FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências da Terra e do Espaço

Unidade de I&D

GeoBioTec – GeoBioSciences, GeoTechnologies and GeoEngineering [EASP-Centro-Aveiro-4035] visitada em 28/01/2009

Classificação: Very Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
Overview
This is a large, diverse geographically dispersed but well organised Unit that has grown substantially over the past few years. The Unit has good support from the University and has a hierarchical management structure. The Unit presented a clear strategy for its future development and integration. The Panel felt that there were substantial differences in the level of internationalisation of the various Groups with some concentrating on local issues and whilst others were participating in international EU programmes. The research students were happy with the facilities, standards of supervision and support provided by the Unit. We also note, with commendation, the introduction of a lunchtime Geosciences seminar series, the excellent life-long learning opportunities offered to school teachers to gain higher degrees and the industrial contacts. The Unit has very good facilities and good technical support and has a lot of potential. However, such a large and disparate Unit is in danger of spreading itself to thinly and failing to achieve the highest standards of internationalisation.

Management
The management is top down, hierarchical with strong leadership and a clear organisational structure.

Facilities
The laboratory facilities are well above average for the current needs of the Unit. They are well-maintained , have good technical support and the capacity to expand and develop. However, expansion into new areas, such as organic geochemistry will require new facilities.

Advice to Unit
The future of the Unit depends critically upon promoting its most internationally visible Group
(Group 4073-573) whilst adopting strategies to improve the internationalisation of other Groups. Group 4073-77 should widen its research focus and develop collaboration with other researchers on the Variscides and other orogens worldwide. Group 4073-75 should continue to develop and internationalise its industrial links. It is also important the Unit as a whole develop a strategy for attracting researchers and research students from outside Portugal.

Commendations
The Assessors would like to commend Group 4035-573 on the level on international research on a wide range of topics. We would also like to commend the strategies used by the Unit to attract Ph.D. and M.Sc. students and the good training opportunities that are offered to such students.

Conclusions
This is a large diverse Unit with considerable potential which has the opportunity to strategically design its future research strategy. It will not be possible to achieve international standards in all areas covered and, therefore, it will be necessary to prioritise and promote the most internationally visible researchers. We would grade this Unit as 'Very Good', but within the lower part of this category as not all Groups are of this standard. We find that this is a Unit in which most groups did high quality international research which lead to some contributions to the field and the remaining did good, solid research at international level leading to incremental contributions to their fields.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
3G – Georessources, Geotechnics and Geomaterials [RG-EASP-Centro-Aveiro-4035-75]
Introduction
This is a large Group with a considerable compliment of Ph.D. students that is engaged in both academic and industrial research formed in 2007 evolving from a previous Group.

Focus, Relevance and Feasibility of the Research Aims
The 3G research group has been working for a long time in diversified fields, but with particular emphasis on applied mineralogy, geomaterials for construction; geoheritage, archeometry, ancient ceramics and restoration works; and coastal and marine geology, providing positive contribution to the progress of science as testified by the high number of ISI papers and by the chapters published in international volumes. The group has started formal bilateral research projects with Spain, Morocco and Tunisia and developed joint research activities with several foreign universities and research institutions of Germany, France, United Kingdom, Belgium, Spain, Czech Republic, and Slovakia). Contract research has also been undertaken. Moreover, from 2003 to 2006, members of the research group have collaborated to the organization of 12 international (8) and national (4) meetings. The overall scientific and technical relevance of the 3G group work may be considered very good.

Productivity (including evidence of international levels of attainment)
During the 2003-2006 period, before its renewal in 2007, the “Georessources, Geotechnics and Geomaterials - 3G” Group (leader Fernando Joaquim Fernandes Tavares Rocha) produced 15 articles on scientific journals, 3 book chapters (2 being international), and 3 books. In the same period the 3G Group has produced also 2 patents. Taking in account the number of involved researchers (45), the total productivity of 3G may be considered good.

Training
The Group has been deeply involved in graduate student training (20 M.Sc. theses) and in supervising 9 Ph.D. theses. It also participates in the ADVANCECLAY Graduate Training Networks. Its performance in this area has been excellent.

Overall Perspective
This Group has the capacity to plan and realise research projects relevant to both national and international scientific and socio-economic contexts. However, taking the number of researchers into account, the production of papers should be increased.
CES - Complex Environmental Systems [RG-EASP-Centro-Aveiro-4035-573]
Introduction
This is a medium-sized to large group of researchers that has evolved, since 2007, from a previous group no longer in existence.

Focus, Relevance and Feasibility of the Research Aims
Although it still covers a wide range of topics (e.g. abandoned mine sites, geochemical exploration, urban geochemistry, geochemical mapping, biomonitoring, groundwater assessment) embracing a broad disciplinary spectrum from geochemistry, hydrogeology and geophysics through to biology and ecology, the group now has a much more coherent theme and focus. There are numerous examples of significant contributions at national and European levels, leading not only to practical help for local and regional authorities but also to an increasing presence in international peer-reviewed literature. The group’s increasing focus on aspects of medical geology at the expense of geochemical exploration studies is to be commended and a more comprehensive approach to problems arising from environmental contamination would be enhanced by the provision of equipment for analysis of organic chemicals. This would complement current expertise and applications in inorganic analysis, e.g. for heavy metals.

Productivity (including evidence of international levels of attainment)
For its size, the group has achieved a moderate to high level of productivity in terms of publications and reports. The publications are increasingly in peer-reviewed international journals, such as Applied Geochemistry.

The group is to be commended for engagement in interdisciplinary activities and publications, e.g. related to environmental consequences of acid mine drainage, and the enlistment of advice from appropriate international experts.

Training
The group provides a good research training environment for the current 10 PhD and 4 MSc students, who are drawn from a wide range of backgrounds.

Overall Perspective
This recently structured group is based, in part, on a previous group whose overall achievements met expectations with some indication of the impact and relevance of this work at international level. The new group’s performance to date is more significant and future plans and objectives are well developed and ambitious, with the work likely to lead to outcomes of international relevance and importance.
EL – Lithospheric Evolution [RG-EASP-Centro-Aveiro-4035-77]
Introduction
This is a large group of 10 staff and 4 PhD level researchers. It is noted that the group was established in 2007, having evolved from amalgamation/ rationalisation of previous groups.

Focus, Relevance and Feasibility of the Research Aims
The general research focus is on “hard rock geology” with particular emphasis on the Portuguese Variscan basement and volcanic rocks on the Azores. These are established research areas in the Earth Science which would be expected to lead to significant contributions to knowledge and understanding at national level and some contributions at international level. The international impact of the research on the Variscan needs to be developed by considering it in relation to the rest of the European Variscides and other orogens world-wide. The proposed programme is supported by well equipped, modern laboratories and analytical equipment.

Productivity (including evidence of international levels of attainment)
For its size, the group has achieved a moderate level of productivity in terms of publications. A few of these are in established, peer-reviewed international journals (J. Volcanic Research, Lithos); most are not.

Training
11 MSc projects completed in the review period provides evidence that the Group provides a reasonable research training environment.

Overall Perspective
This newly structured Group is likely to meet expectations with some indications that their work will be at international level. Future plans and objectives are reasonable but need to be more outward-looking to enhance their international impact.
ELMAS - Evolução Litosférica e do Meio Ambiente Superficial [RG-X-EASP-Centro-Aveiro-4035-571]
Introduction
This was a very large group of researchers that ceased to exist after 2006, evolving, along with 4035-570, into new groups in the GeoBioTec Unit from 2007.

Focus, Relevance and Feasibility of the Research Aims
The work of this group covered a very wide range of areas, including crustal and upper mantle evolution, volcanology, long-term environmental change records in lake sediments, hydrogeology, freshwater biology and surface geophysics. In the field of environmental pollution, there was work on the hazard assessment of arsenic and lead in soils affected by a gold mining area. Despite the lack of focus, the work led to significant contributions to knowledge and understanding at national level and some contributions at international level. The overly diffuse nature of the group’s research aims, however, was recognised by the decision to disband the group and form new groups on Lithospheric Evolution (4035-77) and Complex Environmental Systems (4035-573) for 2007-2010, to reflect different focused emphases and priorities.

Productivity (including evidence of international levels of attainment)
For its size, the group achieved a moderate level of productivity in terms of publications and reports. The publications included peer-reviewed international journals, such as the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, Geophysical Journal International and Applied Geochemistry.

Training
The group provided a good research training environment, evident from 9 PhD and 30 MSc projects completed in the review period.

Overall Perspective
The overall achievements of this group met expectations with some indication of the impact and relevance of this work at international level. With respect to the future, however, its disbandment and the formation of more focussed, smaller new groups was realistic.
MIA - Minerais Industriais e Argilas [RG-X-EASP-Centro-Aveiro-4035-570]
Introduction
MIA was a large-sized group which, along with ELMAS (4035-571), constituted the overarching GeoBioTec Unit/Centre during the 2003-2006 period. From 2007, the two groups evolved into new groups, including the 3G group (Georesources, Geotechnics and Geomaterials, 4035-75).

Focus, Relevance and Feasibility of the Research Aims
The general research focus was on clay mineralogy and geochemistry. There were several specific research foci, including marker studies of palaeogeography and palaeoclimatology, mainly through Mesozoic-Cenozoic basins, and industrial applications of clay mineralogy. Although diverse, these are both very topical research areas in the Earth Sciences capable of leading to major contributions to knowledge and understanding at national level and significant contributions at international level. With respect to feasibility/capacity, this group evolved into Georesources, Geotechnics and Geomaterials (4035-75) for 2007-2010, with continuing emphasis on a wide range of interdisciplinary themes.

Productivity (including evidence of international levels of attainment)
The group achieved a moderate level of productivity in terms of publications. A reasonable number of these were in peer-reviewed international journals. Of the 10 papers selected, two appeared in journals (Prog Oceanog, The Holocene) with impact factors > 2, and five in journals (Mar Micropaleontol, Terra Nova, Appl Clay Sci ) with impact factors > 1.5. Other journals included Ceramics Internat and J Geochem Explor. This wide range of journals reflects the diversity of areas, not restricted to industrial minerals and clays, covered by this group. Other publications (book chapters, conferences etc) listed similarly included work on a wide range of topics, e.g. mineral fillers, ceramics, building stones, geomedicine. There were two patents.
The group should be commended for having impact and relevance from both the academic and applied (patents, local industrial contracts) points of view.

Training
A good research training environment was provided, with the 9 PhD and 20 Masters thesis produced by this Group contributing significantly to the Unit’s overall production of 21 PhDs and 51 Masters over the 2003-2006 period.

Overall Perspective
The Group’s overall achievements met expectations with significant indications of the impact and relevance of this work at international level.