Monday, 23 January 2017

COST Action reviews

COST Actions are an excellent way to meet other people in your discipline. I am a member of one, ES1309 Optimise which combines satellite and RPAS data for field measurements of fluorescence. I have acted as external evaluator reviewing COST actions proposals in the past and have recently been asked to review another, which brings me to the topic of this post. We all work in quite a specialist area - there are not hundreds of coastal remote sensers in Ireland. A COST action is an invaluable way for me to network with others in this field around the EU, but by agreeing to review the proposal I am precluded from having anything to do with that COST action from then onwards - which could be quite detrimental to collaboration.

From the T&Cs: 

"Independent External Experts having evaluated a proposal may not participate in the Action deriving from that proposal."

I understand that this excludes you from being the national rep on the management committee, but would it also exclude you from attending any workshops or conferences they organise throughout the action? Collaborating on a paper? Considering these are voluntary reviews it is quite prohibitive - i'll have to think it through before accepting this new request.

Additionally - something that was quite confusing the first time and lead to alot of back and forth, conflicts of interest arise if you have:

"a professional or personal relationship with a proposer."

Again - in such a specialised field and for a proposal from EU academics, you are almost certain to know one or all of them in your field. However the proposal does not list the applicants - so how do you judge? COST clarified it for me in the following statement last time:

"..as long as you do not identify a participant in a proposal you evaluate (or have a strong assumption on the identity of a participant) you may proceed, there is no conflict of interest."

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My name is Conor. I am a PostDoc and Lecturer. These few lines will (hopefully) chart my progress through academia and the world of research.