ESCON

The European Social Cognition Network (ESCON) is dedicated to providing a collaborative and interactive platform for cutting edge social cognition research.

The ESCON program is financed by the European Science Foundation.

Three specifically tailored programs will provide various forums for promoting transfer of knowledge, new theoretical developments, and an international research training package.

Transfer of Knowledge Conferences aimed at promoting and networking young social cognition researchers
Innovative and Integrative Expert Meetings bringing together researchers at the frontiers of social cognition
Research Training Program for social cognition that is internet-based

Together, this set of interrelated programs are designed to enhance collaboration and the development of joint research projects, and lead to a network that could be run independently within a period of five years.

European Social Cognition Network 1 & 2

ESCON 1 and 2 are ESF sponsored programmes which began in 2003 (ESCON 1) and 2009 (ESCON 2). This program emerged from a series of conferences held between 1999 and 2002, and is the first European network of social cognition researchers. Social Cognition is an active and vibrant research field in Europe (see European Social Cognition). Currently, sixteen European member countries are involved in the ESCON ‘à la carte’ program, enabled by the contribution of their research councils or by individual universities and organisations. The central objective of ESCON is to create a platform that facilitates European research collaboration in the field of social cognition and that leads to the formulation of cutting edge collaborative European research programs. The program is designed to achieve the following two objectives. Networking the European research community to remain at the ‘cutting edge’ of social cognition by

facilitating the development of joint scientific projects and
enhancing Graduate Student training

The three key instruments to realize these objectives are

Transfer of Knowledge Conferences,
Expert Meetings,
development of an Internet-Based Research Training Program for social cognition.

Background

The ‘European Social Cognition Network’ is the result of initiatives taken by social cognition researchers in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. This joint initiative was facilitated by means of a multilateral agreement between the respective Science Foundations of these three countries.

The preliminary goal was to organize three conferences to examine the effectiveness of a new forum for knowledge transfer regarding new scientific advances among senior scientists, and in particular facilitate the training of the new generation of scientists in the field (the Ph.D. students). This forum was designed to provide the unique opportunity for graduate students and senior staff to be able to get feedback from the foremost experts in their respective fields of research. From the beginning the goal was to expand these ‘transfer of knowledge conferences’ to several other European countries.

Social Cognition

Cognition has constituted a central preoccupation in human intellectual history. This is not surprising given that cognition constitutes a distinctive feature of Homo sapiens. The questions ‘What is knowledge,’ and ‘How is knowledge acquired and used?’ have been at the center of human inquiry for time immemorial. The form of these questions have varied throughout human history depending on the prevailing paradigms within which they were raised, may these be religious, philosophical or scientific.

The last 50 years have seen concerted multidisciplinary (e.g., psychology, psycho-linguistics, neurosciences, computer sciences, anthropology, philosophy) efforts that have changed the ways of conceptualizing how knowledge is acquired, processed, and used in dramatic ways. Characteristically, these developments have led to a computational or an information-processing view. This handle on cognition has shaped the development of robust, sophisticated, and cumulative bodies of theory concerning such issues as the nature of mental representations, the impact of accessible representations on judgments, and the factors affecting people’s use of simple heuristic cues versus more systematic processing.

Unfortunately, these insights have largely neglected the fact that cognition is for action and adaptation rather than merely computation. This is a view that has often been overlooked although it dates back to William James, Lev Vygotsky, Sir Frederic Bartlett, inter alia. The evolution of cognition has taken place against a background of finding solutions to problems arising in natural or cultural contexts. These solutions are of a social origin. The function of cognition is therefore the control of socially adaptive action. Because of the importance of adaptation to specific and varying situations, cognition and action constitute the emergent outcome of dynamic processes of interaction between an agent and an environment. The examination of cognition can therefore not be regarded as a phenomenon that is located at an intra-individual level alone (i.e. located in an individual or a brain). However, adaptive action is inevitably constrained by our physical make-up. To that extent, cognition as action is embodied. Cognition is about the control of adaptive action at a social or inter-personal level. This is why social cognition occupies a central position in the development of the field of cognition and its science as a whole.

One of the major challenges towards understanding cognition is about how knowledge is acquired, stored, and used across different social and cultural contexts. Indeed, the “situation” in which cognition takes place is, almost always, a social situation defined by an individual’s group memberships, personal relationships, and communicative purposes. Broadly, the field of social cognition investigates the ways people perceive, interact with, and influence each other, studying specific topics such as person perception, group prejudice and stereotyping, personal relationships, group processes, persuasion, and social influence.


European Social Cognition

Social cognition in Europe is an active and vibrant research field. It would not be an exaggeration to say that European social cognition researchers have made cutting edge contributions to the field, setting the highest standards in the scientific community. There are a substantial number of top quality researchers across a number of different countries in Europe.

Nevertheless, no single European country – on its own – is able to offer the full expertise needed to further advance the field and in particular to offer the broad training that is essential for the incoming generation of researchers. Indeed, there are isolated institutional developments in some countries that have advanced solutions to the problem of scientific networking and training at a local level.

However, the international character of research and the distribution of expertise and knowledge across the diverse European countries necessitated the establishment a European scientific network with a view not only to facilitate the development of joint research projects between researchers in the different European Countries, but also to advance graduate training and facilitate research networking of young scholars at an early point in their careers.

Essentially, the function of such a scientific network is the transfer of knowledge, which is crucial to enhance the quality of research in general. Moreover, such transfer of knowledge is particularly important for specific scientific communities in Europe where access to advances made elsewhere is more limited and where the local training facilities and expertise are scarce or simply inadequate.

Transfer of Knowledge Conferences

The Transfer of Knowledge Conferences provide a European forum where both junior and senior researchers present the latest research developments in the field and receive feedback from senior scholars in their respective fields of specialization. These conferences fulfill an important training and networking function for the new generation of social cognition researchers. They offer young scholars the opportunity to develop their own research networks at the forefront of new research initiatives.

These conferences will take place in August – September each year. See the General Information and Application Procedures pages for more information. The upcoming 15th Transfer of Knowledge Conference (ESCON 2013) will take place from August 27th to 1st of September 2013 in Vilnius, Lithuania.

List of past Transfer of Knowledge Conferences.

Participation is open to all researchers working in the field of social cognition. A ratio of 30:70 is set for participation by senior and junior researchers. A senior researcher applies to permanent staff and post-doctoral fellows, and junior researchers to PhD students. It is requested that junior researchers apply once they have commenced their second year of PhD research (note that this requirement applies to the time of the application).

The dissemination of information concerning the Transfer of Knowledge Conferences is largely the responsibility of the Steering Committee, of which there is one member per country. Initial enquiries about conference participation should be directed to the relevant Steering Committee member. Steering Committee members are responsible for the selection of participants from their country (see Application Procedures).

The Transfer of Knowledge Conferences includes two presentation formats, plenary and parallel sessions. Plenary sessions are reserved for invited speakers, and are generally 30 minutes in length, with restricted question time. Parallel sessions are 20 minutes in length with 15 minutes of discussion time. Note that these are general guidelines, and there may be slight alterations to some details, such as the presentation length, by the relevant local organizing committee.

All submitted abstracts and conference presentations should be in English.

The composition of such expert meetings should be carefully prepared to maximize complementarity of expertise, compatibility of research fields, and composition (inter-national) of the participants.

These meetings should be designed to facilitate joint European research programs with an added value that could not be achieved locally. The proposals (see below for Application Details) should be designed to enhance European scientific collaboration by providing a platform for scientists with converging research interests from diverse European countries to develop joint programs. It may be possible to invite one or maximally 2 senior scholars from non-European countries.

The expected outcome of the Expert Meeting is a research proposal (other forms of outcomes may be considered, e.g. edited volumes, other collaborations) that should be submitted to one of the emerging European Research Area funding facilities or existing ones, such as EUROCORES. It will be useful to consult the ESF office for advice on this (Contact at ESF, Ms. Anne Guehl, Administrative Assistant). Indeed, an important indicator of the success of such an expert meeting will be whether the expert group has been able to obtain inter-European funding.

These expert meetings should also facilitate the development long-term joint research ventures. This will be also critical in establishing a European infrastructure that would allow European mobility between senior and junior researchers.

Potential implications of the workshop for graduate training programs would be a further desideratum.

There will be 2 expert meetings per year over the duration of this program. Annually, there are 2 submission deadlines May 1st and November 1st. Applications should be submitted electronically to Dr. Claudia Toma, ESCON Program Coordinator. The proposal will be sent out for review and the applicant will be informed of the outcome within 2 months. Applications should be submitted at least 12 months before the planned meeting.

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