FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências Agrárias

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Botânica Aplicada à Agricultura [AGR-LVT-Lisboa-240] visitada em 19/01/2008

Classificação: Very Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
Goals, ongoing and planned projects, strategic development in the future.

Introduction
Clearly CBAA is one of the strongest agricultural research unit in Portugal where a critical mass of research potential of 89 people all together has been accumulated of which 39 PhD researchers and 45 PhD and Ms students in order to bring fundamental research to its application in area of Agriculture where the grape and wine production improvement have been defined as a priority.
CBAA is highly ranking unit worldwide in the fields of stress physiology, genomics and genetic and breeding of economically important species.
The unit deals with research where the scope of expertise ranges from the molecular to the landscape level.

Evaluation
The unit is challenged to meet the international standards of research and development by:
- Establishing of International Scientific Advisory Committee which is assisting to increase the focus of the CBAA research and development
- Active participation in the essential EC networking programs as COST; ERA – Plant Genomics ;BGCI -European Consortium of Botanical Gardens etc.
- Establishment of National Platform for grape and wine production development. It will allow the research in the unit to be prioritized and thus to contribute more significantly for the national and the EC bioeconomy development.
- Increasing the number of the publications with higher Impact factor. In comparison with the previous evaluation period 2003 - 2006 the improvement in the year 2007 is 37%.The publications with international collaboration show 48%.
- The number of PhD and Ms students has been increased substantially.
- Some of the research is aimed to meet the needs of the industry. The first technology transfer operation is being planned to occur by the patent for the BLAD compound which is a new concept of fungicide.



- The new challenge generated by the global climatic change will be met by focusing on studies related with abiotic and biotic stresses and the elucidation of the epigenetic mechanisms by involving all traditional and new methods including genomics and management strategies for ecological monitoring.
- The participation in international conferences is relevant and improved.
- The funding at the national level is gaining momentum but not yet from the international sources.
- The contribution to the society has been reached by giving consultancy to the food industry and wine makers and central and local government by organizing workshops and training courses.

Recommendations
The positive developments and the research progress made by the unit could be further improved if significant effort and support is given to the following items:
- Improvement of research infrastructure and facilities like High-throughput analytical apparatus which are to increase the efficiency of modern genomic studies
- The timely organization of the LEAF Associated Center should be speeded up. The involvement of the CBAA unit in such integrative strategy research Center is going to be a crucial and essential for its consolidation and significant improvement of its research and development competence.
- The integration between the groups is good but should be widen by the involvement of the vegetation science group.
- More active participation in the EC research and mobility programs and especially FP 7th programme (Themes 2, 5, 6;Marie Curie; Capacity; Infrastructure)
- More mobility of the human potential is required especially at the international level
- To continue the improvement of the application of the multidisciplinary approach by involvement of such disciplines like mathematics, bioinformatics and socioeconomic analyses.
- Technology transfer policy requires specific attention to be given for the establishment of specific skills to protect the IPR in a timely manner

Training of young researchers and students
Very good

Organization of workshops
Very good

Interdisciplinary activities
Good

Interactions with other national and international research units and companies
Good

Participation in international research programmes (EU etc.)
Below potential

Knowledge and technology transfer
Good

Outreach activities
Very good

Attitude and work environment
Good

Most pertinent comments and recommendations:
The positive developments and the research progress made by the unit could be further improved if significant effort and support is given to the following items:
Improvement of research infrastructure and facilities like High-throughput analytical apparatus which are to increase the efficiency of modern genomic studies.



- The timely organization of the LEAF Associated Center should be speeded up. The involvement of the CBAA unit in such integrative strategy research Center is going to be a crucial and essential for its consolidation and significant improvement of its research and development competence.
- The integration between the groups is good but should be widen by the involvement of the vegetation science group.
- More active participation in the EC research and mobility programs and especially FP 7th programme (Themes 2, 5, 6; Marie Curie; Capacity; Infrastructure).
- More mobility of the human potential is required especially at the international level.
- To continue the improvement of the application of the multidisciplinary approach by involvement of such disciplines like mathematics, bioinformatics and socioeconomic analyses.
- Technology transfer policy requires specific attention to be given for the establishment of specific skills to protect the IPR in a timely manner.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Genomics and Plant Breeding [RG-AGR-LVT-Lisboa-240-2873]
This small group is showing good productivity in a relevant area of research.
The background and the future research of the group are obviously well connected. The understanding of the epigenetic changes is very much needed nowadays in order to clarify how to control the basic functions and the genetic potential of the plants. Furthermore these studies are connected with economically important species like grapevine and oak.
The future funding is well secured both public and industrial resources. The rating of the publications (IF averagely is the highest among all I have estimated - 9.2 ) is proving that high quality research was performed within this group. Other publications are also well presented in well recognized publishing groups, conferences and symposia.
The PhDs thesis, patents, organization of the conferences, industry contract research and the international cooperation is also well documented and with high quality.
How the group planning to be involved more actively into ERA-NET, ETP and the 7th FP of the EC
Microorganisms, Food and Beverages [RG-AGR-LVT-Lisboa-240-2090]
This is an impressive research group lead by a PI with an excellent CV. It has an excellent record in getting research funding and publishes its main research results in high impact factor journals and has very good citation numbers. It has a very relevant research strategy and plan for future research.
Its programme for training young researchers is exemplary. Involvement with industry and in dissemination of research results are most satisfactory as is national and international collaboration.
The group has excellent organization and leadership.
The culture and climate for the training of younger researchers are also excellent.
This is one of the three groups that are tightly integrated in the applied Botany and Agriculture unit and it is exemplary of the research that Portugal is capable of when the available expertise is concentrated into appropriate subject areas. It is a medium sized unit of 11 Ph. D. researchers (6.8 full-time equivalents). During the evaluation period, they produced 37 ISI indexed publications, while training for young scientists (i.e. no staff members) amounted to 3 Ph. D. and 7 master’s theses. They also organized numerous workshops and conferences, and participated in 10 multidisciplinary activities. International outreach was also good since the group developed several links in5 EU countries and 4 other international countries, and they were involved in technology transfer to the wine and cheese making industries.
The main line of research is concentrated around fermentation, and particularly grape fermentation and winemaking. The group has rightly concentrated on yeast and particular types, such as spoilage yeasts that an important factor that reduces the quality of the wine produced. The work is highly relevant to the wine industry in Portugal. They have developed approaches to gain understanding into the underlying cellular mechanisms, and this approach and the resulting publications should enable them to firmly establish the group as an international reference for research in this subject area. The integration with other units is excellent, implemented through the ‘horizontal’ grapevine and wine platform, and have enabled the results of research to be carried forward to new procedures and products that will benefit the wine industry.

We did not have an opportunity to judge the adequacy of resources, but the group did express a need for a well equipped microbiology laboratory to enable them to carry out their future research work, and I agree that this facility is necessary.
Future research objectives have been defined and show that the unit intends to exploit modern, genomic approaches to identify beneficial genes and then obtain their expression in good strains. Similarly, there is a very interesting integrated approach (genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics to develop strategies to remove the pathogen L. monocytogenes from food plants.
Plant Physiology and Molecular Biology [RG-AGR-LVT-Lisboa-240-1720]
This is a rather small group with good productivity.
The research work of the group was and continues to be connected with the studies on the abiotic stress mechanisms which are the main limiting factors of the plant productivity.
The funding of the group so far has been very reasonable. Five projects averagely surmount 80,000 € 13 PhDs The group has 13 PhDs without any non PhDs. This ratio should be seriously considered in order the group to become more effective.
The average rating of the publications is very good (IF - 2.8)
This results are correspondingly well with the completed Ms and PhDs thesis, the patents and the organization of local and international conferences.
How is he group planning to be involved into the 7th FP of the EC?
Vegetation Science [RG-AGR-LVT-Lisboa-240-2888]
The group is rather small (6 fte) and tries to cover a wide array of (interesting and important topics). Quite some of the projects are basic and descriptive. There seems to be a (possible) link/ cooperation with the work of Evora, though not explicitly indicated. Overall the objectives are too broad and ambitious to reach with own staff. It seems that many projects are the continuation of earlier work, so that a shift to newer avenues of research is only gradual. Cooperation is mainly on Portuguese level, less with other countries. The group seems to be reasonably productive, training results (PhD’s and Masters) are good. Future research is thought to change towards more explanatory and predictive, which should be welcomed if staff capacity is sufficient. More focus, more cooperation could be necessary.

Comentários da unidade

The CBAA greatly appreciates the current evaluation process, and feels that the observations and suggestions provided by the panel members were thorough as well as constructive. However, a marked discrepancy exists between the final grade attributed (very good) and the comments provided, which point towards CBAA excellence. The panels´ global opinion states:

“Clearly CBAA is one of the strongest agricultural research unit in Portugal where a critical mass of research potential of 89 people all together has been accumulated of which 39 PhD researchers and 45 PhD and Ms students in order to bring fundamental research to its application in area of Agriculture where the grape and wine production improvement have been defined as a priority.
CBAA is highly ranking unit worldwide in the fields of stress physiology, genomics and genetic and breeding of economically important species.”

The first statement enhances the excellence of CBAA at the national context and the last one discloses its high level in the international community. However, final grade does not represent at all the stated absolute value of CBAA and even less its actual ranking/capacities within the scientific area evaluated by this panel. We therefore consider that coherence between appreciation and ranking, the most important step associated to an evaluation procedure, was not achieved.

Moreover, detailed analysis of the performance and goals of each research group were highly positive. For example:

“This is an impressive research group … an excellent record in getting research funding and publishes its main research results in high impact factor journals… “
“…it is exemplary of the research that Portugal is capable of when the available expertise is concentrated into appropriate subject areas”
“The rating of the publications (IF averagely is the highest among all I have estimated - 9.2 ) is proving that high quality research was performed within this group.“
“The PhDs thesis, patents, organization of the conferences, industry contract research and the international cooperation is also well documented and with high quality.”