FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências da Saúde

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Investigação em Ciências e Tecnologias da Saúde [HESC-Alentejo-Evora-4079] visitada em 06/03/2008

Classificação: Fair

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
This Unit is new; therefore there was perhaps insufficient time to establish a strategy for focused research and future growth. The main objective of the Unit is to investigate how to maintain an autonomous lifestyle and quality of life in the elderly. This is a valuable goal being pursued in industrialized nations and the timing is excellent because it is an exploding field. However, this also poses many challenges to the Unit because of its limited resources in personnel, scientific expertise and environment. The general consensus of the Panel is that the topics are too broadly defined, there is insufficient thematic coherence among them and they do not map well neither in the proposed work nor in the scientific background of the researchers. As such we recommend that the group rethinks its strategy together with a set of international advisors that collectively should form a Scientific Advisory Board.

For both groups, the training programs appear to be quite new, and it is not clear that a cohesive training culture has emerged that promotes graduate students working together, and includes both research training and career mentoring. External research contacts (e.g., travel to international meetings) should be encouraged. However, the graduate students appear to be satisfied with their research opportunities.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Biomecânica Experimental, Actividade Física, Bem-Estar e Reabilitação [RG-HESC-Alentejo-Evora-4079-78]
This research group appears to be composed of 2 research teams with very different research agendas. One team (the PA team) addresses questions concerning the effects of physical activity on various health/disease states. Very little of their past work, however, has focused on the elderly. The other team appears to focus on questions of how various biomaterials can be used in conditions where bone remodelling is necessary (the BONE team). None of their past work has focused on the elderly. It is not clear how these teams fit to form a Unit. The PA team seems to be a logical fit for the title of this Unit, while the BONE team appears to be aligned most closely with the rehabilitation aspects of the Unit, and seems a better fit for a biomedical engineering unit. This set of projects is very heterogeneous, ranging from understanding and improving bone density and increasing physical performance of older adults to more societal goals of maintaining older adults in their homes. The team has goals in primary as well as tertiary (rehabilitation) areas for improving and maintaining function. Intervention projects (exercise) are not described clearly, but presumably will include individual or group interventions of a large group for primary prevention, and patients (e.g., following arthroplasty) for rehabilitation. The most distal goal of this program is to maintain autonomy and independence of older adults in their homes and communities. The goal is clear, and may have important contributions to health economies of the country (and in other countries) if the research program is successful.
There does appear to be a critical mass of Faculty members on the PA team. Three of the Faculty members are new and it is impossible to gauge the effectiveness of the team at this point. The BONE team does not appear to have reached a critical mass as it is composed on only 2 Faculty members, 1 technician, and 1 student.
Each of the research objectives of the PA team is very broad in scope and much is already known about each. The first 3 objectives seem to require general exercise physiology methodology, whereas the last 3 propose studies of psychological effects of exercise. This team is certainly capable of designing experiments to address important issues in these first 3 categories. However, it is not explained as to how the group will design experiments to address particular and new aspects of these areas. Also, it is not clear how the group proposes to contribute to the last 3 objectives in light of the research foci of the team. Thus, the key questions become: 1) can the team delineate the important specific questions in these categories and 2) do they have the skills necessary to answer these specific questions?
The BONE team objectives also are very broad. For example, although the first objective states the intent to study muscle/bone, it is clear that the group’s main research interest is bone. It is not clear as to who on the team will develop studies in this area, nor is it clear what those studies will concern. The second objective is more specific and clearly encompasses the interests and skill of the BONE team. The third objective seems to incorporate the interests of a doctoral student. However, it is unclear as to how this research fits with the BONE team. How can this be an objective of the unit with only one student who may have a research interest in the area?
In total, the numbers and quality of international publications are low. For the most, they are in journals not tracked by ISI, and an objective evaluation is not possible (as an exception, Prof. Carus has recently published in what is probably the best international journal in exercise science). Presentations are substantial but local in nature. For the PA team, their time in rank explains much of the low productivity. In time, they may be very productive. For the BONE team, several members have focused on other areas of research and are just now turning their attention to bone research. Overall productivity by the Research Group is Fair. Many of the questions posed have been already addressed in numerous studies in the elderly. The questions need to be refined and focused on areas that have not been delineated. In this way, these investigators can publish their data in well-respected, high impact international journals.
The research topics of both groups certainly have merit in solving problems in their respective fields, but there is no evidence that this Research Unit can make an impact on their field of study. Both teams of researchers have expressed a desire to focus on problems of the elderly. While that goal is attainable, there is no “track record” of research with that focus. Thus, the feasibility of the research plan that has been delineated is not apparent. Moreover, the research plan is vague and not specific enough to clearly delineate a series of experiments that will contribute to the body of knowledge.
Processos de Saúde/Doença e Práticas de Cuidados a Pessoas Idosas e suas Famílias [RG-HESC-Alentejo-Evora-4079-2739]
This Unit is composed of Faculty from several disciplines within the University. The strongest, most focused group seems to be from nursing, but strategically the group members are not combined for an overall goal of improving health care practice among the elderly and understanding family supports for older adult independence. Specific research projects (indeed entire portfolios) are directed at end of life care and understanding quality of life, but it is not clear how each of the other Faculty member’s research fits into the broader scope of aging research. The other Faculty members are from other psycho/social areas of study but do not seem to be working with elderly. A primary concern is the very broad nature of the stated objectives. It is not clear how the Unit will achieve these goals.
In materials available on the web and during the site visit, the specific experiences and expertise of the group in the research areas is not transparent. These areas are also very broad and detailed plans need to be formulated to address which problems in each of these areas will be investigated. There are 20 ongoing projects with 18 apparently being supported. There are interesting links to the Universities of Porto, Extremadura, and Brazilian Universities; how these tie into research goals, and what priority these research activities have for long term planning and sustainability, are less clear. In particular, there is not a clear foundation for research and programs that can extend to clinical settings, or to the community. Evora’s geographical location might be exploited to further specialize, for example to rural health.
Leadership and organization for this group is currently based on Dr. Lopes (there are not international (English) publications or reports, so the content of the PI’s prior research is not clear to some of the members of this international Panel). The group requires more coordination and would be improved with reducing the number of research areas to ones with current or potential critical mass, setting priorities, and including external (preferentially international) advisors. Based on CVs, the productivity of the group appears to be internal (to Portugal) with rare exceptions. The goals of the group may be exceptionally relevant to Portugal and the developed countries in general. For example, understanding and supporting end-of-life care for an aging population is important, but no interventions are listed to ascertain what kinds of specific research topics and interventions are expected to be mounted. The group has very little direct experience in older adult populations except for nursing and an ongoing collaboration on health status with the University of Porto. Without some additional incubation time and more focused experience, the proposed program of research does not appear to be feasible.