FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Estudos Literários

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Estudos Anglísticos [LIT-LVT-Lisboa-114] visitada em 14/02/2008

Classificação: Excellent

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
1. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The Centre’s report to FCT recounts the history of the Centre since 2003 and its later development but according to its website the Centre dates back to 1993. The presentation made during the site visit focused on both recent and planned developments. The unit as a whole has received important funding from the FCT, details of which are contained in the report submitted to the FCT. This report has provided the background material for the panel. The Centre works in close connection with the department of English Studies and about 50% of the staff have teaching obligations in the department. The practice of active configuration and reconfiguration of research lines indicates an ongoing articulation between the various elements of the Centre’s activities: research and publication, teaching, outreach, research training. The Centre focuses on English Studies in a transnational comparative perspective, and includes American Studies and other English speaking cultures. These are often given a particular Portuguese perspective in that they emphasise topics such as: interrelations between literatures, translations, diaspora etc. Particular emphasis is placed on the period from the second half of the 18th century and onwards, but one research line focuses on pre-18th century material with special emphasis on theater studies. The development of the Centre is characterized by a continuous, self-reflexive and fruitful adjustment of organization and research lines in relation to goals and possibilities, carried out within a university environment that is itself changing.


2. DECLARED OBJECTIVES

Based on the report and the discussion during the site visit the overall objectives for the Centre as a whole can be summarized under the following 4 headings:
(1) The widest possible covering of the field of English-speaking cultures around the world, with a commitment to continual expansion of the range of existing intellectual enquiry. Research is carried out in a multidisciplinary environment in which the study of literature, language, other media and cultural history are brought together.

(2) The commitment to organising the Centre in research lines whose contents and structure can change dynamically in order to achieve this research goal.

(3) To create a balance between collaborative strategies and objectives and the freedom of individual researchers to pursue their own research. This strategy promotes a bottom-up process that contributes dynamically to the formation of new research interests.

(4) The creation of a balance between scholarly demands and broader dissemination, defined as non-utilitarian knowledge for the broader public in the form of outreach programmes. Under this heading there is also a clear awareness of the need to gear study programs to job markets, catering for a wide range of prospective career opportunities, ranging from university teaching, through cooperation with secondary school teachers, and into the world of business and commerce. At present, these objectives are translated into seven research lines, some of which have been running over a number of years; others are the result of a recent subdivision of earlier research lines and reflect internal research developments within the Centre, as well as emerging individual research interests. One research line is a very recent addition and is designed to provide a space for the interests of younger researchers.

This continuous development clearly indicates that the Centre is able to fulfill the first three of its declared objectives. Although it occupies a less prominent position in the Centre’s profile than some of the other more explicitly articulated objectives, dissemination of research findings beyond the academic community is carried out across the research lines, targeting secondary school teachers, polytechnics and the business world. The dynamic practice of continually reviewing the organization and focus of particular research lines with a view to revising content and structure promotes a consensual collegial ethos of mutual responsibility among the researchers across the entire Centre, but at the same time provides ample space for individual initiative within an administrative framework that operates on the basis of consensus. There is no doubt that the Centre is fully equipped to define its objectives clearly, and also to carry them out on a practical level, and their endeavor clearly meets international standards both in terms of the rigor of its administrative structures, and its research procedures.


3. ADMINISTRATIVE STRUCTURE

Some 30 PhD researchers and 30 doctoral students are organized in seven groups comprising 8-13 members, and membership is sufficient to ensure the viability of each group. The published outputs from each individual research line are listed in the report. The seven groups are:

(1) Pages, stages and beyond (Medieval and Renaissance studies in order to maintain a research basis for these fields in the curriculum of the department and in the Centre, with special emphasis on theater and translation).

(2) English Culture Studies (the original foundation of the Centre from which other groups have emerged over time, but which now focuses on cultural studies and now aims to integrate various textual genres and art forms, the history of ideas and interdisciplinary theory and methodology).

(3) Language, Culture and Society (this group concentrates on linguistics, also within a cultural studies framework, studying various types of discourse from a linguistic point of view).

(4) UK and New English-speaking Literatures and Cultures (this group has been reorganized recently after having generated two new groups, nos. 5 and 6; in this group the reorganization has resulted in a focus on English literatures and cultures in Canada, Ireland and Australia and has further plans to include also South Africa as the basis for further developments at a later stage).

(5) American Studies (a recent group focusing on texts and media of American Culture).

(6) Modern Differences (a recent group working on verbal-visual inter-art phenomena, travel writing and translation with a focus on identity formation in modern culture).

(7) Reception and Descriptive Translation Studies (this is the most recent research line, that, because of its present status, has deliberately limited its research agenda to mapping translations in Portugal in a database, but aiming at developing reception studies and translation studies to a more general level). Some of these groups overlap in terms of their research topics, but the practice and process of group reconfiguration allows the Centre to regularly re-appraise its research agendas and organization, while at the same time generating a positive and enthusiastic team spirit that is responsible for the stimulation of a genuine spirit of cooperation between the groups (e.g. between groups 1 and 3 in a dictionary project) and provides a scholarly, consensual foundation that sustains the process of decision making. Notwithstanding these considerable strengths, the Centre would benefit from formulating more precise research questions and strategies for the more recent groups and this would help to improve further the internal communication of the Centre. The extended self-governance of the research groups, that was explained more clearly during the site visit than was evident in the documentation, is admirably equipped to make such a clarification both possible and necessary.

The Centre is governed by a Scientific Board composed of the coordinator and the principal investigators of each of the research lines. It is in this Board that all strategic decisions are made but only after consultation with all researchers. The day-to-day executive business is carried out by an Executive Committee with the director of the Centre, who is supported by two researchers, being responsible for daily management, and clerical staff. An international panel oversees the publications of the Centre as peer reviewers. Two professors emeritii operate as principal investigators, with one of them leading one of the reconfigured groups, and both work productively in full support of the consensual development of the Centre and of its shared objectives. This structure has proven to be flexible and efficient in all administrative matters such as, finance, the identification of problems and goals, the organization of research and relations with the senior administration of the University as well as in matters such as the positive integration of research-active formally retired academic staff. The website is well organized, but in serious need of an update; for example, the present structure of seven research lines is not represented on the website and the latest update seems to have taken place in 2006.


4. PRODUCTIVITY

4.1 PUBLICATIONS

The details of publications, conference organization and participation as well as MA outputs and the production of Ph.d dissertations are listed in the Centre’s report to the FCT. Of particular interest are the four types of centre publications: the journal Anglo-Saxonica, published since 1995 in English and Portuguese, a monograph series Cadernos de Anglística, a collection of translations Textos Chimaera, and occasional conference and symposia proceedings. Titles are listed on the Centre’s website up to 2006 and back issues of Anglo-Saxonica are available in full-text up to this date. Peer reviewing practice is properly conducted through the acknowledged mechanism of an international editorial panel. The number of publications is satisfactory and covers all fields of the Centre’s research, but international dissemination needs to be improved and the Centre should endeavour to secure more publications in publications outside Portugal.


4.2 TRAINING

The training of doctoral students is an integral part of the strategy of the Centre. The general problem for all Portuguese doctoral students is the teaching loads that they are expected to carry, and the situation at this Centre is no exception. However, the University of Lisbon has attempted to ameliorate this pressure by showing a willingness, within reason, to be flexible vis-à-vis individual students’ needs. The administrative procedures are transparent to the students, the cost of research visits are reimbursed, and library resources seem to be adequate. Also, the Centre offers assistance to students in publishing their dissertations. More importantly, there are regular meeting with paper presentations within and also across groups, and generic training seminars are organized by the Centre. The students seem to form a cohesive group despite the difficulties related to teaching obligations outside the university.

4.3 ACADEMIC EVENTS

The Centre organizes a significant number of seminars and conferences, and members regularly present papers at international conferences that are subsequently published as parts of conference proceedings. Some of these meetings are organised in cooperation with other centres in Portugal that have specific interests in English Studies and other related fields of academic enquiry such as theatre, art, comparative studies etc. However, participation is voluntary rather than being generated by invitations, and it is not clear how often the selection of papers is based on a strict peer evaluation process. There is a lack of clarity between these meetings as occasions for networking, and their being sites for the production of publications that represent high-quality published research. It must be said, however, that this is a problem common to research Centres in Portugal as a whole.


4.4 OUTREACH

The department has firm established relations to other national units, to polytechnics and to international universities. It is intended as part of the Centre’s future strategy to further formalize and institutionalize these relationships, and this strategy will be encouraged. Also, the Centre intends to strengthen already existing ties with secondary education and the business world, which is also to be encouraged. In both these important areas some more detail concerning these strategies could be made explicit in the Centre’s declared objectives.


5. MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE

The present structure is efficient and flexible and facilitates full and active involvement of the members of the Centre. The capacity to initiate structural changes to meet new research interests and demands where necessary, is built into the organization, and provision is made for smooth generational transfer. The Centre has established a fruitful working relation with the University of Lisbon and successful relationships with external funding bodies. The policies of the Centre are clear and the finances are well managed. Above all, the organization of the Centre allows for and encourages collective self-reflection that enables it to continuously redefine its aims and goals and to create a consensus that enables it to sustain and advance its work. This basic structure is not in need of modification.


6. FUTURE PLANNING

As can be seen from the above, future planning is already incorporated into the present regular deliberations of the Centre and is likely to continue to be the case. With regard to the Centre’s publications, i.e. those that emerge from the Centre and those of its individual researchers, more detailed consideration should be given to strategies designed to increase their international profile. The issues to be considered would involve the placement of publications in internationally refereed journals and the wider dissemination (beyond Portugal) of the Centre’s publications. The Centre already publishes in languages other than Portuguese, and this might be extended further. The efficient management provides an enabling structure for an elaboration of more precise research questions for the individual research groups, but the Centre needs to take more advantage of this facility, particularly in the case of the newer research groups, and some more consideration needs to be given to the planning of future outreach initiatives.


7. REGIONAL ROLE

The Centre is clearly positioned in a national than in a regional context, with its national contacts across the country.


8. NATIONAL INTEREST

It is clearly in the national interest that a Centre for English Studies with a broad scope is located in Lisbon. This centre fulfills this role admirably.


9. INTERNATIONAL ROLE

One of the declared objectives of the Centre is to consolidate its international position. In this regard it is vitally important that the Centre is encouraged to rethink its publications strategy across the range of its publications, from conference proceedings to book publications with major international publishers. It should review its existing relations with publishers, and it should also extend its sphere of contacts to include new international academic partners. The multifaceted nature of the Centre’s ongoing research should make all of these developments possible. Attempts to reach out to new partners and formalize relationships can be augmented and further consolidated by the range of high quality activities performed at the Centre. This Centre has a great deal to offer in all of the above areas.


10. GRADING OF CENTRE AND EVALUATIVE STATEMENT

The classification of the Centre is excellent. It has an impressive range of activities, a management which is both efficient and strives towards consensus, an organization with a capacity to renew its structure and its activities by looking ahead in strategic and conceptual terms. Moreover, the Centre is permeated by dynamic, forward-looking ethos.


11. RECOMMENDATIONS

i) The need to specify more clearly the research questions of the research groups, particularly in the cases of the more recently constituted groups, in order for them to create a firmer foundation as parts of the Centre.

ii) To enlarge the number of formalized national and international networks and
partners

iii) To update the website

iv) To reconsider the role that publications might play in improving the international reputation of the Centre

v) To expand and formalize the planned outreach activities


12. SUPPORT/DISCONTINUATION OF RESEARCH LINES

The panel recommends that the support for the Centre as a whole, and for all of its existing research lines should continue. The Centre has succeeded in creating an organic organization, against the background of a changing institution, with logical and productive links between its research groups. Moreover, it has also created, as part of that organization, an important forum for the regular appraisal of its current activities, and for discussion of the possibilities of dynamical restructuring according to the research interests of the affiliated staff.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
1. PAGES, STAGES AND BEYOND [RG-LIT-LVT-Lisboa-114-1719]
2. ENGLISH CULTURE STUDIES [RG-LIT-LVT-Lisboa-114-1722]
3. LANGUAGE, CULTURE AND SOCIETY : iNTERNATIONAL, SYNCHRONIC AND DIACHRONIC APPROACHES [RG-LIT-LVT-Lisboa-114-1726]
4. UNITED KINGDOM AND NEW ENGLISH-SPEAKING LITERATURES AND CULTURES [RG-LIT-LVT-Lisboa-114-1728]
5. AMERICAN STUDIES : INTERFACING CULTURES AND IDENTITIES [RG-LIT-LVT-Lisboa-114-1729]
6. THE MODERN DIFFERENCE - LITERATURE, CULTURE, SOCIETY [RG-LIT-LVT-Lisboa-114-2597]
7. RECEPTION AND DESCRIPTIVE TRANSLATION STUDIES [RG-LIT-LVT-Lisboa-114-2598]