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COST association ‘inflexible and unclear’ over Covid-19

EU research networks funder criticised over handling of costs incurred due to Covid-19

Europe’s Cesaer association of science and technology universities has said the European Commission must take action to deal with the “inflexible and unclear” way its COST funder has dealt with extra costs that have been incurred due to the coronavirus pandemic.

COST was set up by the EU to fund the creation of research networks; it manages more than 250 so-called ‘COST Actions’ dedicated to encouraging scientific collaboration.

In a 10 June letter, Rik Van de Walle, rector of Ghent University and president of Cesaer, said COST had been “inflexible and unclear” over reimbursing extra costs due to Covid-19, such as cancelled flights and hotel bookings.

Van de Walle’s letter, jointly addressed to the Commission’s highest R&D officer, Jean-Eric Paquet, and the director of COST, Ronald de Bruin, welcomed the policy of “maximum flexibility” offered to grantees as a result of Covid-19. But Cesaer said COST has also been vague about changes in financial reporting for the projects it funds and how the suspension of research due to the pandemic would be considered in its planning for future grants.

In response the COST association said, “The COST Association in this unprecedented context of the COVID-19 is working hard to support and help the COST research network community. We are in a permanent dialogue with our community…to resolve the situation in the best possible way.”

Research Professional News has approached the Commission for comment.