FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Estudos Africanos

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Estudos Africanos [AFR-LVT-Lisboa-3122] visitada em 20/12/2007

Classificação: Very Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
The panel site visit has been organized as was planned by FCT. We were welcomed by the new Unit coordinator Clara Afonso de Azevedo de Carvalho Piçarra (Chair) and the other members of the board as well as almost all PI’s. A well prepared meeting room was also prepared for the site visit. The thorough preparation of the site visit by the board and the unit’s members made it considerably easier for the evaluation panel to have an overview of ongoing activities. The program of the site visit consisted in an introduction of the Unit members, the overall presentation of the unit and RG followed by question time on overall unit’s policy and RG activities. After the meeting we went to visit the library project and the units’ secretariat. Overall this is the largest unit of African studies in Portugal in terms of number of PI’s, associated researchers and active MA and Phd students. It is also the unit who was also able to attract external and complementary funding of different sources.
The evaluation panel followed the same procedure as with the CEAP unit and started with individual RG’s. However since the PI of the ‘Politics in Africa’ was also responsible for the library project we shall discuss it here first, especially because we consider this library project capable for servicing and coordinating the necessary virtual library setup in the domain of African Studies. The creation of a library on African Studies shared by different centres is an excellent initiative started within this unit and we therefore recommend to continue funding this project. The structure of the ‘Politics in Africa’ research project itself, grouping 5 well articulated lines of political studies testifies to the coordination capacities of researchers who are obviously attracted by the quality of the scientific environment. Among the objectives of the group, better internationalization is one of the aims; while its standard is already very good, with, close connections with Spain and, at the international level, the affiliation to AEGIS. One of the means to improve internationalization even further testifies to the excellent group coordination, as each researcher responsible for one line of research will be entrusted with the organization of an international conference. This is very good management
The second group on ‘Development and international cooperation’ led by João Milando answered questions about the group and successfully defended the common epistemology and research direction of the group, thus allaying somewhat preliminary fears that the agenda and scope of this Research Group is overly disparate and exhaustive. It does, however, remain the case that the education and health research subgroups have the task of creating an original and feasible research agenda within the wider group, a point well understood by those new researchers concerned. This Research Group has the potential to contribute to international debate and to influence and shape intellectual agendas in Europe and beyond. Continued FCT funding for individual projects would be productively used within this RG, both in an intellectual and value for money sense.
The third RG on ‘ Economics and Entrepreneurship’ led by the former unit coordinator Prof. Fialho is work of an excellent calibre, but may still need to be promoted more extensively in English-language journals in order to garner the full degree of intellectual acknowledgement.
The specificity of discipline based research may require the funding of special projects in development economics, to ensure collegial collaboration in the furthering and retention of discipline-based methodologies and skills, particularly as researchers join the new multidisciplinary research group 'Development and International Cooperation'. Researchers using quantification, econometrics and computation might benefit from collaborations with CESA. Since this group is not planning to continue in 2008-2010, we forgot to enquire on how experience and interesting knowledge will be transferred to the other groups.
The fourth RG on ‘Wars, violent conflicts and forced migrations in África’ led by PI Manuel João Mendes da Silva Ramos can be congratulated because it has been the most successful of all RG in attracting national and international external funding. In all respects this is an impressive group and could be a leader for other related RG in the field (e.g. for the interesting group on ‘conflicts and identities’ at CEAUP. We also believe that the theme on Migration and Development bringing development closer to societal problems at home is worthwhile pursuing and expanding.
Although to a lesser extent than in the other units we have at CEA also a downward trend of the number of MA students. It would be good if the unit tries to give an answer to the different questions. Although the number of MA’s is going down, we read in the ‘future vision’ that it should be increased and that a Phd program in African studies is planned for 2008.We recommend that due thought is given to the downward trend of MA’s and in the need of a separate full scale PhD program in African Studies at the level of each of the African Units.
First an assessment is needed into the reasons of decline of the attractiveness of the MA program in African Studies. Is it because development studies are going down in general? Has it to do with less attractiveness of the African continent, or too little job opportunities in that area? Is there too little specialization in the MA or do students have the option for similar programs in other European centres? Can you have different MA’s in African Studies in Portugal? Could there not be a division of labour between the three bigger Africa Studies Units with each centre having one in which it is best equipped? Of course the trend of decentralising towards African universities (especially in lusophone Africa) is a worthwhile venture that should be stimulated.
Second concerning the PhD program, we can only reiterate a fortiori the questions we have concerning the MA program. Although PhD students need to work and be affiliated to one African study Unit after a first introductory year, it is highly recommended that a first year on methodology and basic courses should be a joint program.
Finally, the fact that CEA has, more than the other units, greater exposure and cooperation with other European universities and programs can possibly explain the lesser downward trend in number of students. If this is true than our recommendations is to look for synergies, complementarities and cooperation both in Portugal and Europe in the area of African studies.
In sum, the site visit was very well prepared by the CEA team. We noticed some very outstanding features in the functioning of the unit. First the transition of responsibilities in the board and the direction of the unit seem to be very well accepted and leading to a collective responsibility for the overall performance of the unit. The role of the leading PI and former unit coordinator in fostering a good transition for the unit is remarkable. We believe that there is a lot of trust between the new and the old coordinator, explaining perhaps the good atmosphere and cooperative spirit in the unit. This characteristic of good new and old leadership probably helped a lot to form a well-motivated group.
Furthermore the CEA unit is the largest unit in terms of performance, finance, PI students PhD and MA’s and most successful in attracting external funding. Finally there is good mix of experienced and young researchers and an excellent cooperative spirit within the unit.
We therefore grade the unit without any doubt as 'very good'. As mentioned earlier, some aspects can even be graded as ‘excellent’. There is still room for improvement, especially along the lines suggested in the summary above of the recommendations for the different RG’s and the questions concerning the educational programs (MA and PhD –see above). At the general level the room for improvement concerns
1) Publication and participation in the international scientific arena (peer reviewed articles for a wider European and North American audience)
2) Continue the development of the website
3) The reinforcement of the network of the Portuguese African and Development studies. In order to give a prominent place to Portugal within the networks of African studies, what is needed is cooperation (not competition) and looking for complementarities in the domain of education and research.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Development and International Cooperation [RG-AFR-LVT-Lisboa-3122-3006]
The group report relies heavily on the publications of a small number of the total individuals listed, requiring that further enquiry be made as to the contributions of the wider group, which might turn out to be anticipated rather than proved at this point as it is a future project. The relevance of the group is high, although this is partly because of the very broad scope of the research. The sector based groups - education, health - need to give an idea of the specificity of their intended contributions.
João Milando answered questions about the group and successfully defended the common epistemology and research direction of the group, thus allaying somewhat preliminary fears that the agenda and scope of this Research Group is overly disparate and exhaustive. It does, however, remain the case that the education and health research subgroups have the task of creating an original and feasible research agenda within the wider group, a point well understood by those new researchers concerned.
That the group organizes around a common critique of the universalizing development paradigm and its postcolonial modes of knowledge creation is a potentially creative spring board from which the analysis and deconstruction of indigenous knowledge and practice can emerge and expand. However, in so far as the post-development critique has become the mainstream in radical institutes and among leading academics, it is not necessary for the group to insist on philosophical oppositional when this interferes with the creativity of their important work on how development discourse and practice condition and shape the fields of action of participants and societies, and how, moreover, African societies and cultures produce and use knowledge in and of themselves.
A major strength of this group, however, is that it is inclusive and experimental, allowing junior researchers access to a career path in research, leading to junior and middle level management roles. It is also inclusive of collaborations, networks and the involvement of African researchers and academics both in Lisbon and beyond. The ranking for productivity is reliant, to a certain degree, on the extended publications of a few members of the group, since inevitably more junior members have published less at the current stages of their careers.
Organisation and leadership were impressive and motivating, while the culture of the group was encouraging and inclusive. This Research Group has the potential to contribute to international debate and to influence and shape intellectual agendas in Europe and beyond. That the evidence of this is scarce at present relates only to the relatively junior character of some of its researchers, and perhaps to a certain lack of impact of the work of the more senior researchers who may require more exposure in English-language publications: it is not the quality of the work which is at issue, only aspects of its promotion and marketing. The Group, or wider Unit, may wish to consider selling the translation rights to some of the articles it publishes within a special edition of the journal, or a new one, for an international audience, although this should not be taken as a recommendation to alter research agendas in the group or Unit per se.
Increased FCT funding for individual projects would be productively used within this RG, both in an intellectual and value for money sense.
Economics and Entrepreneurship [RG-X-AFR-LVT-Lisboa-3122-3011]
The group has an impressive list of international publications, networking activities and events. Its productivity is good and the publications of international standard, as far as is possible to judge by the calibre of publisher, rather than actually reading them. The participation of graduate students is also excellent. It might be that the relevance of the groups' work is also of a high calibre, but this requires some further assessment, as to the impact of the various activities, in the absence of data such as citations. However, that the group engage directly with a user community indicates that both the relevance and feasibility categories may be high. This group seem really impressive, although I do need to take a second look at this group relative to others who have much less resources financially and in terms of staff, just to make sure it is not just a much bigger operation. That being said, the publications of individual researchers are in the vast majority both regular and pertinent to the programme of research.
The group has an impressive list of international publications, networking activities and events. Its productivity is good and the publications of international standard, more impressive in that some of the authors are rather junior academics, who have nonetheless been successfully fostered and grown within the Research Group. The participation of graduate students is excellent, while individual projects have graduated a first generation of postgraduates into middle level research managers. The publications of individual researchers are in the vast majority both regular and pertinent to the programme of research, although the Research Group’s title did not encompass all the research underway by the end of the reporting period due to the growth of successful projects within the group which had expanded the economics research beyond entrepreneurship and into broader aspects of management and culture. Indeed, the coherence of the group’s research objectives was being compromised somewhat by its own success and, as explained at the site visit, the four projects of the group were, by this point, sharing a management structure due to logistical and management economies, as much as because of shared intellectual direction.
The group engage directly with a user community and have been successful in attracting research monies from a range of sources, indicating that they maintain a relevant and feasible agenda. There is much evidence that they maintain an international profile through visits, keynote speeches, conference engagements and networking, although as the group mature one would also expect more evidence of international citation and influence intellectually. The work is of an excellent calibre, but may still need to be promoted more extensively in English-language journals in order to garner the full degree of intellectual acknowledgement due. The separate projects on comparative entrepreneurship and China and urban livelihoods and informality retain the promise of international impact, although the strategic direction of development economics and economics research may need reviewing in the medium future to ensure that the Research Group retains a motivating identity over and beyond the individual projects it houses.
The specificity of discipline based research may require the funding of special projects in development economics, to ensure collegial collaboration in the furthering and retention of discipline-based methodologies and skills, particularly as researchers join the new multidisciplinary research group 'Development and International Cooperation'. Researchers using quantification, econometrics and computation might benefit from collaborations with CESA.
Politics in Africa [RG-AFR-LVT-Lisboa-3122-2999]
Beautifully articulated team project rooted in the tradition of the research centre.
The composition of the team is interesting, with researchers involved in Development, political sciences, etc. Looking at the individual CV’s, one gets the portrait of a vivid team, interested in areas that are at the heart of social sciences today. The dynamism of the team appears in the organization of international conferences, etc. This however, does not reflect in publications in International, peer reviewed journals that have become the criteria of the day. In social sciences, it is true, books still (fortunately) hold a valued position, but equally, book by an individual author are few in the bibliographies of the team members, and they remain national.
The in-site visit conveys an excellent impression. Aside of the dynamic Unit coordinator, the PI of this RG is equally dedicated and obviously fosters good relations with a series of networks, as well as within the unit. This appears in the excellent Journal published regularly by CEA since 2001: Cadernos de Estudos Africanos, as well as in attracted funding.
The structure of the project itself, grouping 5 well articulated lines of political studies testifies to the coordination capacities of researchers who are obviously attracted by the quality of the scientific environment.
Internationalization is very good as far as seminars, collaboration with African institutions, inclusion in international organizations such as AEGIS, or connections with Spanish researchers, etc. are concerned but one could hope for a better internationalization of publishing. This is a difficult dilemma, as writing in one’s own language is paramount to preserve an original way of thinking that can only enrich international fields of academic exchange, but English is getting so dominant that it is unavoidable. Funding translation of texts could be the best solution, and could possibly better be done in the context of a Portuguese journal of African studies. The creation of a coordinate African library by the PI of this groups certainly an initiative to be supported, and not only as such, but also because interactions around the building of a library creates new opportunities of academic exchanges that will benefit all members of this RG and researchers in African studies more generally.
A good number of masters and Ph.D. have been produced within the context of the RG and several seminars organized.
The creation of a library on African Studies shared by different centres is an excellent initiative started within this unit, but he PI of this research group.
ICT is being used systematically to increase academic exchanges to the extent as creating what as well called a” virtual team” crossing borders.
Among the objectives of the group, better internationalization is one of the aims; while its standard is already very good, with, close connections with Spain and, at the international level, the affiliation to AEGIS. One of the means to improve internationalization even further testifies to the excellent group coordination, as each researcher responsible for one line of research will be entrusted with the organization of an international conference. This is very good management.
Comments would be more at the unit level. My own impression is that all opportunities are used in an optimal way.
Wars, violent conflicts and forced migrations in África [RG-AFR-LVT-Lisboa-3122-3027]
The general aims of this very well funded and internationally connected group are well in tune with international trends in the area. The strategies adopted to enhance the productivity of the group and its capabilities seem ideal as described in the document. However, this quality does not match with the real production of the group in terms of publications. At first sight, these are both to few and of a level that could be expected to be higher, given the available resources both in staff, in cash, and in networks. However, publishing acts with Kingston is not small an achievement and this can have been extremely demanding in terms of work.
There is no doubt about the relevance of the projects that have been, indeed reviewed by important international and national funding agencies.
Attracting funding as this group does testifies to the relevance of its themes, and to the general interest of the studies, as well as to the credibility of the research group. This credibility is enhanced by the interviews during the on-site visit, with some striking, innovative researchers coming forth. Researching the themes through extensive case studies will allow for a comparative perspective that is necessary in order to promote more fundamental approaches. This is also an excellent manner to promote academic exchanges between the researchers on the project. From these exchanges, we think we can conclude that this group has developed extensive research networks and seems to promote studies based on long-term fieldwork in the best academic tradition. One detail remark is perhaps worth transmitting here. The themes of research and the methods appropriate to their study require close collaboration with local informants and an intensive and close collaboration for transcription and translation. Working under the circumstances demands flexibility (or explicit specific agreements) as far as some aspects of accountability are concerned. This could be a point to consider when allocating funds for local translators who cannot deliver a receipt in the way usual accountancy would demand. All requirements made here seem relevant to me.
The objectives for further research are relevant as well, and international networks, as well as past publications by members of a rather young team, allow for optimism as far as the output is concerned. The PI and the members of the team we met are aware of the need to involve PhDs and masters students and this will be done as the starting projects are implemented.
Outreach activities should include the organization of international conferences in the future, and more publications at a first rate international level. Connections already exist with Naples, Paris 1 and several African universities.
We could not, unfortunately, meet with the PI, however, the evaluation here above leads to conclude that without a good leadership what has been achieved could not have happened.
Plans for a better involvement of PHD students are being done. Other goals the group has determined are a reinforcement of the connections between teaching and research, a more aggressive policy of divulgation meeting the international standard for first rank publications

Comentários da unidade

The evaluation panel members acted also as an advisory council, so enriching the evaluation visit and transforming it into a dialogue from which this center profited largely, and that is reflected in the current evaluation. We just remark some small misunderstandings expressed in this text, such as the one concerning the role of the Central Library of African Studies, which is a separated project that involves all the major centers and researchers on this field in Portugal and is coordinated by Prof. Manuel João Ramos. The particular characteristics of this project are not reflected in this evaluation. Also there is a confusion between the research line in Politics in Africa, led by Professor Eduardo Costa Dias that attracts an important number of young students of the Master and PhD. programs on African Studies, and the line on Wars, Violent Conflicts and Forced Migration in Africa led by Prof. Manuel João Ramos, characterized by its international network connections and leading international publications. Finally, the line on Economics and Entrepreneurship has been continued led by a new P.I., Dr. Cristina Udelsman Rodrigues.