General questions

Is COST an international organisation?

COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) is an intergovernmental and pan-European network for the coordination of research activities, established by a resolution adopted by research ministers gathered at a meeting of the Council of the European Union on 22-23 November 1971. This structure, based in Brussels, is intended to encourage the networking of nationally funded research activities. COST has 36 member countries (28 EU member states plus Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iceland, Norway, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Montenegro, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey) and one cooperating state (Israel). Since 1989, research institutes of non-member countries may take part in certain Actions.

On 19 September 2013, the governing and executive bodies of COST were assimilated into a new international non-profit making entity, the COST Association. On 13 March 2014, Switzerland signed the letter of adhesion to the COST Association.

COST cannot be considered as an international organisation because it was not created on the basis of an international treaty.

What EU programme does COST belong to?

COST is not part of the European Union (EU) although it maintains privileged ties to the EU and receives part of its funding from the EU research framework programme. COST has its own structures and decision-making bodies. The representatives of 36 COST countries gathered together in the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) decide on the strategy and orientations of COST.

What is the role of the COST national coordinator (CNC) in Switzerland?

Each COST member country designates a COST national coordinator (CNC), who represents it within COST's administrative bodies. CNCs act as an interface between theses bodies and the national and international activities carried out within the COST framework.

The CNC has the following remit:

  • Ensure the dissemination of information and provide advisory support to national research institutes and bodies.
  • Nomination of delegates to the management committees of COST Actions.
  • Analyse the efficiency of Swiss participation in COST Actions.

What is the difference between an Action and a project?

"Actions" are research programmes that are coordinated by COST. Each Action is comprised of a number of nationally funded research projects.

All COST Actions share the main feature that they allow a group of countries to pursue concerted research on a given research theme that all of the members are interested in. Each COST Action requires a minimum number of participating countries, which share their findings amongst themselves.

A research project is the individual contribution of a country taking part in a specific COST Action. Each participating country in a given COST Action participates in the coordination process by proposing research projects that are elaborated and funded at the national level.

What are the tasks of the national delegate of an Action?

The management committee for each COST Action is comprised of national delegates who represent the countries that have signed up to take part in the given COST Action.

Who decides on new COST Actions?

COST's Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) decides whether or not to approve new Actions. Each Action proposal is submitted in a single phase following an Open Call for COST Action proposals, which is issued twice per year without any predefined theme. Action proposals are evaluated by three specific committees: 1) independent external experts carry out the peer evaluation, 2) evaluation panels examine proposals in light of the recommendations made by independent experts and make an initial selection, 3) the COST Scientific Committee then establishes the definitive list of COST Action proposals to be submitted to the CSO for the final decision.

What does approving a COST Action mean from a legal standpoint for a country/for a researcher?

Concretely, approving a COST Action amounts to acceptance of the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The text of this MoU, however, is not legally binding under international law. By approving the MoU, the country wishing to take part in the COST Action undertakes to do everything it can to conduct the research activities described in the technical annex of the MoU.

Within what framework are research activities conducted?

COST Actions are supported by a scientific secretariat called the COST Office, which is managed by the Executive Board of the COST Association.

At the level of individual COST Actions, internal management committees organise conferences and meetings between working groups. The exchange of researchers is also possible within the framework of Short-Term Scientific Missions (STSMs).