23 February 2016 | General
Human contact and sharing ideas will make the difference in the future - Dr Primož Pristovšek, Head of Science Operations
This month, we hear from the COST Association’s new Head of Science Operations, Dr Primož Pristovšek, as he shares his view on the future of COST and how it can shape the next generation of researchers.
Looking back, what was the highlight of your scientific career?
I studied both chemistry and physics, which meant I was already doing interdisciplinary research, learning how scientists from both fields were collaborating. I worked on computational and structural chemistry. My milestone was determining 3D structures of proteins using high-resolution nuclear magnetic resonance, which I learned during my postdoctoral programme at the Institute of Biophysical Chemistry of the J. W. Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany.
What was your first contact with COST?
I decided to switch to research administration, so after working at the Slovenian National Institute of Chemistry I took on other positions - first at the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Republic of Slovenia, and then at the Slovenian Research Agency. The latter brought me in contact with COST, as I became the COST National Coordinator for Slovenia.
What are the next generation researcher’s must-have skills?
First, they need to prove as knowledgeable as possible when it comes to their field of expertise. Besides this, they need to dig deeper and identify unresolved problems in their discipline. Collaborating with peers from other fields will be key to securing research funding, because one researcher alone cannot possibly hold all the knowledge and know all the techniques. Interdisciplinary solutions to problems put you on the right track to research funding. This is why being able to interact and build relationships with people outside your area is a vital skill. Building a network of collaborators who trust you enough to be part of your projects is quite an endeavour, and this is exactly where COST comes in to help. It’s both a chance to build trust and help researchers focus on pointing out important scientific issues.
What could COST do more?
New tools can help improve the way COST works. We need to foster new ideas, and everybody can have their say - be that our governance or the research community.
What about COST after 2020?
We need to prove the added value of COST by delivering more than initially promised, especially because the EU funding landscape is becoming ever more competitive.
What is the role of science communications in this issue?
Big scientific breakthroughs don’t always happen within such a limited time frame as your average four-year political mandate. This is why communicating science is crucial. Communicating the impact of science in society is both a real must-have skill, as well as an accountability exercise.
Any advice for young researchers starting out?
Prepare to work very hard if you choose a career in research. You will need to find and follow a strong mentor. Start networking outside your field in order to get a good grasp of other disciplines too – it’s not expensive machines that will make the difference in the future, but human contact and sharing ideas and competences.