Origin, Philosophy & Development

Dr. Michael A. Cotter
EUSO Founder & President


I decided to create and hold the 1st European Union Science Olympiad (EUSO) in Dublin City University (DCU) in April 2003, with funding provided by Minister Noel Treacy TD of the Irish government. I had been working on EUSO for almost 8 years, from concept to completion.

How to join

Once a date is fixed by the EU for a country to become a full EU member, I invite the Minister of Education/Science of an applicant EU member state to send an observer to EUSO in the year prior to joining the EU, with a view to attending with a full delegation 3 teams of 3 students, the CC and 2 mentors on becoming a full EU member.
The Ministry of Education/Science in the eligible country wishing to participate in the EUSO must nominate a Country Coordinator for the EUSO and communicate the name and contact details to the EUSO President. This is the only EUSO appointment that may be influenced by the Minister but the making of this nomination by a Minister is one of the conditions to be fulfilled by a country wishing to join EUSO. This eliminated the potential for competing agencies, universities, associations, societies, unions, etc. within a country to claim a right to select students to represent their country at EUSO,


One of the central founding pillars of EUSO is the bringing together of 16-year-old EU students and their teachers/mentors for a weeklong Olympiad in a friendly atmosphere, free of tension, where they could mingle and all get to know each other as young Europeans. EUSO is a science education framework or road-map and was designed to fill a gap in the science Olympiad landscape, whilst simultaneously functioning as a stimulus for increased interest in and enjoyment of practical science; to increase female participation at the critical age of 16 years, in a student’s education and to contribute to a greater sense of belonging to and membership of the EU.


‘Intellectual Quality Dimension’: problematic knowledge, construction of knowledge and consideration of alternatives, higher-order thinking, depth of knowledge and understanding, disciplinary content and processes and substantive conversation among team members.
‘Connectedness Dimension’: problems connected to the real world beyond the laboratory are embarked upon, knowledge is integrated and links made to background knowledge.
‘Supportive Environment’: EUSO has a supportive laboratory setting where intellectually demanding, content-rich tasks are solved by teams of three students, working together at their own pace, in their own way while engaged in animated discussion.


Each EU participating country is expected to host EUSO. The countries are listed in the order in which they joined EUSO. I receive an official letter from the Minister in which he/she agrees to host the event at a particular time and place. The Minister next invites his colleague Ministers in the EU countries that I have identified as EUSO members, to send a delegation of a CC, two additional mentors and two teams of three students to his country. The Minister is therefore the Guarantor of that EUSO. During my pre-EUSO meeting I meet the Organising Committee (OC), the Scientific Committee (SC) and the Minister of Education/Science.


EUSO is unique among all the Olympiads in that there is no membership fee and no participation fee. The host country funds the event and I have funded the running of the EUSO office from my own personal resources.


I decided that EUSO would be an integrated science Olympiad. Integration of biology, chemistry and physics is the keystone and the student must cooperate to solve the task.


I decided that in EUSO all the students would be awarded medals. This needed acceptance of the Pierre de Coubertin’s philosophy: ‘the most important thing is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well’. 


Trust is the hallmark and founding pillar of EUSO. The EUSO students usually stay in the same hotel as their team leaders. The mentors have access to their students at all times. EUSO expects that everyone involved act ethically and deliberately encourages trust among all the participants.


I decided that EUSO would be a team competition. The students would work as a team, as in the real science world and solve a real environmental / science problem through cooperation. I postulated that this would also increase female student participation rates.


I decided that EUSO would not have a syllabus. The instructions to the Scientific Committee (SC) tasked with developing the experiments are very simple and unambiguous.

‘Create two four-hour-long team experiments suitable for 16 year old students (corresponding to ISCED level 2 or 3). They must be intellectually challenging and demand teamwork. They must integrate the sciences biology, chemistry and physics across the disciplines. They must be problem oriented, context-based, relevant and connected to the real world. They must engage all the team members and foster their ability to cooperatively problem solve. They must be self-directed in terms of pace, direction and outcomes. They must involve the construction of knowledge and higher-order thinking. They must require the interpretation of experimental data, facilitate the manipulation of information and ideas, encourage substantive communication between the team members and if possible allow for alternative solutions. The equipment used must be the regular school science equipment common in all secondary school laboratories in EU schools. No previous knowledge must be assumed and formulas must be provided. The theme should if possible reflect the host country in some way’.


The EUSO experiments are not traditional old-fashioned standard experiments. These are all original, unique, composite, modern, sophisticated experiments, many with an environmental theme. The finished EUSO experiments are the responsibility of the mentors. The SC presents the experiments to the mentors. Every aspect of the experiment is discussed in detail. Only the CCs vote on the changes, e.g., one vote pre country.


The grading of the students’ work is completely open and transparent. Moderation at EUSO is strictly monitored. A timetable is published which, in random order, allocates a specific time slot to each delegation. If a delegation needs more time to discuss its results with the SC, it is allocated an additional time slot at the end of moderation.


As President, I chair the annual Governing Body (GB) meeting during EUSO. Each CC is given the opportunity to propose improvements to EUSO. The mentors elect 4 of its membership to form a Executive Board (EB).


The future directors have several discussions with me and with the previous directors and other individuals involved in hosting EUSO in the past, either together or separately. They observe all aspects of EUSO and have access to all areas. These discussions become more frequent, more focused and more intensified with the observer delegation: usually the chairpersons of the SC & OC, the director, the administrator, etc., for the following year. Some of these observers attend for the whole week, while others, because of work commitments, attend for a shorter period of time. They focus on their own specific areas of interest: the experiments, the layout of the laboratories, the social programme, accommodation, transport, etc.


The EUSO website is primarily for the benefit of EUSO members: mentors, students and alumni. The information and documentation contained on the EUSO webpages are provided for general information and general interest purposes only. Although, EUSO has taken all reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy, currency, correctness and completeness of the information and documentation contained on these pages, the information and documentation is provided ‘as is’ without any warranty of any kind. Minutes of GB, EGB and IB meetings or any other internal reports are not available on the EUSO website. These reports are private and available only to the EUSO membership.

EUSO does not include any personal data on the website, apart from information which is voluntarily given to the EUSO Organiser. Any information which is provided in this way, is not made available to third parties, other than those working with EUSO on normal EUSO business. It is only used by EUSO in line with the purpose for which it was provided. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an EU regulation, which came into force on 25 May 2018. Its aim is to improve privacy and give greater control to customers and citizens over their personal information and how it is used. EUSO is fully compliant with this EU directive.

Photography and filming takes place throughout EUSO. By attending EUSO a participant consents to the photographs and videos being used by EUSO for publicity purposes across media, both printed and digital. If a participant does not want his/her image or any personal data included in this website, it will be removed on request.

The use of the EUSO website is at the user’s sole risk and EUSO shall not be liable for any loss or damage, howsoever arising, as a result of use of or reliance on the information and documentation set out on the pages of this web whether authorised or not. EUSO shall not be responsible for or liable in respect of errors or omissions from these webpages. EUSO reserves the right to revise, amend, alter or delete information on the EUSO website at any time. All errors should be notified to the EUSO President


EUSO is protected by copyright, trademark, unfair competition and other laws, and no elements from any web page may be copied, transmitted, converted, transcribed, reproduced or imitated in whole or in part except with the permission of the EUSO founder and with prior written authorisation. These pages, including all intellectual property rights, are vested in and remain vested in EUSO. Every effort is made to ensure that no third party copyright material is included on the website. If such inadvertently appears it will be removed immediately once the web manager is informed. Data may be printed or downloaded on any single personal computer for personal, educational, research and non-commercial use only.


The title, European Union Science Olympiad, the EUSO Constitution and the EUSO Logo are registered with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIOP). This protects all aspect of EUSO from being copied or stolen. This gives me, the Founder, copyright/trademark protection over all aspects of EUSO within the EU. Due to trade agreements between the EU and many other trading blocks, this copyright/trademark protection is almost worldwide.

EUSO LTD is a private company limited by shares. I am the sole Registered Beneficial Owner (RBO). EUSO LTD is registered in the Companies Registration Office (CRO) Dublin and complies with all its legal responsibilities under Irish company law and therefore EU Company law.

EUSO CLG is a company limited by guarantee. I am the sole Registered Beneficial Owner (RBO). EUSO CLG is registered in the Companies Registration Office (CRO) Dublin and complies with all its legal responsibilities under Irish company law and therefore EU Company law.