This year has seen exciting new and ongoing collaborations between COST and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). This collaboration takes place in the areas of food safety and sustainability, where ESFA experts command a long and deep experience. Several COST Actions have now welcomed EFSA participants. Furthermore, the COST Connect on Food and Agriculture included an EFSA presentation, and COST participated in a panel discussion on impactful research at this month’s EFSA Conference (RARA) in Berlin.
EFSA participation in COST Actions
Representatives from EFSA actively participate in several COST Actions. Here are two noteworthy examples.
The objective of the COST Action Novel tools for test evaluation and disease prevalence estimation (HARMONY) is to coordinate and promote the implementation of novel tools for evaluating and estimating the prevalence of disease. To reach this objective, it was essential to facilitate the networking and knowledge transfer between experts and researchers working in statistics, epidemiology, diagnostics, and public health. And by creating training opportunities for policy makers and stakeholders, stakeholder engagement was increased.
EFSA shares similar objectives, namely in harmonizing the monitoring and reporting of disease. It stands to reason that links between EFSA and HARMONY could only serve to promote stakeholder engagement and better inform policymakers about newly developed tools.
The idea behind the COST Action Risk-based meat inspection and integrated meat safety assurance (RIBMINS) grew out of several opinions on meat inspection originating from EFSA. Naturally, their experts outlined these ideas in the drafting of the COST proposal. Upon the approval of the Action, EFSA representatives became important stakeholders, as senior experts and scientists from EFSA joined the Action Management Committee and its various working groups. These experts also participated as trainers in the Action training schools.
COST Connect on Food and Agriculture
On 20-21 October 2022, a COST Connect event on food and agriculture took place in Madrid. As a key ERA stakeholder, EFSA was invited to present their key objectives, activities and contributions to EU policy development in the area of food and feed safety.
Stef Bronzwaer, Research Coordinator at EFSA, highlighted the importance and the benefits of EU Agencies in research programming. He recalled how science is protecting consumers from field to fork, through the Farm to Fork Strategy. In addition, the focus was on how COST Actions could help to address new challenges and threats in the sector, such as microplastics considered as an environment concern, but also an emerging risk for food safety.
COST participates at EFSA’s Risk Assessment Research Assembly (RARA)
On 7 December 2022, COST participated at the second EFSA Risk Assessment Research Assembly (RARA) which took place in Berlin.
To stimulate alignment between national and EU research funding, EFSA brought together funders, policy/decision makers and leading food safety researchers to showcase how research outputs can support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals and the Green Deal.
RARA reached its objective to establish new networks and to build new relationships by bringing together over 300 participants. “In Europe, we need to work towards a ‘science of integration’, with a particular emphasis on transdisciplinary research and networking” explained Dr Bernhard Url, Executive Director of EFSA.
Judith Litjens, COST Policy Officer, participated as a panelist in the parallel session on ‘Research & Innovation programming environment for regulatory science’. After explaining opportunities the COST Programme offers to researchers and innovators in the fields of food safety, security and food systems, she was asked to elaborate on the impact of COST Actions.
Throughout the conference important messages were conveyed, such as the need to measure impact continuously, including after the duration of the project, and the invaluable benefit of connecting with others through networking, especially for young researchers. The idea to create a ‘network of networks’ as the way forward, was mentioned several times.
“COST has been a proven success story for more than 50 years, with a rather simple idea: connecting researchers. This has led to valuable outputs and impact on many different levels, including scientific and societal impact, as well as the broader, positive impact of COST Action participation on career advancement of (young) researchers”.Judith Litjens, COST Policy Officer
All plenary conference sessions are available on the RARA webstream.