LEE (formerly LESC)-COST Synergy

Since September 2003, ESF has provided the administrative, technical and scientific secretariat and management of COST. Taking into account the different structural organisation of COST and ESF, it was decided, from the beginning, to explore possibilities for synergies between, on the one hand, the four COST Technical Committees of relevance to LEE (formerly LESC) (Agriculture, Food Sciences and Biotechnology; Environment; Forests and Forestry Products (FFP); Meteorology) and the ESF Standing Committee for Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences (LEE (formerly LESC)).

In 2006, the COST Technical Committees of relevance to LEE (formerly LESC) were replaced by the following Domain Committees: Food and Agriculture (FA); Biomedicine and Molecular Biosciences (BMBS); Earth System Science and Environmental Management (ESSEM); Forests, their Products and Services (FPS); Chemistry and Molecular Sciences and Technologies (CMST). The Domain Committee for Transport and Urban Development has also shown an interest in LEE (formerly LESC)-COST synergy activities.

Areas of Common Interest

As areas of common interest, the topics identified are:


BiodiversityForest Ecosystems and LandscapeSpace Weather
Carbon and NitrogenGenomicsSystems Biology
Climate ChangesMarine ScienceUrban Science
Food SafetySoil and EnvironmentWater


Implementation Mechanisms

In order to activate the development of simple and visible implementation mechanisms (perhaps by bringing some elements of top-down stimulation, although both COST and ESF are bottom-up driven), it was decided to have:

  • Ad-hoc Working Group meetings in order to identify needs and specific topics within an identified area of common interest,
  • COST-ESF Collaborative Workshops in order to explore these topics further in order to meet identified needs, opportunities and gaps and initiate new activities in the area (via COST and/or ESF mechanisms),
  • COST-ESF Forward Looks
  • COST-ESF Frontiers of Science events
  • COST-ESF High level Conferences


Marine Science

A Working Group meeting, initiated by J. Meincke (LEE (formerly LESC) and ESF Marine Board) and S. Joffre (COST TC Meteorology), took place on 19 February 2004, Hamburg, Germany, to discuss possible actions on the basis of the ESF-Marine Board position paper Integrating Marine Science in Europe or any other matter of interest to the Committees. The meeting identified the following four topics as relevant and feasible for synergistic activities between COST, LEE (formerly LESC) and the Marine Board:

  1. Quality Assurance of Models
  2. Characterizing the Ocean Climate Change of the Seas around Europe
  3. Sustainability Indicators for the Coastal Zones around Europe
  4. Sea Ice within the Freshwater Cycle: Variability and Feedbacks.

The four topics were put forward to and approved by the LEE (formerly LESC) Committee and the COST TC on Meteorology. Input was also provided by the ESF Marine Board after presentation by S. Joffre of these topics to the Marine Board Plenary in Galway (May 2004).

The agreed plan was to prepare further the bottom-up planning of activities in relation to the four topics through Open Collaborative Workshops with joint funding from ESF and COST. The following workshops were held:

  • Sea Ice within the Freshwater Cycle: Variability and Feedbacks Workshop
    21-23 October 2004, Vigo, Spain (This workshop was held in conjunction with a relevant international Arctic-Subarctic Ocean Fluxes programme (ASOF) workshop).
  • Ocean climate around Europe
    20-21 January 2005, Hamburg, Germany
  • Sustainability Indicators for the Coastal Zones around Europe
    25-26 April 2005, Dublin, Ireland
  • Quality Assurance of Micro-Scale Meteorological Models
    28-29 July 2005, Hamburg, Germany
  • Arctic Sub-Ocean Fluxes
    June 2006, Faroe Islands, Denmark (This workshop was in preparation for the International Polar Year and a follow-up action to the first workshop)

A further workshop on Quality Assurance of Regional Models was envisaged for late 2005 or 2006, but was put on hold. It is currently in the final stages of preparation, and is entitled “Developing methodologies / frameworks for marine model Quality Assurance, including data requirements”.

Food Safety

The idea for a LEE (formerly LESC)/COST Forward Look on Agriculture developed in 2004 and 2005. A first joint COST/LEE (formerly LESC) Workshop on Food Safety, held in Portoroz, Slovenia in September 2004, addressed certain aspects of the area. Then the LEE (formerly LESC) Chair was contacted by the University of Wageningen in order to launch a broader activity in the area. Consequently, a first brain-storming meeting took place on 23 March 2005 in Wageningen, The Netherlands. It was agreed that a Forward Look in the area would be interesting as well as timely and important. The LEE (formerly LESC)/COST synergy group agreed that the Forward Look should focus on food systems which would be a cutting edge approach. It was decided that the Forward Look should have the title “European Food Systems in a Changing World”. It was also agreed that the ESF office should proceed with collecting suggestions for a Steering Committee for this potential Forward Look. This was subsequently done, and the ESF office and LEE (formerly LESC) Chair prepared a list of potential membership of the Steering Committee, with Peter Raspor and Ruby Rabbinge as suggested co-Chairs.  Some feedback was received from members of the working group, and additional nominations were received from other units (e.g. Standing Committee for Social Sciences (SOC (formerly SCSS)) and Standing Committee for the Humanities (HUM (formerly SCH))). Following a small working group meeting in London, UK, on 12 September 2005, a proposal was submitted to ESF, subsequently assessed and funding secured.

Within the framework of the Forward Look, a scenario-setting exercise Workshop was held in Preddvor, Slovenia, on 22-23 May 2007, and the Final Conference was held on 5-6 November 2007 in Budapest, Hungary (http://www.esf.org/food). The LEE (formerly LESC)-COST synergy group subsequently endorsed a collaborative partnership between the international, interdisciplinary research project ‘Global Environmental Change and Food Systems’ (GECAFS) and the ESF-COST Forward Look. Moreover, it agreed to sponsor a Forward Look session at the GECAFS Conference in April 2008 on “Food Security and Environmental Change: Linking science, development and policy for adaptation” (although ultimately there was money left-over in the Forward Look budget, and the session was funded with this).

The Final Report and the revised Science Policy Briefing are currently being finalized and should be issued shortly.

Space Weather

Working collaboration was established between the TC-Meteorology Action 724 “Developing the Basis for Monitoring, Modelling and Predicting Space Weather” and the ESF EUROCORES Programme E-STAR (European Solar Terrestrial and Atmospheric Research), with for instance their joint organisation (alongside ESA and COST-271) of the First and Second European Space Weather Weeks, held in Noordwijk, The Netherlands in Autumn 2004 and 2005.

Other activities

In addition to the above activities, a proposal for an initiative on “Determining environmental information needs for improved policy formulation” was prepared by J. Ingram, Chair of COST-TC Environment. This was to relate to COST/LEE (formerly LESC) Nitrogen activities (see below) and be carried out in interaction between the COST Technical Committee for the Environment, the COST Technical Committee for the Social Sciences and Humanities, the ESF Standing Committee for Social Sciences, the ESF Standing Committee for Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and also with many other interested parties. An ESF-COST Workshop on “Communicating interests, attitudes and expectations at the science/policy interface (CSPI): Setting Environmental Research Agendas to support Policy”, was subsequently held in Brussels on 28-29 November 2006, and resulted in a publication. Follow-up activities are currently being planned.  

LEE (formerly LESC) is also involved in the ESF-COST Interdisciplinary Science Initiative on “New Perspectives on Landscape Studies” which was suggested by the Standing Committee for the Humanities (HUM (formerly SCH)) and the COST Domain Committee Individuals, Societies, Cultures and Health (ISCH). The initiative, for which funding has been secured, will establish a “network of networks” integrating relevant COST Actions and ESF-funded Activities, as well as national programmes and activities, spanning several scientific domains. The policy context is set by, inter alia, the European Landscape Convention and The Common Agricultural Policy. The concrete result will be a joint ESF-COST Science Policy Briefing. The initiative will be organised in four thematic workshops and one concluding workshop.  

Another result of COST-LEE (formerly LESC) interaction was that proponents of an ESF Programme proposal were given advice by the TCs on Meteorology, Environment and Forests and Forestry Products in addition to LEE (formerly LESC) and developed in parallel the COST Action 729 “Assessing and Managing Nitrogen Fluxes in the Atmosphere-Biosphere System in Europe” (accepted by COST CSO on 1-2 Dec., 2004) as a complementary activity to the original ESF Programme “Nitrogen in Europe - Assessment of current problems and future solutions” in order to meet the needs of a broader range of stake-holders in the field.  

In view of enhancing exchange of expertise, the COST Technical/Domain Committees of relevance to LEE (formerly LESC) have also provided names of experts as potential referees of proposals for ESF Exploratory Workshops since 2004, and have been invited to be involved in the pre-selection of Workshops since 2005. The Exploratory Workshop instrument is seen as a suitable platform for ESF and COST experts to investigate the potential for preparing COST-Actions or other European collaborations (e.g. EUROCORES). In this respect, funding was provided from COST Action 725 for the organisation of a back-to-back conference with a LEE (formerly LESC) Exploratory Workshop on “Phenology and Agroclimatology” in September 2006 in Volos, Greece.  

Moreover, the LEE (formerly LESC) Standing Committee awarded support for ESF-LEE (formerly LESC) travel grants for young European scientists to attend the COST-EUREKA Workshop held in Patras, Greece, on 11-12 June 2007.  

A jointly organised LEE (formerly LESC)-COST special session entitled “European Cooperation in Geosciences and Environmental Sciences: ESF & COST opportunities” took place during the 2008 General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU). The ESF and COST corporate presence was reinforced throughout the week through two adjacent booths.

ESF and COST have agreed to support a jointly organised meeting – a LEE (formerly LESC)-COST ‘Frontiers of Science’ event - on the topic "Complex Systems and Changes: Water and Life Cycles". This subject has been identified as a common denominator across the disciplines covered by LEE (formerly LESC) and COST. The ambition is to establish an annual series on “Complex Systems and Changes”, each year with a different focus.

The first joint event was held in Taormina, Sicily, on 29-31 October 2008 and was dedicated to the link between water and life in all its diversity and complexity. The following topics were covered:

  • origin of life
  • water & life in extreme environments
  • changes in the anthropocene
  • future challenges

Future Activities

A proposal for a strategic workshop on “Carbon and nitrogen dynamic, sequestration and emission potential in landfills” was considered. The LEE (formerly LESC)-COST synergy group agreed to support this proposal, on condition that the outcome be not only a report of the workshop but also identification of the key areas to be developed in the future.  

A High Level COST-ESF Conference on Complex Systems and Changes: Darwin and Evolution will be organised in 2009.

The possibility of COST joining in the Forward Look on “Global Environmental Changes in the Anthropocene” was discussed at the COST-LEE (formerly LESC) Synergy meeting in December 2008.