R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências Agrárias

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Investigação de Montanha [AGR-Norte-Braganca-690] visitada em 21/01/2008

Classificação: Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
Goals, ongoing and planned projects, strategic development in the future.
Introduction/ context:
CIMO, formed in 2003, is hosted by the Agrarian School, a Polytechnic Institute, in Bragança.
Its status therefore differs from most other Units in that it cannot (yet) run its own PhD programmes and has to rely on universities elsewhere in Portugal or abroad. CIMO hopes this situation will change and to become more independent. As with most other polytechnic institutes the staff has considerable teaching tasks, so that research and writing publications ask greater efforts and creativity. CIMO has a geographically eccentric position in a mountainous area with ecological and agricultural conditions that differ from most other regions in Portugal.
(Semi) natural ecosystems, land use systems, type of crops and related products and regional economics give reason to regionally specific accents in research. Research that tries to focus on regional problems and eco/agro systems while at the same time trying to raise the quality of internationally acknowledged research has to cope with inbuilt tensions. A balance should be found by aiming at strong points and by being selective in research issues.
General: the atmosphere in the Unit and research Groups is very enthusiastic, full of plans, in want of more people and money. Staff members are dedicated to the qualities and potentials of the area (and comparable regions). Generally their progress since 2003 has been considerable (as can be seen in parameters given below)
The unit produced a very good (exemplary) general analysis of regional problems and research possibilities.
Research strategy and priority setting: overall the unit deals with many (too many) topics, an understandable feature in view of its age, strong increase in people , the problem-solving attitude towards stakeholders and the urge to produce scientific results . The same picture arises in Research Groups. Eventually research quality, cooperation possibilities and a more efficient use of manpower and equipment could gain from a much more focused approach.
Staff: The Unit grew in staff (65 > 71), nr. PhD’s (in permanent staff) 15, a number that has been raised to 45 (including PhD’s in training) in 2007.

Publications: the total amount of publications / year showed strong increase (26>73), especially in ISI –journals (15 > 41), also when expressed in productivity/ person (ISI/p: 0.6 >1.0). The quality of papers is on the average good and partly very good.
Equipment and other facilities: basic but seemingly efficient
Funding: The Unit and composing Research groups depend mostly on national funding, less on international (e.g EU programmes). This cannot be changed overnight and asks for strategic choices in scientific field, advanced concepts and methodologies and strategic partnership with qualitative institutes abroad.

Training of young researchers and students:
Sufficient – good. It should be noted that the capacity of staff for supervision (to be combined with teaching tasks) of permanent staff is limiting.

Organization of workshops
Could happen on a more regular basis

Interdisciplinary activities
Sufficient – good; could be reinforced further, but then based upon selectivity in issues.

Interactions with other national and international research units and companies
CIMO shows a sufficient degree of cooperation with national institutes and universities, though through improving, more international cooperation could add to the quality of research and possibilities to take part in EU funded research. CIMO also participates in Euromontana.
Generally more strategic choices in international cooperation can be helpful.

Participation in international research programmes (EU etc.)
Could be strengthened further.

Knowledge and technology transfer

Outreach activities
The Unit seems to be active in outreach activities and has close contacts with many stakeholders in the region and outside. A more structured consultation could be worthwhile.

Attitude and work environment
The unit has chosen to form three research groups: i) Marginal land Ecosystems, ii) Mountain farming Systems and Food Safety and Technology. While there are many interrelationships this organization seems to work well. To support internal cooperation a regular scheme of exchange of ideas and presentation of results is essential

Most pertinent comments and recommendations:
- to seek for much stronger priority setting in research topics
- to develop a strategy for international cooperation based upon own strong points and priorities; the idea of anchor institutes could support that
- to participate in integrated labs to improve national cooperation
- to draw from knowledge and ideas from stakeholders in a more organized way.
- to investigate ways to have a stronger financial involvement from interest groups
(incl. the protection of intellectual properties and where applicable by applying for patents)
- to verify ideas upon possibilities of own Ph D and MsC programmes or alternatively find solutions in making effective agreements with universities.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Food Safey and Technology [RG-AGR-Norte-Braganca-690-1653]
This is a medium-sized research group working within the polytechnic institute of Bragança with 14 research workers qualified to Ph. D. level. They concentrate their work on food science and food technology, but food safety as such is not really tackled even if it appears in the title of the group. With respect to international impact, the group has published in some of the best journals in the food science field and has higher than average impact factors for the agriculture field. From 2003 to 2006, they steadily increased their yearly output from 0.8 to 1.5 ISI indexed articles per Ph. D. qualified scientist. From 2007 onwards, they will be working on 14 projects and FCT funding is around 75% of their income, a higher than average percentage for the groups that we visited. They have developed very good international links, and there is evidence of mobility of scientists.
For the future, I recommend this group to concentrate on the characterization and the quality of local products.
The work that is being done on honey and bee-keeping is a good example of this, likewise that characterization
of molecules of interest in locally found mushrooms should also be pursued in greater depth. The work on the quality of local meat products and cheeses should also continue. On the other hand, the group is unlikely to make any significant impact in the field of nut quality, olive oil quality or wine quality and they would be well advised to consult the existing expert groups on these major products to see if there is specific complementary elements in Bragança that merit maintaining these lines of research. I cannot make specific recommendations on units to contact for all of these products, but for wine, I would recommend contacting Drª. Wanda Viegas and her colleagues at the Centro de Botânica Aplicada à Agricultura in Lisboa.
The laboratories we visited were quite well-equipped with basic equipment, and the group hopes that new equipment will be granted in the future, and I support this request.
Funding is good but it comes only from national sources. There is not data about Ph.D. students training. This is a very solid research group with variable research directions and objects of research with good publication records. It needs more participation in international projects and better openness to aware society of the significance of research and the benefits from the results.
Marginal Land Ecosystem Services [RG-AGR-Norte-Braganca-690-2995]
This is an enthusiastic group with good and relevant plans for research to mainly address the problems of marginal land ecosystems in its region and similar marginal lands elsewhere. It has a good record in training young researchers and in organisation of dissemination events.
The panel recommends that the group should seek to widen its national and international collaborations and to develop specific research competencies that would align with its stated aim of bringing more cohesion / consistence to its strategic research plans.
The group has good organisation and leadership.
The climate for graduate students is also good. We found them enthusiastic and wanting to be doing their studies in CIMO.
This group (19PhD’s, 14 other researchers) covers a wide (too wide) array of topics (15 very different subjects) these are relevant for the agro- ecosystems at stake. One is tempted to narrow this down a bit more (see Unit!)
Publications show (in quality and quantity a good productivity. Training results are good (PhD’s!! and Masters); international cooperation is not very clear, but seems OK. Future vision is ambitious and could stand a bit more focus as well as a more efficient cooperation with third parties. Interesting are joint efforts with the Azores. Compliments for available information, vision and good results.
Mountain Farming Systems [RG-AGR-Norte-Braganca-690-2998]
The group has a good capacity to attract funds. Through EU interreg project, it has consolidated international collaborations. Productivity is good, with an impact factor per staff unit of 0,98. Research concentrates on most relevant productions of the area.
The group covers all productive activities related to farming, but issues such as multifunctionality and diversification, key points of European strategies for rural development, are not present. A link with non agricultural green areas (which is the object of another group of the same unit) is missing. Also socio-economic aspects are not taken into consideration or are underemphasized.
During the panel's visit the group did not succeed to explain properly the socio-economic impact of the activity of the group on the territory, so that it looks as if applied research was separated from scientific research. It also surprised me that there is not a reflection on transfer of knowledge.

I would recommend a stronger focus on the aspects of the context that can give a competitive advantage to the research of the group (the mountain, typical products) and to strengthen socio-economic research, which may help to raise relevant research questions in the other fields and to better respond to the needs of the territory.
The group looks adequate both in organization and leadership. The interaction with the other groups of the units and the unit management makes the working environment stimulating creativity and productivity.
The group consists of 16 researchers (PhD) and 10 other researchers (non PhD). As the group receives just minor base funding from FCT (6%); the activities undertaken are to a large extent project-driven. Thus, research activities and output of the group depend directly on how successful the group is in receiving external funding.
The group is trying to focus on specific issues such as hay-meadow vegetation and quality of pastures, olive orchard pest management and disease resistance in chestnut trees. However, establishing focused research lines is challenging when the activities are to a large extent dependent on short-term funding. The group has been successful in establishing a contract with private sector regarding pest management of olive. As the outcome of the training activities, 7 PhD and 1 MSc theses were produced, which regarding the PhD theses is a fairly good record.