R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências da Saúde

Unidade de I&D

Unidade de Investigação em Ciências da Saúde: Domínio de Enfermagem [HESC-Centro-Coimbra-742] visitada em 08/02/2008

Classificação: Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
This is a young Unit, which benefits from the close relationship with the host institution and gets excellent support, from it. Since doctoral degrees cannot be awarded within this institution, the Unit has been forced to have collaborative relationships with numerous other academic instances—a situation involving both benefits and limitations. Benefits include developing a rich variety of multidisciplinary contacts, and thus avoiding the inbreeding that might otherwise occur since the doctoral students are predominately also faculty at the host institution. Limitations include the very complex network of relationships around each doctoral student, the dependence on other academic instances, and a potential lack of clarity about main responsibility in case of problems.
The Unit presently has two research groups, with a third in the process of developing. They present a number of very diverse projects, using a broad repertoire of methodological approaches with impressive creativity. They appear to work systematically, moving from descriptive or explorative studies to more controlled interventions as knowledge is developed. The third planned research group focuses on the under-researched and strategic area of organizational issues. This will be particularly relevant if they are able to make links, as planned, with health outcomes. Having noted these positive features, more steering towards increased consolidation of projects within each research group would be valuable, in part by providing better chances for knowledge synthesis.
Most of the staff is involved in research only part time, often approximately 20%. Taking into consideration the limited research time, the Unit shows good productivity. Although the Unit’s members have published a limited number of scientific articles in English peer-reviewed journals, a larger number have been published in Portuguese and Spanish which may facilitate dissemination to nursing audiences, but limits the impact of the publications. They have also implemented and disseminated research findings in various ways, for example through CDs directed to different groups, a Portuguese language Website and conference presentations. A major achievement is the production of a peer-reviewed journal, which has now moved towards internationalization by including English articles, and through indexing in e.g. CINAHL. We strongly suggest that the efforts put into this and other Portuguese language scientific journals would be most effective if merged into joint international publications. This would also serve to increase the critical audience and the international visibility of the Unit.
The Unit has approximately 40 PhD students, a notably large number. As students have their first supervisor in different departments, the Unit does not provide the bulk of the training of the PhD students. PhD students consider their training sufficient. The Unit plays an important role as facilitator. The PhD students are facilitated financially and otherwise to participate in training, in visits abroad, in conferences or courses that they consider meaningful for the quality of their work. Students are very positive about this facilitator role of the Unit. PhD students, who take initiative themselves and have sufficient insight into their own needs, will certainly get adequate training. Whether the same applies to all students is not clear from the Unit’s report and it could not be assessed during the site visit. Indeed, we only spoke to a sample of the students and it is not possible to assess how representative they were. One general need expressed was for specialized courses and other support in improving written and oral English, rather than the basic English language courses now provided, which would be a better investment for the future than only relying on translators.
The large number of PhD students coming form one (large) school of nursing raises a concern about the qualifications of the candidates at the start. Many of the PhD students were impressive in their ability to explain their projects during the site-visit, and their assertiveness about their roles as PhD students. They clearly were the more senior of the junior researchers. With over half of the staff participating in PhD research, questions can be raised about threshold for access to the program. Even if it is reasonable that not all PhD graduates may actively continue to conduct research, but may use their scientific training to enrich their teaching capacity and to foster evidence-based practice, we consider it necessary to implement measures to guarantee quality of candidates on admission. The involvement of other academic institutions in the PhD educational programs may reduce this risk, but does not eliminate it entirely. Seeing that the Unit has expanded so rapidly, we recommend that increasing the number of new PhDs is less a priority for the future than assuring a good system of selection of talented students, and the continued academic development of PhD graduated staff.
The close link between the Unit and the School of Nursing makes implementation of research into teaching a natural process which will greatly enhance the quality of the teaching. The School not only has teachers engaged in research directly relevant to their teaching, but also involves basic degree students and Master students in the projects of the PhD student-teachers. Basic degree students participate under very close supervision in projects designed by their teachers; this approach may be very valuable as a learning experience for students, but can also involve risks for the quality of the research product.
In summary, this Unit is young and active, and continues its dynamic development with many notable achievements. The Unit is actively expanding national and international contacts, particularly with Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries in Europe, the Americas and Africa. They also provide important resources for the development of nursing science in the country, for example through stringent translation and validation of relevant assessment instruments. While the Unit’s situation outside a University is rather unique in scientific settings, they are capitalizing well on a nursing education setting common in many parts of the world. The leadership of the Nursing School and of the Unit should be commended on their visionary approach and strategic thinking. The Unit appears to be maturing academically at a good pace, with several grants now submitted for external funding. We urge the Unit to continue to consider ways to further enhance and consolidate their academic expertise, rather than to make efforts to expand in size in the near future. In short, to enhance the scientific level is more important than expanding the Unit’s size. This is a Unit which has proven itself able to implement many ideas in practice, and we encourage them to continue this work.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Health Professionals Education and Health Education [RG-HESC-Centro-Coimbra-742-1931]
Well being, Health and Illness [RG-HESC-Centro-Coimbra-742-1932]