COST at ESOF 2020

Prof. Paulo Ferrão, President of the COST Association and several COST Actions have represented the COST Programme at the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF), which was held between 02-06 September. The event which occurs every two years, attracts over 4500 researchers, policy makers, journalists and educators from more than 90 countries and is considered to be the leading European general science conference. This year the event was held in Trieste, Italy, however due to COVID-19, the events were also livestreamed, with many speakers presenting remotely.

Does Science for missions undermine the mission of science?

On Thursday 03 September, COST President Prof. Paulo Ferrão joined a prestigious panel to debate ‘mission-orientated policies.’ The event posed an open question of whether it was time for scientific men and women to readjust themselves towards missions that tackled grand societal challenges such as climate change, food insecurity, ageing and smart cities.  The event focussed on the necessity for stronger orientation and better co-ordination of different policy measures, in particular mission-oriented policies (MOPs). However, this implementation strategy has raised a number of questions, which the panel debated, such as the implications of MOPs for science, the possibility of jeopardising freedom of research and how to balance and connect non-orientated and orientated research.

Above: President Prof. Paulo Ferrão

President Prof. Paulo Ferrão, presented the benefits of mission-embedded science, including how missions can improve public perceptions and value of science and how they can create better alignment between countries, investments and European governing bodies. “With the right missions, science for missions has the potential to highlight the mission of science!” However, he also cautioned that there were limitations and threats associated with mission-embedded science. “Missions and R&D can only fulfil their role and flourish if they serve society and if everyone progresses. We can leave no one behind.” The President went on to explain how important the widening policy was to ensuring success in missions and how the COST programme has been continuously supporting and strengthening this policy.

Advancing Health Care with Big data and Machine Learning: Case studies and challenges

On Friday 04 September, several COST Actions joined moderator, Naomi Lee, Senior Executive Editor at The Lancet, to host the ESOF session ‘Advancing Health Care with Big data and Machine Learning: Case studies and challenges.” The session aimed to discuss the impact and implications of advancing technology on the healthcare sector.

The advent of BIG data, AI and machine learning are poised to transform the medical and healthcare sectors through the analysis of large volumes of complex data. Understanding and utilising this data offers clinicians and patients improved diagnostics, predicted outcomes and the ability to tailor care packages for treatment.

Above: A slide from the presentation by COST Action LEGEND.

More information on the Actions offering their expertise during the session:

Dr Karina Marcus, Science Officer at COST, said of the event “The ESOF session demonstrated how the openness of the COST Actions provides an ideal environment for the multi- and interdisciplinarity needed for applying big data analysis and machine learning in the healthcare sector: for instance, the language used by medical doctors, and data and computer scientists can diverge quite a lot, and bringing together these communities in such Actions helps achieving a common understanding.”

Incorporating users in the deployment of Autonomous Vehicles

On Sunday 06 September, COST Action, Wider Impacts and Scenario Evaluation of Autonomous and Connected Transport (Wise-Act) held a session entitled ‘Incorporating users in the deployment of Autonomous Vehicles,’ which presented the findings of trials, surveys and further insights on the use of autonomous vehicles and their social and economic effects.

Above: A slide from the presentation 

Autonomous vehicle (AV) trials have been taking place across the world for a number of years, with the hope that AV technology will improve road safety, help to reduce energy consumption, as well as improve air quality and the use of urban spaces.

During the ESOF session, a number of points were raised regarding the transition to AV, such as would the technology increase the number of cars on the road? Would people who enjoy driving be willing to give up this pleasure in favour of autonomous vehicles? How would competition between autonomous public and individual transport impact AV and what will users choose to use?

The Wise-Act Action, which launched in 2017, have been working with a wide range of stakeholders at a local and international level to assess the implications of the deployment of autonomous vehicles on existing road infrastructure. 150 experts from 41 countries are currently involved in the Action.

Prof. Christina Pronello, Action Vice Chair for Wise-Act explained “After the pandemic experience, public transport is in search for a “new normal”, which will likely be achieved in the long run. The main challenge in this is to build sustainable smart cities. In this process, autonomous vehicles will play a crucial role. In fact, the biggest and earliest migration application to automation is public transport; much less potential or sense to automate personal cars. In addition, regulation is needed to define how to implement autonomous public transport in the urban context; e.g. more space to PT and soft modes, less space to cars.”

About ESOF

ESOF was founded in 2004 by EuroScience, a non-profit grassroots organisation of European researchers to bring together leading researchers, policy makers and entrepreneurs with science communicators and the general public to discuss and debate pan-European research and innovation. The event is held every 2 years in a different location.

Further links

Event listing


Does science for missions undermine the mission of science?

Advancing Health Care with Big data and Machine Learning: Case studies and challenges 

Incorporating users in the deployment of autonomous vehiclesl

COST Action links