Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Get your research ideas to grow in an EU network

According to vice-dean Hans Erik Bøtker, as a researcher there are three EU tools that you need to be aware of in the coming years – and they are COST networks and ERC and consortium applications. All of them demand that researchers get involved.

2021.01.13 | Nanna Jespersgård

Start with one of the events that are open to external members, invite a PhD student along with you and find out whether it is right for you before you apply for membership, says Hans Erik Bøtker. Photo: Lars Kruse, AU

"You end up in the role you take upon yourself. So get on the phone and find out what’s happening and which EU networks are relevant for you to be involved in."

This is the appeal from Hans Erik Bøtker, vice-dean for research, as he presents two of the faculty management team's ambitions for 2021. Which are for more researchers from Health to be part of a COST network – and perhaps even begin working on an ERC or consortium application in the form of a transnational cooperation project.

"All researchers work to a greater or lesser extent in a network-based way, but the formalised international research networks like COST are increasingly difficult to avoid. And not only when preparing big EU applications – this also applies in general," says Hans Erik Bøtker, explaining the basis for the faculty management team’s decision to work to increase the number of COST networks with Health participants in 2021.

Corona is no excuse

"Even though the world is right now closed down physically, research is still borderless and international. And if we've learned anything from corona, it's that you don't need to be in the same room to work together," he adds.

COST – The European Cooperation in Science and Technology – is an EU-funded bottom-up programme that supports international research networks. Not with the funding for research projects that we are used to with the EU, but with money to organise meetings and conferences and consolidate robust networks. The networks are open to all interested parties and, in Hans Erik Bøtker's experience, as long as you are prepared to be active you can really benefit from being part of them.

"COST is neither difficult to navigate in nor bureaucratic, and there is room for many more of Health’s researchers than those who’re currently represented in around twenty-five networks," says Hans Erik Bøtker, who himself is part of a COST network on cardioprotection, i.e. the network CA16225 - Realising the therapeutic potential of novel cardioprotective therapies.

Begin locally – look to your neighbours at the faculty

Being new to the world of COST, you can begin by taking a curious look at the COST website's list of existing networks. Each has a name that presents a field of research, e.g. Lobular Breast Cancer: Discovery Science, Translational Goals, Clinical Impact. If you click on this or one of the other networks on the list, you will find, among other things, the network managers, who are the obvious first point of contact. For example, the breast cancer website’s Management Structure shows that Professor Signe Borgquist from the Department of Clinical Medicine is a Management Committee Member. And as Hans Erik Bøtker puts it:

"It’s often more productive to contact someone sitting in the same building rather than enquiring at the Ministry of Education and Science. To begin with, you need to find out what’s going on, whether it makes sense to be involved, and when the network meets either physically or virtually," he adds. He also notes that the networks have different levels of participation – which are also described on the Ministry of Higher Education and Science's website Participate in existing COST networks.

An investment as a researcher

"Start with one of the events that are open to external members, invite a PhD student along with you and get a feel for whether its right for you before you apply for membership," says Hans Erik Bøtker.

EU-facilitated groups often receive financial support, and this is also true when you are a COST member, though not necessarily when you are external. In that case, you have to pay yourself and bear in mind that COST is an investment in life as a researcher.

"COST is first and foremost interest groups and professional communities. This is where you can build those important personal relationships with researchers from abroad that you can further develop in joint funding applications – both ERC and consortium applications, which we at Health will be much more focused on in the future," says Hans Erik Bøtker and refers to the official policy of preparing participants to be part of research projects under Horizon 2020.

"Health has managed to attract a number of ERC grants, but we don't fully utilise its potential," says Hans Erik Bøtker.

"We also have a long-standing tradition of participating in consortium applications, mostly as partners. I have just heard that we have also received an EU consortium grant in the role of coordinator for the FEMaLe project, which involves researchers from three Health departments: Public Health, Biomedicine and Clinical Medicine/Aarhus University Hospital, as well as the Department of Psychology, which is part of the Aarhus BSS faculty. The example shows that we have both the enterprising and talented employees and the infrastructure that the coordinator role requires," he says.

Homeless in the existing networks? Start a new one

If you think the list is lacking particular networks, it is also possible to suggest new COST networks. This is done via an annual application process in the autumn. It requires an application group with participation from at least seven COST countries and various other formalities, which are laid out on the websites. And as Hans Erik Bøtker says:

“Autumn is still a long way off. Begin by using the spring months to find out how your subject areas are represented in COST and try it out. Get out there and be active!”

More information about COST


Vice-dean for Research Hans Erik Bøtker
Aarhus University, Health
Mobile: (+45) 4029 3389
Email: boetker@au.dk

Research, Health and disease, Academic staff, IOOS, Health, Technical / administrative staff, Department of Biomedicine, Department of Public Health, Department of Clinical Medicine, Health