this respect. Most of the standards developed are at a European level. Standardisation-related objectives are prominent and some of the Actions involve the standardisation bodies.

To illustrate COST impact on structuring and agenda setting, figure 5 is shown below.

Figure 5 Impact of individual COST Actions on structuring and agenda setting
Not at all To a small extent To a moderate extent To a large extent
Nr of responses
Enable more effective collaboration and faster dissemination
2%
11%
40%
47%
3,244
Act as a platform for coordination of scientific work
1%
12%
38%
50%
3,207
Include a high level of interdisciplinarity 3% 18% 39% 41% 3,209
Contribute to the emergence of new scientific areas
4%
21%
45%
31%
3,251
Lead to a coordination of measurement methods / techniques in research
8%
22%
40%
30%
3,128
Ensure wide access to results through open
access and dissemination 3% 20% 41% 36% 3,094
Lead to norms and standards 16% 32% 34% 18% 3,124
Influence policy and policymaking 12% 33% 38% 17% 3,106
Surveys of MC Chairs/Participants. DC members, CSOs /CNCs. Excludes ‘don’t know’ answers.

 Impacts on the wider economy and society

COST Actions deliver impacts on the wider economy and society, but not in a systematic way. Some are due to the topics tackled by the Action for example addressing societal and environmental challenges or innovations in the industry, others through the clear focus on industrial problems. The range of stakeholders benefitting from the results of the COST Actions is rather broad and the delivery of impact is fostered through the involvement of the end-users in the Actions.

To illustrate COST impact on the wider economy and society figure 6 is shown below.

Figure 6 Impact of individual COST Actions on the wider economy and society


Extent to which the Action did / will… Not at all To a
small extent To a
moderate extent To a
large extent Number
of responses
Contribute to innovations in industry and/or services 11% 31% 44% 14% 3,131
Lead to commercially exploited results 23% 41% 29% 7% 3,112
Contribute to addressing societal challenges 10% 29% 38% 23% 3,118
Deliver significant benefits to citizens and society 6% 28% 44% 22% 3,126
Have other socio-economic impacts 56% 17% 16% 11% 1,541
Surveys of MC Chairs/Participants and STSM Participants, CSO/CNCs and DC Members.
Excludes ‘don’t know’ answers.

The COST Impact Study 2014 concludes that there is a clear need to continue COST’s activities. There is a high level of demand for networking and capacity building, which are the tasks of COST at the European and international levels. COST’s offer to maintain networks and create new contacts is regarded highly positively, and based on the stakeholders’ views it compares favourably in many aspects to other parts of the Framework Programme.

COST provides an instrument that remains relevant in the changing European R&D funding and support landscape. Without COST, there would be three important omissions from Horizon 2020: bottom-up networking, research network creation and capacity building, which otherwise would largely have to be done based on national initiatives and resources.

Dissemination of Results and Outcomes, Intellectual Property and Open Access
COST encourages the dissemination of any results and outcomes generated by COST Actions. Each Action is obliged to facilitate and promote the sharing of its results and outcomes to maximize the benefit that COST Actions may produce in terms of advancing scientific, technological or social knowledge as well as the added value generated by networking at pan-European level and beyond.

Dissemination activities related to COST Actions results and outcomes shall be compatible with the protection of Intellectual Property that may derive from activities, any confidentiality obligations and the legitimate interests of the owners of the knowledge that was used for the production of the Action results and outcomes.

COST has released “Guidelines to dissemination and exploitation” defining recommendations for the dissemination and exploitation of COST Actions’ results and outcomes including Intelectual Property Right management and Open Access publishing whereby dissemination: means the public disclosure of COST Actions’ results and/or outcomes by any appropriate mean (other than resulting from protecting the results), including by scientific publications in any media. The CSO updates the “Guidelines for Assessment, Monitoring, Evaluation and Dissemination of Results of COST Actions” at regular intervals in line with improvements to the application and evaluation processes (the most recent being March 2010) http://www.cost.eu/media/newsroom/node_727 . Following the setting up of the COST Assoication it has released the COST 134/14 COST Action Management, Monitoring and Final Assessment document that provides guidance to COST Actions. It describes COST role towards dissemination and exploitation towards COST Action outcomes and results as “COST should encourage the use, dissemination and exploitation of research results while, where appropriate, giving particular attention to confidential data and protection of intellectual property generated through COST activities, in particular through COST Actions. COST activities should not contribute to distortions in access to markets or development of monopolies.


List of Websites:
www.cost.eu