19 COST research projects to strengthen networks in Europe and beyond

Soft skills in student mobility, interactions between forests and soil microbiomes in a warmer world, and advancements in natural language processing: the SNSF is funding new COST research projects with 6 million francs.

Taking a closer look at international student mobility (ISM): Lamia Ben Hamida (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland, HES-SO) is investigating the relation between skills acquired in the framework of ISM, employability, and personal satisfaction and commitment. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, she is seeking to evaluate the benefits over time of ISM experiences.

This is one of 19 research projects now being funded by the SNSF in the context of the European COST programme that promotes the networking of science and technology research activities in Europe and beyond. It aims to enable innovative scientific advances that facilitate new concepts and products.

The SNSF evaluated 34 projects from researchers in Switzerland as part of its 2023 call for COST research projects associated with COST Actions. It approved 19 of them, allocating a total of CHF 6 million.

A wide range of topics

The funded projects will be conducted over the next four years. They cover a wide range of disciplines from ecology to cell biology to civil engineering to applied linguistics.

At the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), Barbara Moser is testing how different global change drivers, soil conditions and biotic forest communities interact. Her primary goal is to assess the interplay between native and non-native trees and their above- and below-ground microbiomes under current and future climatic conditions. This will provide important insights into the factors controlling plant growth. More specifically, it will inform policymakers about the consequences of tree species rescue for forest resilience.

Lena A. Jäger (University of Zürich) investigates the field of natural language processing, more specifically large language models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT. She will examine how the linguistic behaviour of LLMs differs from that of humans and whether cognitive signals can guide the behaviour of LLMs. This will provide crucial signposts for future research to decentralize model training and will allow society to cope adequately with the limitations of language models.

International networks

COST is open to all disciplines. It brings together researchers from across Europe so that they can develop their ideas collaboratively in international networks, called “Actions”. COST Actions do not fund the research themselves, but support networking in the form of meetings, short-term scientific exchanges, training and dissemination activities. On average, a COST Action consists of research groups from 28 different countries.

Researchers based in Switzerland can participate in COST Actions. Every year, the SNSF organizes a call for COST research projects in Switzerland associated with recently approved COST Actions. Scientists based in Switzerland and actively participating in a COST Action can apply for funding for a COST research project lasting up to four years, with a budget of up to CHF 100’000 per year.