Inclusive excellence is a clear aim of the COST initiative. COST Actions and activities look to nurture talent and creativity wherever it is to be found in Europe and beyond, at all career stages – but especially with younger researchers and in less research-intensive countries: the COST Inclusiveness Target Countries (ITCs).
One COST Action that has been particularly active in promoting inclusivity and excellence is COST Action NEP4DISSENT (New Exploratory Phase in Research on East European Cultures of Dissent), which completed its work in 2022. The Action focused on resistance and dissent in the former socialist states of eastern Europe from 1945 to 1989. Given current events in Ukraine, NEP4DISSENT could not have been more timely.
Resistance and dissent in former Soviet Europe represents a remarkable chapter in Europe’s recent past that has informed and helped shape its current geopolitical context. This era can provide insights on contemporary developments in Europe and social movements worldwide.
“Basically, the Action looked to streamline new research approaches to dissent in Central and Eastern Europe in the post-war era,” explains Action Chair Dr Maciej Maryl of the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences. “We engaged scholars from 37 countries across Europe including from Georgia and Ukraine as well as Kosovo and Russia.”
The aim of the Action was to reinvigorate the research area by moving beyond inherited Cold War-era conceptions and included hitherto unrepresented actors and phenomena, such as religious minorities, feminists and women’s rights activists, popular music, transnational artists networks, and the dissent among socialist thinkers and artists. Two principle new approaches were followed, firstly to broaden research beyond national and disciplinary silos by looking at the wider European context through the lens of diverse disciplines. And secondly, to bring new digital technologies into play to enable better handling of archival sources and develop new tools for public engagement.
“Bringing different and diverse researchers together and exposing them to new digital methods helped open up new research avenues. We were looking to rebalance the whole field and put it on a new track.”Dr Maciej Maryl, Chair of NEP4DISSENT
NEP4DISSENT produced numerous high-profile publications – with more to come – as well as video articles, training materials and virtual exhibitions. This last output neatly captures the Action’s strategy to enable new approaches to research and scholarly communication by bringing together scholars and IT professionals. Some 20 new projects have sprung from the initiative and many fellowships have been awarded to participants – including an ERC Starting Grant.
As well as involving researchers from many ITCs, the Action put young investigators centre stage in many of its successful activities and has facilitates a whole new generation of scholarly and public engagements with questions of dissent.
NEP4DISSENT supports Ukraine
NEP4DISSENT was also a natural source of support to Ukrainian scholars when the Russian invasion happened. “The group Science4Ukraine was initiated by Sanita Reinsone, our Science Communication officer,” explains Maciej. “The fact that we had people fluent in digital technologies enabled us to set up support methods quickly and the project is, of course, continuing.”
Science4Ukraine is a grass-root initiative run by an international community of volunteers with a mission to support the Ukrainian academic community in surviving the war, help ensure the continuity of Ukraine’s science, and strengthen its presence in the international science arena.