COST is a European wide support scheme set up by a ministerial conference in 1971. There are now 35 participating countries including the 15 member states of the EU.
The COST aim is to encourage co-operation in science and technology. In contrast to Community research programmes, this form of collaboration does not require an agreed overall research policy. It focuses on specific themes for which there is particular interest in the COST countries.
COST only assists with the cost of co-ordination and does not fund research activities. Four basic principles underpin COST mechanisms:
- all COST member countries as well as the European Commission can propose COST actions,
- participation in these actions is voluntary associating only interested countries,
- the research co-ordinated is to be funded nationally while the co-ordination costs are funded both by the participating countries and the European Commission,
- a COST action aims to co-ordinate national research at European level, the work undertaken by each Action being administered by a Management Committee.
A 'COST Action' is a European Concerted Research Action based on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Governments of the COST Countries wishing to participate in the Action. Each COST Action is identified by a number and a title.
The MoU for implementing a COST Action consists of two parts:
- Memorandum Proper:
The Memorandum proper contains the agreement of the Signatories to carry out the Action as well as the following specific information and provisions pertaining to the Action: the main objective of the Action; the overall cost of the Action, estimated on the basis of information available during the planning of the Action; the minimum number of Signatories required; the period of time for which the MoU remains in force.
- Technical Annex:
The Technical Annex contains a description of the objectives, the expected benefits and the envisaged technical content of the Action (including estimated costs and timetables) and defines the work to be undertaken.
COST operates under the authority of the Committee of Senior Officials which approves the MoU for a new COST Action before it is opened for signing.
The MoU takes effect after being signed by at least 5 countries (the MoU may be signed by the Government of any COST Country as well as by the European Commission).
The Transport area lends itself particularly well to the COST framework, both because it combines aspects from a number of disciplines, and because of the need for harmonization at European level. Liaison with the Transport Ministries and Administrations in the various countries is a key element of these COST Actions. COST Transport Actions are authorised and supervised by the COST Technical Committee on Transport (TCT) which, in turn, reports to the COST Committee of Senior Officials (CSO). Both of these decision making bodies comprise representatives of the national governments of the COST countries.
Any organisation from a COST country, and also the European Commission, can propose an Action and /or take part in an ongoing Action. Representatives are nominated by the COST National Coordinator, who is the appointed representative of a COST member country. In practice, the mix of organisations involved is determined by the nature and requirements of the Action, and participation can be arranged very quickly through the COST Transport Secretariat.
Once the proposal is ready it is sent to the national delegate to the COST Technical Committee on Transpo
The research co-ordinated in each Action is to be funded nationally while the co-ordination costs of the Action are funded both by the participating countries and the European Commission.