The ERA-NET NEURON continued cooperating in the area of disease-related neuroscience within the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission. Twenty-two funding organisations from 16 European countries, Israel as EU-associated country, and Canada participated in NEURON II:
Austria (FWF), Belgium (Flandern, FWO), Canada (CIHR, Québec, FRQS), Finland (AKA), France (ANR, INSERM, CNRS), Germany (PT-DLR/BMBF), Iceland (Rannis), Israel (CSO-MOH), Italy (MOH), Luxemburg (FNR), Poland (NCBR), Portugal (FCT), Romania (ANCS-MEdR, UEFISCDI), Spain (ISCIII, MINECO), Sweden (SRC), United Kingdom (MRC). Additionally, the Latvian Academy of Science (LAS) and the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAS) were actively participating as associated partners in NEURON Joint Transnational Calls (JTCs).
The second phase of the NEURON project (NEURON II) built on structures and experiences of its predecessor NEURON I and advanced the network with new ambitious aims and incorporation of new partners. NEURON II primarily focused on programme opening and joint calls for proposals. Under the umbrella of NEURON II a total of four Joint Transnational Calls (JTC) were implemented, that tackled important topics of disease related neuroscience ranging from the development of new methods to neurodevelopmental disorders. In addition, a fifth JTC on Ethical, Legal, and Social Aspects (ELSA) of Neuroscience was issued.
In addition to JTCs, NEURON II emphasised activities to monitor and to improve the network performance aiming for a sustainable development of the network. The work programme was organised in seven work packages (WP) as detailed below.
Network Coordination and Management (WP1)
This WP comprised the network coordination and management including communication, administrative and financial issues. In addition to mere management activities, this WP also ensured the textual coordination of work for all other WPs.
Development of a strategic Research Agenda (WP2)
Through WP2 information about the point of view and expectations from the scientific community and patients’ associations flowed into the network. A scientific research agenda (SRA) was developed supporting the sustainability plans of the network. This WP was performed in close collaboration with the Scientific Advisory Board of NEURON II.
Joint funding activities (WP3)
This WP was dedicated to joint funding activities through the development and implementation of five full-fledged JTCs. This included the preparation of the call, supporting the evaluation and selection process and the coordination of the funding procedure. The follow-up and monitoring of the funded projects was addressed in WP6.
Young scientist support activities (WP4)
Early independence of young scientists was emphasized and supported by several overlapping activities within this WP. The activities within this WP also supported other WPs, especially the joint funding schemes in WP3. A central instrument was the “Excellent Paper in Neuroscience Award” that is a key element of NEURON’s visibility towards Early-Career Scientists (ECS).
Neuroscience to Society (WP5)
The focus of WP5 was the dissemination of knowledge and achievements obtained by NEURON II towards relevant stakeholders (scientific community, patient organisations, health policy makers etc.). To this aim workshops, newsletters, video clips, press releases and internet publications were issued.
Monitoring and continuous improvement (WP6)
The aim of this work package was to analyse and monitor the activities of NEURON I and NEURON II and thus to provide support for short- and long- term strategic planning activities. For monitoring the outcome of the funded research this was achieved by defining and analysing key performance indicators. Results will be published in outcome reports for each JTC when the respective projects are completed.
Development of a sustainable framework for Cooperation (WP7)
The future participation in a long lasting European cooperation in the area of disease-related neuroscience will depend on a common strategy for a self-sustainable framework for cooperation. Therefore, WP7 aimed to develop a vision for cooperation among participants as well as with other related pan-European initiatives. A business plan was elaborated to ensure the continuation of the network after funding by the EU commission.