Empowering young researchers is essential to enable their active participation in the research community and to reinforce the premises of future sustainable societies. While supporting research and innovation mobility across borders, COST is taking an effective role in encouraging young researchers to carry out strategic functions throughout this capacity-building process. Every open call, COST organises “Leadership workshops” as part of its COST Academy programme, with the purpose of encouraging researchers in early-stage careers to run for leadership positions in COST Actions.
From this September, 40 new COST Actions will start their journey, as first Management Committee (MC1) meetings take place. This is decisive timing for their work development since members of the Management Committee, responsible for the coordination, implementation, and management for an Action, will be elected.
To encourage and give the necessary confidence to young researchers to volunteer in one of these leadership roles (e.g., Vice-Chairs, working group leaders, science communication coordinators and Grant awarding coordinators), COST implements one of its tools launched in 2017: the COST Academy Leadership workshops, specifically tailored for young researchers and innovators, but also for ITC researchers from newly approved COST Actions.
On 03 and 06 September, two new Leadership workshops were held online, providing further insights about the COST Programme and also about the functioning of COST Actions.
This was also the occasion for experienced leadership role holders to join as speakers and to share their stories and practices with the audience, helping newcomers to get a clearer grasp on how leadership positions work in practice.
Dr Tanara Zingano Kuhn, STSM Coordinator of COST Action “European Network for Combining Language Learning with Crowdsourcing Techniques” said: “We build that role together within the COST Action. I highly encourage you to take this role. You meet many people and expand your network. I am leading a project with 10 members, and this will continue after our Action finishes today.“
Some have taken the role of Science Communication coordinators following their participation to such workshops. And that is the case of Dr Nevena Velickovic, who participated in a Leadership workshop in 2019 and who sees now the many benefits in raising awareness on research topics thanks to her role as a Science Communication coordinator of COST Action “Traces as Research Agenda for Climate Change, Technology Studies, and Social Justice” .
Dr Velickovic said: “I learned to communicate our results not only to scientific community but to the biggest community. I also learned how to communicate with journalists. We had three successful press reviews. “
Being part of the Management Committee of a COST Action also helps addressing isolation that many researchers have to cope with.
Dr Triin Jagomägi, WG leader of COST Action on “European Cleft and Craniofacial Initiative for Equality in Care”, stressed that “It is very nice to be in the executive part of an academic project. We do research but we don’t know very much the executive part and the whole process of decision-making. Here, I have a space to give my ideas. Academic life can be very lonely sometimes, so it is great to have the occasion to give ideas.“
Lasting connections and spin-off proposals
Connections made with other researchers thanks to networking activities under COST Actions but also through the Management Committee’s decision-making process help building relations that go beyond the lifetime of a COST Action.
As Dr Jagomägi said: “It is my second COST Action, I made very nice connections that also last after the end of the COST Action. We have also applied for project under the European Horizon 2020 programme, as well as for Capacity Building projects in Erasmus. All connections came from the first COST Action and continued with the second COST Action. It is really a very interesting journey.“
Boosting careers of young researchers is part of COST Programme’s DNA as it sits within its inclusiveness policy objectives, namely “career spread”. The career spread focuses on empowering young talents at the beginning of their careers to acquire the necessary recognition and leadership.
As COST goes through the closing period under the European framework programme Horizon 2020 (H2020), the Final Impact Assessment Study on COST also stressed out the importance and relevancy of COST Academy Leadership workshops for boosting careers of young researchers: “For many Young Researchers, COST provides the first leadership and administration experience with larger research projects, which presents them an opportunity to learn about management. In fact, researchers see their personal development as an important result of their participation in COST, as 88% of researchers indicated in the customer satisfaction survey that their participation has led to career advancement. The participants of the trainings felt they personally benefited in their skills and personality development from the COST Academy.”
Responsibility, Inspiration, teamwork…
During these two last workshops, participants were asked to share keywords about the concept of leadership but also to reflect on their experience of the workshops. Amongst the keywords for the final question, we read: “inspiration”, teamwork”, guidance” and “cooperation”.
These testimonies are setting the roots of future connections and coming leadership journeys within COST Actions. As the Final Impact Assessment Study also stressed: “Overall, it can be concluded that the COST Academy has supported the development of the COST Actions and the personal development of the participants.”
- About COST Academy: COST Academy | Training and mentoring for researchers
- About Leadership Workshops: Young & ITC Researchers – COST Academy | COST
- About COST Excellence and Inclusiveness policy: Excellence & Inclusiveness | COST
Young researchers share their experience on the occasion of COST ministerial conference: COST stays a unique career booster for new generations of researchers – COST
This article was first published on September 8 by COST.