International networks: 19 COST projects in Switzerland

Integration of refugees, adaption of crops to climate change, replacing pesticides with essential oils: three of the new COST projects financed by the SNSF address these topics.

The COST programme is open to all disciplines. It brings together researchers from across Europe so that they can develop their ideas together in international networks, called "Actions". COST does not fund the research itself, but supports networking in the form of meetings, short-term scientific exchanges, training and dissemination activities. On average, researchers from 28 different countries are involved in a COST Action.

A success rate of 38%

Scientists based in Switzerland can also participate in COST Actions. The SNSF grants awarded to projects linked to COST Actions are aimed particularly at young researchers who wish to establish broad international networks at an early stage in their career.

In the 2019 COST call, the SNSF evaluated 50 proposals by researchers from Switzerland. The Research Council approved 19 projects - corresponding to a success rate of 38% - and awarded them grants worth a total amount of 5 million Swiss francs.

A wide range of topics

The funded projects will be conducted over the next four years. They come from disciplines as far apart as space research, migration studies, medicine or climate science. Here are three examples: Matthias Drilling and Jörg Dittmann (University of Applied Sciences of Eastern Switzerland) are studying the effect that neighbours have on the social integration of refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia. Based on their results they will formulate a string of recommendations to inform social policy decisions. Ora Hazak (University of Fribourg) aims to grow plants that are resistant to the stress caused by climate change. And Markus Rienth (University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland) is analysing the manner in which essential oils can replace pesticides in vineyards.

"COST is probably not very well known in the research community. It is specifically aimed at funding networking bottom up and is open to researchers from all disciplines. Project budgets are large enough to employ a doctoral student or a postdoc to work on topics of international interest," explains Professor Christoph Heinrich, president of the COST evaluation panel of the SNSF.