FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências do Mar

Unidade de I&D

IMAR- Centro Interdisciplinar de Coimbra [MAR-Centro-Coimbra-284] visitada em 15/01/2008

Classificação: Very Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
The Centro Interdisciplinar de Coimbra consists of several research groups that cover a wide range of research topics, ranging from geochemistry and hydrodynamics to environmental related biomedical research. Thus, for each of the groups the reviewers had special comments and special questions (see group reports). A question that emerged repeatedly related to the exact involvement of some groups in international projects. Another question arose about the relation/interaction of research being done at the Centro Interdisciplinar de Coimbra and similar research being conducted at other Portuguese research institutes.

The final evaluation of research groups ranged from good to very good or even better than very good. Thus the Centro Interdisciplinar de Coimbra is an active and powerful research unit. The groups in this unit cover a wide range of disciplines ranging from geochemistry and hydrodynamics to environmental related biomedical research. As the very wide range of research topics was presented in a very streamlined format it was sometimes difficult for the committee to obtain necessary detailed information about some of the groups. For the same reason it was also difficult for the panel to obtain information about the exact involvement of the different groups in international collaborations.

The panel encourages the groups of this unit to carry out an internal discussion on how to improve cohesion among the groups. Thus, the panel agrees with the unit's plan to become a member of a new associated lab, since such a structure could bring together groups working on related topics from different units. One example is the group 892. It is essential for this research group to have taxonomic expertise. Currently the group is relying on taxonomic expertise from colleagues from the University of Barcelona. Apparently Portugal has no institution that can provide the required taxonomic expertise. As a prerequisite for all ecological studies, establishing a Portuguese taxonomic expertise within an associated lab structure together with Marine Botanists and Marine Zoologists from Centro de Oceanografia (MAR-LVT-Lisboa-199) could be very beneficial. Likewise other disciplines, such as hydrodynamics, could profit from the formation of an associated lab.

The students of all groups have expressed their contentment, despite limited financial resources for their research. Students that receive grants from FCT should be encouraged to fully exploit the opportunity to visit other European laboratories.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Applied botany and landscape ecology [RG-X-MAR-Centro-Coimbra-284-2070]
Ecological modelling [RG-MAR-Centro-Coimbra-284-898]
The committee rated the overall performance of the group as very good but also made suggestions for improvements. The research program led by Dr. Ferreira for the group, Ecological Modelling at the IMAR- Centro Interdisciplinar de Coimbra, is diverse and the group consists of a multidisciplinary team of researchers. The group includes16 scientists with Ph.D.’s and another 16 non-PhD researchers. The following two main areas were investigated: a) development of modelling approaches to predict, evaluate and monitor various environmental effects on aquatic ecosystems, b) development of new approaches to promote sustainable governance of marine resources with an emphasis on the conflict between biodiversity conservation strategies and economic issues. Under the above two themes several subprojects are listed with appropriate goals, however it was difficult to assess the productivity within the two themes and each subproject.
The overall scientific productivity in terms of publications in leading journals, book chapters and conference proceedings is rated good. Several models related to aquaculture resource management and eutrophication assessment are listed but the contribution of this group in developing these models was not clear. The group has been also involved with industry contract research. There is no patent listed.
The group organized 7 conferences and seminars at the national level during the period under review. In 2005, the group leader, Dr. Ferreira, was short listed for the “Fit for the Future Award” at the Aquaculture Today conference for his scientific achievements. This reflects the relevance of the research to aquaculture programs. The group is cohesive, productive and deals with pertinent environmental management and governance issues. The socio-economic impact of the work of the group is difficult to judge but appears low.
The group has been modifying several practical models related to aquaculture resource management and eutrophication assessment for use in Portugal, USA and other EU countries. The group also has a good track record with involvement in several EU projects as well as international collaboration in marine ecological modelling programs. They have been working with industry and have undertaken industry contract research. The overall feasibility of the programs conducted by the group seems above average.
Seven M. Sc. theses were completed in 2006 and 6 doctorate theses from 2003 to 2005. They received training in ecological modelling, environment quality assessment, biomarkers (biochemicals, physiological and genetics), methodology development to evaluate sediment risk assessment particularly contaminants. Graduate students and training networks have been established with other institutions in Portugal and some EU countries. These students have limited job opportunities in Portugal after their training.
There are too many objectives for the research program and some are the follow up from previous years and they will be continued in the coming years. The rationales and achievements for these projects were somewhat clear from the information provided during the presentation, but many points were not clarified during the presentation. The projects related to genotoxic and immunotoxic effects of industrial toxins and the development of certain integrated methodologies such as biomarkers (biochemical, genetic, and physiological responses) and specific contaminant assessment are too diverse and progress made in this area is limited. It would be better to focus on selected biomarker methodologies. Collaboration with other leading scientists in the area of modelling within Portugal and EU countries should be expanded and more relevant models for Portugal should be developed for aquaculture resource management.
Ecotoxicology, environment and health [RG-MAR-Centro-Coimbra-284-896]
The committee rated the overall performance of the group as very good. Although an (apparently) heterogeneous research group (human medicine in biology), the output in publications (impact factors very high), books and book chapters is very high.
Relevance to humans (toxicity) is very high. Anthropogenic pollution, contamination by old uranium-mines and its remediation, the study of the microbial community structure and function of water and soil contaminated environments are hotspots of environmental research.
The combination of postdoc researchers in the domains mentioned above could make this group outstanding if the group leader succeeds in making them work synergetically. The fact that the team is working very well internationally and succeeds in getting abundant funding appears to be a guarantee for the feasibility of the group’s plans for future research.
A nice number of MSc and PhD theses, of course, spread over a large number of postdoc researchers.
The group leader will have to make sure that the research of the subgroup on mitochondria and diseases (now mainly working on Diabetes, cholestasis, steatosis and cardiac failure due to drugs used in medical practices) will be optimally integrated in the general themes of the Group, being ecotoxicology, environment and health.
The appointment of one (two asked) technician for the radionuclide analysis of geologic and biologic materials as well as for the genetic analyzer for the microbiology laboratory is strongly recommended. It would increase the data output for both subgroups and give more time to the scientists to analyze the results rather than carrying out technical activities.
Environmental biogeochemistry [RG-MAR-Centro-Coimbra-284-895]
The committee rated the overall performance of the group as good. Number of publications needs to be improved. The presentation did not explain how this would be achieved.
The research is relevant. It was not presented clearly on which main topics the research group will focus and how their goals would be achieved.
The number of PhD students was lower compared to other research units, the number of master students was better.
It was not presented clearly how the research group is cooperating with other groups.
Freshwater ecosystems and catchment areas [RG-MAR-Centro-Coimbra-284-892]
The productivity of the group is good regarding publications and services rendered. The group is publishing in very good international journals. The productivity is expected to become very good or excellent as the number of publications in the year after the investigated period, 2007, is excellent. Many of the articles concern studies that have been carried out in international collaborations.
The research of this group is very important for fundamental and applied science. The research on the role of decomposition in aquatic ecosystems and other aspects of freshwater ecology is important for both these aspects. The studies on the use of biomonitoring and the control of parasitic nematodes are mainly important for their applied aspects. The group has been involved in the organization of several international meetings and has organized advanced courses in international collaboration. The high level of international collaboration corroborates the very positive impression that we have of the relevance of this group.
The feasibility of the research of this group is high, given the promising increase in productivity, the high quality of the journals in which publications have appeared and are appearing, the good level of funding, the high level of internationalization and the very strong applied interest of the research.
The training effort is very good. A large number of masters and PhD students have been supervised. Advanced courses are regularly given in international collaboration.
We recommend that this group continue its high current productivity and in general continues its good and useful work combining fundamental and applied research. The taxonomic research and teaching of this group is currently relying on collaboration with Spanish taxonomists from the University of Santiago de Compostela. We very strongly recommend the hiring of a taxonomic specialist for this group to support the important aspect, perhaps in collaboration with the group of research line 1.
Hydraulics, water resources and environment [RG-MAR-Centro-Coimbra-284-897]
The committee rated the overall performance of the group as very good. The productivity measured in terms of scientific papers is correct, with more than 10 papers in JCR journals. IF is below 2 in all cases, which is justified by the generally lower impact of engineering journals compared to science journals. “Other publications” include some relevant publications. The group does substantial consulting work, which limits the appearance of some of its senior members as co-authors of scientific papers. Excellent in terms of presentations at conferences.
The group’s objectives and activities have a strong applied component and, therefore, are not only of scientific and technical relevance but also of socio-economical relevance, as proven by several industry contracts. The involvement of the group in conference organisation is significant.
The scientific impact of the work is good despite the rather low IF of the journals. The presence of co-authors from other countries is occasional. The group is partly funded by industry and administration contracts, which proves its ability of transforming plans into practical projects. The group has probably the capacity of increasing its fund raising.
Eleven master theses and 5 PhD theses have been finalised during the reporting period. Interdisciplinary Theses co-directed by investigators from other groups should be particularly promoted. The number of PhD's should/could be increased.
The group is identified as one of the masterpieces of IMAR. The integration and actual collaboration of this group with other groups in IMAR seems to work well. The panel appreciated that this group of engineers is involved in IMAR and, eventually, in the future Associated Lab as it holds a strong potential to enhance economic and social relevance for the whole unit. The panel further advises the group to promote internal cooperation with the other groups at CIC as much as possible (e.g. through PhD shared coordination) to take maximum benefit of expertise. The organization of the work within the group should be made more legible by reducing the number of research topics run by the group or by grouping them under a limited number of headings.
Long term ecological response to global changes [RG-MAR-Centro-Coimbra-284-894]
The productivity of this group is very high. A very large number of articles has been published in good, very good and excellent international journals. Many of the articles concern studies that have been carried out in international collaborations. The articles are very well cited. Furthermore, many services have been rendered.
This group has accumulated an impressive and important body of knowledge of the ecosystem of the Mondego estuary and Rio de Aveiro. The studies are important from a fundamental as well as an applied point of view. The fundamental importance lies in the understanding of the dynamics of an estuarine system including human-induced impacts on it. The attention for long term effects is in this respect particularly valuable. The applied importance is twofold, much knowledge has been acquired on a) the monitoring of the estuarine ecosystem (ecological indicators) and b) on those measures that will be most effective in counteracting as much as possible human-induced and other disturbances. Indirectly the importance can also be appreciated from the many citations to the articles of this group (see productivity). The emphasis on long term research is laudable.
The feasibility of the research of this group is high, because of the high level of funding, the many international collaborations, the attractivity of the group for masters and PhD students and finally the dynamic and capable leadership of the group by M.A. Pardal which we are confident will ensure a continued high quality and quantity of publications.
A very high number of master’s and PhD theses have been supervised. The students are very positive and enthusiastic about the supervision, both regarding the quality of the scientific supervision aspects and the encouragement.
We very strongly recommend that more technical support would be allocated to this group as the relative shortage of such support appears to be stressful for both staff and students. The very good feasibility of the group would be still improved with increased and much deserved technical support.
This group is doing highly useful and good research. The coordinator is very dynamically leading the group. The output is very good to excellent as well as the teaching. We can just hope that this group can continue its highly important work.
Sedimentary systems, hydrodynamics and global changes [RG-MAR-Centro-Coimbra-284-893]
The committee was pleased by the good overall performance of the group.The group has been created in 2007. Therefore, what is presented as the productivity of the group is actually the sum of the previous productivities of the individuals now grouped. Previous productivity measured in terms of scientific papers is correct, with at least 10 papers in JCR journals. “Other publications” relate to activities carried out mostly in Portugal. The group had a steady rate of about one refereed publication per researcher per year. This rate was considered to be average. A number of the papers were in international journals with a low impact factor. Nevertheless the group was noted for producing a number of useful products for local needs within Portugal.
There is no doubt that the group is highly motivated. However, it would be convenient for the group to carry out an internal reflection exercise in order to narrow its objectives. This should ease for this cluster of individuals to actually work as a more cohesive group.
The scientific impact of the work is acceptable. Some of the papers include co-authors from other countries. Some group members were involved at various levels in the organization of a substantial number of conferences. Some river basin and coastal studies are of potential socio-economical impact. The work was considered to be relevant internationally. A greater number of international collaborations would help to raise the profile of this group.
At present there is no funding for all the research topics within the group. The collaboration with groups from outside Portugal is individual-based. The group demonstrated a clear capacity for transforming interesting ideas into practical projects. A little more synergy with other groups at Coimbra and at international centres would extend this work to a broader audience.
Eight Masters Theses and 1 PhD Thesis have been finalised during the reporting period. The group demonstrates good training of about one graduate student completing his/her degree per year per researcher. It should be expected that training capabilities be improved if this newly created group was able to generate synergies, both internally and with other groups in IMAR and outside.
The integration of the group within IMAR deserves some reflection (i.e. how to make such an integration stronger and efficient).
The Panel encourages the group to carry out an internal reflection in order to gain cohesion. Practical interactions with other groups within IMAR and, eventually, within the new Associate Lab, should be fully explored.
Wetlands, transitional waters and coastal marine ecosystems [RG-MAR-Centro-Coimbra-284-891]
Very good to excellent performance. The number as well as the quality (IF) of the a1 publications is impressive. Moreover international proceedings, books and book chapters are being written.
Human activities are markedly influencing our environment. The study of environmental quality and of sustainable development of these ecosystems is crucial for the future liveability on Earth. Therefore this type of research is crucial.
The combination of competences and the proven output of the postdoc researchers of this group guarantee the feasibility of their future research. But see remark under General remark 1.
Numerous MSc and PhD-theses, spread over numerous postdoc researchers guarantee the continuation of this research.
1. Taxonomy (correct identification) of bio-indicators is crucial to get to correct conclusions about the quality of an ecosystem. Instead of “inviting foreign specialists for a few days”, we strongly recommend the addition of a “real” taxonomist of bioindicators to the team.
2. We also strongly support the request for a technician to handle the very expensive infrastructure that was recently obtained. It will make the lifespan of the machinery longer and give more time to the scientists to interpret the results rather than to carry out technical activities.