European Co-operation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research - COST
Dubrovnik, May 2003
COST MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE Dubrovnik, May 2003
Ministers and High Officials from the 35 Member States of COST, the European Union and the European Science Foundation met at the invitation of the Croatian Government in Dubrovnik to exchange views on the future role of COST.
Established in 1971 by 19 European States, COST is the oldest and geographically widest cooperation in Europe in different research domains.
In a welcoming statement to the Conference, Mr. Stipe MESIC, President of the Republic of Croatia, emphasised the importance of COST in providing a platform for further political integration in Europe.
The working session of the Conference, which was presided over by Prof. Gvozden FLEGO, the Croatian Minister of Science and Technology, dealt in particular with the question of the European Science Foundation (ESF) operating as the implementing agent to provide technical and scientific
services for COST, its technical committees and its current 180 Actions 1 as from 2003.
Further information on COST and a recent brochure on COST "Networks for Success" as well as a CD ROM on COST can be obtained from the COST Secretariat at the General Secretariat of the European Union (tel. +32 2 285 6896, fax +32 2 285 6580, e-mail email@example.com).
To that effect, a specific support action contract will be concluded soon between the ESF and the Commission in the frame of the European Community Sixth Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration Activities
The Secretary General of the ESF, Prof. Enric BANDA, underlined in his statement to the Conference that the foreseen synergy between COST and the ESF would mark a concrete step towards the creation of the European Research Area.
The Conference's exchange of views on the perspectives of COST was concluded in a Declaration of Dubrovnik, the text of which is set out in the Annex.
DECLARATION OF COST
Conference of European Ministers responsible for Cooperation in the Field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST)
The Representatives of the Governments of the COST Member States and of the European Commission, meeting at the COST Ministerial Conference in Dubrovnik on May 2003, Whereas the COST Ministerial Conference in Prague on May 1997 confirmed the continuing commitment to COST as a valuable and flexible instrument for promotion of European research and technological development by means of coordinated actions among a large number of participants, including the European Commission, in different areas of research;
Whereas COST is an intergovernmental mechanism that has contributed significantly to the bottom-up creation of new European research activities both inside the 35 COST countries and beyond, through supporting initiatives for the networking of researchers with marginal amounts of seed money;
Whereas COST has at its core an ethos of flexibility and responsiveness to proposals that originate from all sections of the research community and provides openness and equality of access to activities in a way that is probably unique amongst current S&T cooperation modalities;
Whereas COST 'levers' several billions of euro worth of research per year and actively involves networking some 20.000 25.000 researchers annually with an annual financial investment in coordination of only around 1% of the research volume;
Whereas COST has consistently and to a high level fostered the international coordination of national research activities in Europe - one of the priorities of the European Research and Innovation Area - and has been very successful in attracting national funding to common European research actions;
Whereas COST, through its high quality scientific networks, and by promoting scientific cooperation including with non-COST countries, has strengthened the European Research and Innovation Area;
Whereas COST, through its Actions, has generated a large number of Expressions of Interest for Networks of Excellence and Integrated Projects in the Sixth Framework Programme2;
Whereas COST has been and is effective in stimulating cooperation in research domains not included as Framework Programme priorities, in supporting novel, interdisciplinary research, and as a precursor providing scientific foresight and anticipating priorities likely to be included into future Framework Programmes;
Whereas the number of COST Technical Committees has increased with the growing number of scientific and technical disciplines within which new COST Actions have been proposed, and the CSO has recently started a process to combine scientific domains to increase interdisciplinarity;
Whereas COST has demonstrated its ability to extend cooperation to Central and Eastern Europe and to non-European countries;
Whereas the European Commission has expressed its intention to become an active partner in COST;
Whereas COST and the European Science Foundation (ESF) have agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding (Annex) that ESF shall act as the legal entity to provide and manage the administrative, technical and scientific secretariat for COST, its Technical Committees and its Actions;
Whereas COST has initiated major modernisation of its modus operandi in accordance with the recommendations of the report "An Assessment of COST", prepared by an independent assessment panel on request of the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO);
Whereas COST, in cooperation with ESF, recently has reviewed its Guidelines for assessment, monitoring and evaluation of COST activities;
1. CONFIRM their commitment to COST as an effective asset for European research because of its demonstrated contribution to scientific capacity building, through cooperation and coordination;
2. UNDERTAKE to enable and encourage national COST authorities to commit themselves in terms of managerial and scientific personnel resources to fully exploit COST's potential;
3. FIND that COST must continue and should be encouraged to develop as a European initiative and as an intergovernmental mechanism of prime importance for the implementation and strengthening of the European Research and Innovation Area;
4. FIND that COST should continue to strengthen links with relevant European RTD organisations and initiatives;
5. ENCOURAGE the CSO to continue to use COST as a precursor and an initiator of ideas for future European research;
6. FIND that maintaining the specific bottom-up and à la carte principles of COST is essential;
7. RECOGNISE that it is important for the credibility of COST to ensure that the CSO remains the decision-making body of COST;
8. EMPHASISE that COST must maintain an efficient organisation supported by a capable, cost-effective scientific secretariat to assist in the execution of the work and ENDORSE to that effect the contents of the attached Memorandum of Understanding between COST and the ESF;
9. WELCOME the initiatives taken for the further modernisation of COST in conformity with relevant proposals by the Assessment Panel and invite the CSO to further develop the strategy for this;
10. RECOMMEND that the CSO reviews the structure of the research domains of COST, with a view to organising a more effective strategic management through smaller number of Technical Committees with increased interdisciplinary approach;
11. EMPHASISE that COST must ensure high quality standards through its Technical Committees according to the COST Guidelines for assessment, monitoring and evaluation of COST Actions approved by the CSO;
12. WELCOME the geographical expansion of COST to cover an additional 7 countries since 1997;
13. FIND that COST should continue to lend support, in the scientific and technological field, to the Community's foreign dimension, especially in Mediterranean third countries including the Western Balkans and in the Russian Federation and other Newly Independent States (NIS);
14. STRESS the importance of the European Community maintaining a strong and active involvement in all aspects of COST through both the Council and the Commission
RECOGNISING the advantages that COST has through cooperation with the European Community and its RTD programmes;
15. WELCOME the initiatives taken by the Commission to become an active partner in COST particularly with a view to further developing synergy between the RTD Framework Programmes and COST;
16. ENCOURAGE all European countries to participate fully in COST;
17. INVITE the CSO to report to the next Ministerial Conference on the achievements realised.
18. The representatives of the Governments APPRECIATE the support from the Commission to ensure a degree of continuity for COST Actions during the transition period before establishing the new COST Office so as to minimise the effect on the scientists involved in the actions as well as on the scientific community as a whole. 19. Finally, the representatives of the Governments FIND that the level of Community funding should allow COST to meet present tasks and future expectations, and RECOMMEND the Commission to allocate to COST a total budget of 80 million Euro for the duration of FP 6 representing the upper limit of the fourchette indicated in the Council decision of 30 September 2002 ;