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Newsletter April 2020

Dear GEMSTONE partner,

Above all, let us wish you this message finds you and your beloved in good health during this difficult COVID-19 period. If not, we wish you character and strength to withstand any challenges you may be confronted with.

Also on behalf of Inês Alves, Patricia Khashayar and Fjorda Koromani, I am proud to present what constitutes the first GEMSTONE BULLETIN. You are receiving the first bulletin twice; please make sure the email address is added to your trusted contacts, so future versions of the bulletin do not end in your spam folder. We will be submitting it once monthly (or bimonthly) to keep you informed about news and proceedings of our GEMSTONE COST action. While this seems a lot of information, we are employing headers below to find swiftly the relevant information for you. We encourage you to provide feedback on how to improve it. I want to thank Working Group (WG) leaders and all Coordinators for giving each of the GEMSTONE units life of its own; turning our Action into a neatly geared enterprise. During Grant Period 1 (GP1) we had an extremely successful scientific session, training course and working group meetings in Malta, followed by short term scientific missions (STSM) and other WG meetings. GP1 was mostly about learning about the great potential underlying our network and the possibilities at hand to integrate expertise. Now, I invite you to work closely together with our WG leaders and coordinators to make GP2 an even more successful venture. Much more important bring new ideas to the table. In difficult times like the one we are living, keeping our scientific agenda going constitutes a small victory of mankind over the virus. If we can learn something from this crisis is that thinking together is the best way to overcome adversity, doesn't matter if the threat is caused by a virus or a (musculoskeletal) disease.

Stay safe,

Fernando Rivadeneira

| COVID-19 |


NEW OFFICERS: After a period of restructuration we have a new Science Officer (Dr. Dominique VANDEKERCHOVE) and a new Administrative Officer (Ms Tania GONZALEZ OVIN). Fjorda KOROMANI, who as you know is our GEMSTONE project manager, has been working closely with them to run the scientific and administrative logistics of the ACTION, so a BIG thank you to all three of them.
BUDGET CUTS: After H2020 negotiations a 21.4% budget reduction has been applied to the budget for GP2, see FINANCES.
CHANGE IN REIMBURSEMENT: Starting May 1ST, 2020 the flat rates will be replaced by Daily Allowances, see FINANCES.
COVID-19: Brussels has declared “Force majeure situation” until April 30th, 2020, see COVID-19.
CAPACITY BUILDING: COST offers different courses to build capacity. We will keep you informed of any training opportunities.
PREDATORY PUBLISHING: Please note that “Research Outreach” is operating as predatory publisher (engaging in publications with hidden charges) and they are systematically contacting COST Actions pretending that there is - in the May edition of one of their publications - a section on COST. This is not supported by COST and be careful in agreeing to publish with them.



DATES remain unchanged: our Grant Period 1 (GP1) will finalize on 30-April-2020. GP2 will start extend 1-May-2020 to 30-April-2021.
REPORTS: We need to produce our first progress report and financial report for GP1: => action point for Working Group (WG) leaders and Horizontal Activities Coordinators
  • Progress Report GP1: in the coming two weeks we will reach out to the Working Group leaders and Horizontal Activities Coordinators for a short text describing the progress of each working group (see SCIENTIFIC ACTIVITIES).
  • Financial Report GP1: will be produced centrally and all we need is for you to have submitted all declarations of expenses (see FINANCES).
WORK AND BUDGET PLAN GP2: We need to write together a work and budget plan for GP2: => action point for WG leaders and Horizontal Activities Coordinators
  • Work Plan GP2: Here we will need your proposals of networking tools envisioned for GP2. Please discuss ideas with your WG leaders or Horizontal Activity Coordinators so they can make a proposal on behalf of the WG (see NETWORKING TOOLS).
  • Budget Plan GP2: As we need to submit a budget plan beginning of May, WG leaders and Horizontal Activity Coordinators should provide us with budget proposals for GP2 on time. (see FINANCES)


REIMBURSEMENT PROCESSING: Please receive our apologies for the delay in processing payments for the MALTA venue and if applicable for other venues or activities (i.e., working group meetings, STSM, etc). Our financial department in Erasmus UMC had to go through a learning curve to reconcile COST and internal regulations. We can confidently say that payments for GP2 will be paid swiftly within traced expectation.

BUDGET CUTS: Unfortunately, we must inform that all COST actions were subjected to budget cuts due to H2020 funding allocation which varies by year. This means that instead of the 135K euro we were allocated for GP1, for GP2 we will have allocated 106,086 Euro representing 21.4% budget cut. The good news is that in June, based on the evaluation of the reports, we may be allowed to carry funds that were left over from GP1 (as many actions like us were not able to used them due to the COVID-19 situation).

CHANGE IN REIMBURSEMENT RULES Starting from May 1st, 2020 the flat rates for accommodation and for meals, together with the grants for trainees, will be replaced by a Daily Allowance. Daily Allowance is a package that includes accommodation, meals, and any type of local transport in the country where the event takes place. There is a Q&A page to provide help with the most common questions about the Daily Allowance.



UPDATES: We will be periodically informing you about changes in the policy of COST with regard to the COVID-19 situation.

A “FORCE MAJEURE SITUATION” has been declared until April 30th, 2020. We will be informing when it is extended and what does this mean for the activities of GP2. For the moment we are allowed to invest on Virtual Networking Tools, and we will inform as soon as they are available.

ENCOURAGE: We would like to encourage all working groups to remain active and let us know if you require additional support for your activities.


GEMSTONE CONFERENCE: We want to organize a 2-day meeting right after the ECTS. Please keep this in mind when booking your trips for the new date and stay updated about the applicable COVID-19 situation (see SCIENTIFIC MEETINGS).

MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE MEETING(S): Face to face MC meeting will take place during the two-day meeting after ECTS.

WORKING GROUP MEETING(S): These are to be planned by the WG leaders depending on their deliverables and needs. All WG should also plan to meet face to face during the two day GEMSTONE Conference.

DISSEMINATION MEETING(S): We have the possibility to send GEMSTONE ambassadors to external meetings. Please let us know if you are invited to present work related to GEMSTONE at any meeting.

ECTS/GEMSTONE: We have set up a collaboration with the ECTS to put together a training course. We will embed the GEMSTONE training course as Day 3 from the five, giving the opportunity to young researchers part of GEMSTONE to attend the other training days. Given the COVID-19 situation, this will take place during GP3. For this year (GP2) we will organize an online version of the training course.

SUGGESTIONS: We encourage WG leaders and Horizontal Activities Coordinators to suggest other training school(s) taking place in the first trimester of 2021.
SEVEN STSM were awarded during GP1, (see here). Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 situation some of them could not travel, but it is expected they can do so with funds from GP1 (pending approval from COST) as soon as the situation normalizes. Given the success in number of applications we will increase the number of STSMs during GP2. For additional information regarding STSMs you can contact Kent Søe.
GRANTS were offered to researchers working in Inclusiveness Target Countries (ITC) to attend the World Congress on Osteoporosis (WCO) in Barcelona. Following the cancellation of the meeting, we won’t be making use of those funds described in the budget of GP1. We encourage researchers working in ITC to apply for these grants when presenting work relevant to GEMSTONE at meetings (see here for ITC and here for SCIENTIFIC MEETINGS RELEVANT TO GEMSTONE ). For additional information regarding ITC conference grants contact Amina Valjevac. 


A quick description of our scientific activities below.
WORKING GROUP 1 (WG1) – ‘Study populations and expertise groups’: is working on an inventory of expertise and datasets that will be implemented on the website during GP2. It is in close contact with the other working groups to generate detailed questionnaires, in order to gather the information of interest for every area of bone research, from omics to functional approaches and animal models. An expertise map from the network will also be created. We also envision partnering with the Musculoskeletal Knowledge Portal (MSK-KP) to help enrich the datasets and functionality of the MSK-KP website. The WG is coordinated by Nerea Alonso  and Ivan Soldatovic.
WORKING GROUP 2 (WG2) – ‘Phenotyping’: WG2 is very active with monthly meetings (via teleconferences) putting together a concept paper on bone phenotyping techniques describing the essence of GEMSTONE from animal models (fish, mice models) to humans (the main focus) including pediatric aspects. The paper was structured into seven topics (clinical phenotyping, imaging, bone density, bone structure, bone biopsy, biochemistry, new phenotyping and future aspects) - where subgroups are working in parallel, coordinated by their subgroup speakers and the coordinators Barbara Obermayer-Pietsch and Ines Foessl. The WG is coordinated by Barbara Obermayer-Pietsch and Bente LanghdalNext Telco/WebEx meeting on: Monday, April 27th from 16:00-17:00 CET
WORKING GROUP 3 (WG3) – ‘Monogenic conditions – human KO models’: had a meeting in Brussels and has embarked on putting together a manuscript on monogenic skeletal disorders with low and high bone mass. This roadmap paper will be submitted to Endocrine Connections and will provide a brief guide on appropriate tools to identify and characterize monogenic bone mass disorders, to unravel the underlying genetic cause, and link the findings back to different rare skeletal phenotypes. Findings can be taken forward for functional validation using in vitro and in vivo models and utilized for therapeutic discoveries, as demonstrated by several success stories. WG3 is working on a workshop, to be held during grant period 2, that will focus on metabolic bone disorders and will feature a number of talks by invited speakers and hand-on training sessions. The WG is coordinated by Outi Makitie and Melissa Formosa
WORKING GROUP 4 (WG4) – ‘Functional investigations’: is also half-way on a paper proposing a roadmap of functional investigations also divided into sub-writing-groups). Currently, tracing a plan on direction & word limits dictated by the journal which will be targeted (see Publications); plan to have a rough draft by May when meeting is planned. The WG is coordinated by David Karasik and Martina Rauner.
WORKING GROUP 5 (WG5) – ‘Bioinformatics and Methodology’: is currently focusing on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine (Deep) Learning approaches. Feedback from other working groups on availability of datasets or analytical challenges are welcome. The WG is coordinated by Milana Frenkel-Morgenstern and Mikhail Kolev.
WORKING GROUP 6 (WG6) – ‘Translational outreach’: the working group is expected to launch translational activities on the upcoming grant periods receiving feedback from the other working groups on opportunities to reach out to stake holders from the industry and patient organizations. A meeting was planned in Barcelona, close to the World Congress of Osteoporosis but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation. During GP2 a working group meeting will be planned in Florence, once the COVID-19 situation is normalized. The working group is coordinated by Maria Luisa Brandi and Claes Ohlsson.


THE JOURNAL OF BONE AND MINERAL RESEARCH has launched a JBMR call for papers on "Functional Follow-up of GWAS and Sequencing Studies", where 7 GEMSTONE members will be Guest editors. The submission deadline of June 1st will be postponed given the COVID-19 situation.

FRONTIERS IN ENDOCRINOLOGY: For the several roadmap and position reviews that are planned across the different working groups of GEMSTONE, Jon Tobias, who is Specialty Chief Editor of the Bone Research section of the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology, has placed us in contact with the publishers (thank you Jon). There is potential interest from the journal to collaborate with GEMSTONE and currently we are discussing opportunities to publish the work of the different working groups with potential to waive the open access publishing fee, put together a digital issue and even be able to sketch (and print) the contributions in the form of a booklet.


ASBMR 11-14 September, Seattle, USA
ECTS 21-24 October, Marseilles, FRANCE
IOF /WCO 20-23 August, Barcelona, SPAIN
ESOF 2-6 September, Trieste, ITALY
ESHG 6-9 June (virtual)
ECE No new date yet

If you are a PhD candidate/Post-doc/researcher working in an ITC country and have submitted or plan to submit work relevant to GEMSTONE in another meeting not listed here you can contact us here.


UP & RUNNING: The website to be found at is up and running. In an attempt for continuous improvement please provide feedback on sections, information and tools you would like to see on the website.

DISSEMINATION: Activities related to GEMSTONE can be broadcasted in the COST Website maximizing dissemination. Please remind us of activities you would like to see promoted there.

MUSKULOSKELETAL KNOWLEDGE PORTAL (MSK-KP) : The Big Data Working Group of the  International Federation of Musculoskeletal Research Societies (IFMRS) has partnered with the BROAD Institute and other instances to create the MSK Knowledge Portal. GEMSTONE will partner with this initiative to create a unified repository of genomic data and functional annotations to advance research on musculoskeletal  traits and conditions. GEMSTONE hopes to contribute to the inventory of datasets and encourages their participants to use this resource and provide feedback for its optimization

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