Prof. Dr Sierd Cloetingh takes office as President of the COST Association


The CSO and the Administration are very happy to welcome an internationally renowned scientist to preside the intergovernmental organisation and to help prepare it for the next EU framework programme (FP9) for which intensive promotion has already started.

Prof Dr Cloetingh is Distinguished Professor at Utrecht University, Faculty of Earth Sciences, where he also directed the university’s sustainability programme. He has published over 330 papers in peer-reviewed journals and has promoted more than 70 PhD students of 14 nationalities.

Next to his professorship, Prof Dr Sierd Cloetingh has served the Earth Science community in multiple functions, including the Presidency of the European Geophysical Society. He was President of the International Lithosphere Programme, and is now Editor-in-Chief of the Global and Planetary Change” International Journal and Chairman of TOPO-Europe, a collaborative research programme.

He holds also a long record of accomplishment with Academia Europaea, of which he has been President since 2014. Prof Dr Cloetingh was also Vice-President of the European Research Council’s (ERC) Scientific Council, of which he has been a member since 2009.

Based on the revised statutes of the COST Association, the new President will lead the intergovernmental European general assembly over a period of two years.

Through his deep insights into the European research and research-funding sphere and long-standing experience at a very high scientific level, Prof Dr Cloetingh will raise the organisation’s profile and provide inspiration even beyond Horizon 2020.

The new COST President, Prof Dr Sierd Cloetingh, about the programme and his new assignment:

How did you first learn about COST?

I have known COST for a long time as an Earth scientist, where most practical and empirical research is very much a cooperative and a large networking issue. Also as VP at the ERC where the benefits of high-quality networks are important in developing early-career researchers. COST networks provide a valuable exposure to working in consortia and cultures.

What makes COST unique in your opinion?

COST has accumulated a very, very long history of networking for both frontier research and high-risk areas, but also in the vital but often overlooked technical and applied research arena that contributes to incremental and breakthrough developments, improvements and standard setting. These are all vital. These areas are of significant importance for our diverse areas of our sustainable societies. They find their way into new international standards – such as for road and vehicle safety; mobile telephony; meteorological predictions and the protection for our plant and animal health and food. On the social sciences and humanities side of the equation, COST is uniquely able to address key societal issues due to its bottom-up flexibility of approach to networks.

Why is COST still important today for the European research community?

COST networks are important for researchers and their careers. I personally think that the variety of backgrounds of experts in the networks broaden the participants’ research perspectives and that one can look further than the detailed research questions where he or she has been dealing with for years. On top of that, international cooperation opens possibilities for broader career perspectives outside one’s own country.

Why is COST important for the European Research Area?

The intergovernmental nature of COST, its pan-European dimension and its bottom up flexible character aimed at excellence and inclusiveness uniquely contribute to the ERA goals. National investments in research and innovation get a leverage by the collaboration of researchers in international networks across Europe and beyond.”

Where do you see the challenges?

The key challenges are to find better ways of linking the various European research communities into viable joint networks and to ensure appropriate quality (fit for the purpose of the topic and network) and added value. The additional challenge is to translate the feedthrough of COST network outputs, where relevant, into pan-European impact. We also need to strengthen international links to improve the development opportunities for young researchers, especially from the less privileged parts of Europe.

From your today’s perspective, what could be improved?

For the future, I think COST should continue showcasing its invaluable contribution to the European research community, as well as its added value towards other European – and national – instruments.