R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Sociologia, Antropologia, Demografia e Geografia

Unidade de I&D

Unidade de Estudo e Investigação de Ciências Sociais Aplicadas [SOC-LVT-Lisboa-462] visitada em 12/10/2007

Classificação: Fair

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
The panel appreciates the openness of the unit towards the evaluation and the efforts done to act upon the remarks made in the previous evaluation. It appreciates too what has been done to give a clearer identity to the centre by changing its name and by trying to orient the work of the unit around a common focus: «sustainable development». But it wonders if this reflects correctly the results obtained.
The panel considers also that the amount of external funds is impressive and certainly gives good prospects for future work with municipalities and local authorities, by helping them to meet the need that are not encountered by public policies or by the market. And the panel is appreciative of the fact that since this year, TERCUD has developed a PHD programme.
The unit is organised in 3 groups plus 2 «associated RG» that are defined by the board as «scientific activities» («Languages and anthropology» and «Geography of natural and technological risks»). These 2 «activities» have no projects and they have not introduced a report. Consequently they will not be considered in this evaluation.
The groups appear more of the nature of administrative entities than of research oriented groups since it is said that the projects that determine the composition of the teams. As in other evaluated units, the organisation is flexible and the effective teams are composed in relation with the specificities of each project. The panel noticed in particular the existence of the group «Sociomuseology» which is probably unique in Portugal and which is promising in relation with the development of tourism.
The denominations of the 3 groups indicate the large diversity of the themes treated: geography of identities and development, sociourbanism and social planning and sociomuseology. They expressed the diversity of disciplines involved (geography, sociology, anthropology, planning, architecture, museology,…) but raise a crucial question as to the effective integration of the researchers.
This question is all the more important since the panel failed to notice an innovative feedback of applied research on the unit’s scientific mission. To warrant the qualification « scientific », a research centre has to exploit the applied projects as means to build and test theoretical hypotheses. If such a feedback is not taking place, the added value of applied research is not forthcoming.
The unit made efforts to build «innovative analytical concepts» but the panel is not convinced that these are scientific «concepts» in the full sense of the term or that they are theoretically «innovative». For instance, apart from the fact that the idea is hardly new, connecting identity with territory («Identerra Model») does not amount to theoretical advance. Furthermore there is apparently little reflection on discovering for whom «territorial identity» corresponds to a need in the current circumstance of mobility and cosmopolitanism. To be able to define and specify the components of regional identity, it is necessary to investigate a full range of variations of supra- and within region identities. But this issue has not yet been precisely formulated.
The panel expresses also its perplexity on learning that the unit publishes 4 journals, which appear also on line. It would seem too much for such a small centre and in the panel’s opinion reflects the absence of an overarching perspective and clear cut theoretical construction.
The panel felt that TERCUD would be better inspired were it organize synergies with other units working on the same topics. Instead of considering them as rivals, the unit could gain by treating them as partners; a move would could help critical, creative distancing from applied research with an eye to the elaboration of a more clearly convincing scientific perspective. It would also improve the unit’s international networking.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Associated Research Group [RG-SOC-LVT-Lisboa-462-2962]
There is no report of this group and during the visit it was defined as a “scientific activity” and not as a group.
Geography of Identities and Development [RG-SOC-LVT-Lisboa-462-1513]
This group appears to have a large diversity of the themes treated and of the disciplines involved, what raises a crucial question as to the effective integration of the researchers. The panel is not convinced that the so-called “innovative analytical concepts” are “scientific concepts” in the full sense of the term or that they are theoretically innovative. Furthermore, the panel failed to notice an innovative feedback of the applied research.
Sociomuseology [RG-SOC-LVT-Lisboa-462-2337]
This group is probably unique in Portugal and is promising in relation with the development of tourism. But, it has to develop its theoretical approach more than it was done until now.
Sociourbanism and Spatial Planning [RG-SOC-LVT-Lisboa-462-2336]
If this group focuses its attention on urbanism and special planning, it does not appear to have a clear theoretical research programme. It seems to be focused on applied research what is stimulating, but without using it as a means to build and test theoretical hypotheses. It would be well inspired to elaborate a more clearly convincing scientific perspective, what could be helped through improving its international networking.

Comentários da unidade

This classification is unacceptable for it fails to recognize a qualitative leap forward TERCUD made in terms of its objectives, activities and outputs.
Unlike alleged by the Panel, and in spite of the diversity of disciplines involved, the research themes plainly converged with TERCUD’s mission (cf. full text in Port. and English at http://tercud.ulusofona.pt).
Contrary to Panel’s view, the objective of most of the applied research was to test scientific hypotheses, including those in the Identerra Model, which is an original theoretical concept derived from the exploratory studies and the current state-of-the-art in theory.
The Panel failed to prove its authority to judge the quality of the scientific merit of the research on territorial identity. If it were not scientifically sound, or not innovative - as the Panel argues - how would it be possible to have it published in Land Use Studies (Elsevier), or invited to Landscape Research (Routledge)? Also, how could have the FCT formally qualified this research as “of high scientific quality in terms of international peer-reviewed publications, upbringing of young researchers and international projection”, and could, as follow-up to all this, have approved a new TERCUD’s project, “SEGREX”, ranked as “excellent” by the international peer-review?
The Panel also did not recognize that all this research actually prompted landscape-related studies, including the book “European Landscapes and Lifestyles” and the organization of the conference “Landscapes, Identities and Development” with 350 participants from 40 countries (cf. http://tercud.ulusofona.pt/PECSRL/PECSRL2008.htm).
The Panel underestimated TERCUD’s internationalization. If the cooperation with universities and institutes in Austria, Brazil, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Spain, UK and USA in projects financed by EU, 5th FP, Interreg/Medoc-B and EEA Grants, or with scholars such as P. Claval, J. Agnew, G. Benko, R. Haesbaert and T. Haraldsen were not sufficient to be appreciated, one wonders what the Panel’s true expectations were.
Instead of questioning “too many” TERCUD’s journals, the Panel should have appreciated their integration in international networks of scientific journals such as LATINDEX, RedAlyc and BiblioSHS(CNRS).
In sum, this evaluation is disappointing for it downplays TERCUD scientific production and ignores progress made in just few years since its foundation.