R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências Agrárias

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Estudos de Ciência Animal [AGR-Norte-Porto-211] visitada em 23/01/2008

Classificação: Very Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
As the leading host institution (ICTAA) is an administrative unit located in Porto, we visited the Laboratório Nacional de Investigação Veterinária site near Vila do Conde. The other partners in this unit are the University of Porto (Faculty of Sciences), the Instituto Nacional de Saúde (Porto unit) and the Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar which it runs.
Goals, ongoing and planned projects, strategic development in the future:
The centre comprises 4 groups and a new sub-group (Experimental Surgery) that has split off from the Animal Physiology group. Its human resources are 24 researchers qualified to Ph.D. level or 15 full-time equivalents. These people are mainly veterinarians or agricultural scientists performing their teaching at the University of Porto. Despite this modest number of scientists, the centre has established working links with partners in the biomedical and medical sectors (through the Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar), the Laboratório Nacional de Investigação Veterinária (a national laboratory), water supply companies, dairy farmers’ associations, firms in the dairy industry sector (feed and premix manufacturers) and also canine and equine clinicians. Finance from FCT has been extremely important, amounting to more than 50% of the total and reaching nearly 2.5 M€ for the evaluation period. The other funding sources are the Ministry of Agriculture and the European Union.
From 2003-6, the centre has 13 doctoral and 22 master’s theses to its credit, has had an output of 1.14 ISI indexed publications per scientist per year, and has registered two patents. It has received 4 scientific prizes (from private companies such as Pfizer) and has developed a new (4 times faster) diagnostic procedure and participated in vaccine development for canine Neospora, a pathogen that causes abortion in ovine species. It has also participated in the establishment of a new diagnostic test for Fasciolosis (liver fluke). This work created a spinoff company, Biognosis that markets the tests this work on animal disease has extended to a national program for cryptosporidiose and giardia in raw and surface water, and experts from the centre have participated in the Animal Health and Welfare Committee of the European Food Safety Authority. In the field of biomedicine, the centre has developed a novel bone replacement material (Bonelike®) and collaborates in the preparation of human bone stem cells for therapy in extreme clinical cases. Finally, the centre has participated in national and international collaborative networks and has been the chief research advisor in an FP6 CRAFT project.

Laboratory work is either carried out on the site visited (although there was not time to assess the level of equipment) or at the University of Porto. Fieldwork used to be carried out at an experimental farm located at Vairao 2 Km from the site visited but this is now closed. The committees were told that a new strategic agreement has just been signed between the Ministry of Agriculture and the University of Porto and that this will permit the renovation of the experimental farm situated in the northern coastal plain, the chief milk-producing area in Portugal. Although the groups meet regularly, the unit meets very infrequently, and this is due to the distance between this site visited, the agro-campus, the various laboratories in the University of Porto where the staff do their teaching, and the many locations where fieldwork is done. There is no clear leadership and an impression of a lack of organization of the unit, but this has not been an obstacle to groups individually achieving very good research results.
There is a good atmosphere, and the overall impression is one of a group of committed people.
CECA is conscious that its efforts to increase its critical mass have not been successful, nonetheless the panel feels that it has achieved FCT’s first goal of internationalization with a good publication records, and the second goal of training is also regarded as good. The small size has not prevented this unit from achieving technology transfer in the veterinary and medical fields. This combination of a bottom-up approach and strategic implementation of research to technological advances is highly commendable. However, the consensus view of the scientific staff is that the unit (which was formed in 1996) has achieved its purpose and a new structure is needed. The panel agrees, noting imbalance in the unit that is very good in parts, but less so in others.
For the future, the experimental surgery sub-group sees its future in the medical sector and the panel agrees that this will ensure the best development of its research and will help it secure an international reputation for excellence which is will deserve if it continues to work at its current high level. The remainder of the unit place their hope in the strategic agreement between the university and the ministry of agriculture. The panel thinks that the construction of a modern agro-campus with a modern experimental animal shed for a small number of cows, and another for sheep or goats would fulfil a need and sustain the development of experimental work in animal science in Portugal. It would contribute to the creation of a critical mass as research workers from other universities or institutions could be attracted to work in this facility and, in the medium term, a new and bigger unit for animal and veterinary science could be created. This would include the Animal Nutrition, the Animal Physiology and the Microbiology & Molecular Biology groups which have produced good and some very good publications. The horticulture and post-harvest group is clearly not well integrated with the three other groups, and it envisages developing a link elsewhere and the panel encourages the scientists concerned to pursue this endeavour.

Training of young researchers and students:
This is very satisfactory

Organization of workshops:
In this the unit is not very active.

Interdisciplinary activities:
Very few interactions within the unit, but the members are active from out their specific groups

Interactions with other national and international research units and companies:
Very well developed!

Participation in international research programmes:
Very satisfactory.

Knowledge and technology transfer:
Very well developed.

Outreach activities:
Well developed

Attitudes and work environment:
There is no clear leadership and an impression of a lack of organization of the unit, but this has not been an obstacle to groups individually achieving very good research results. There is a good atmosphere, and the overall impression is one of a group of committed people.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Sub-unit of Animal Nutrition [RG-AGR-Norte-VilaReal-211-3098]
This is a small sub-unit with only 2 researchers listed but it does impressive work having 5 of its top ten articles listed published in the Journal of Dairy Science, one of the highest impact factor journals in this research area. Its research is mostly applied but includes some more basic elements in the area of rumen function in the dairy cow.
Despite its small size (2 Ph.D. staff or 1 full-time equivalent), this sub-unit has been very productive. It published 10 papers in ISI indexed journals, completed 1 Ph. D. (for a staff member) and 1 master thesis (for a young student) and participated in the organization of one international workshop. It developed outreach activities with four companies and through one of these participated in a EU-funded CRAFT project (NOVAZOTE). Links were developed with 3 international universities and 2 national faculties.
For the future, its staff is considering joining another unit whose activities closely fit the interests of the scientists concerned. At present, the unit has no experimental facilities as they were closed recently, but if the recent agreement to open and renovated agro-campus is translated into action, then the scientists should be

encouraged to re-think their strategy and take the lead in constructing a soled dairy cow nutrition unit in Vila do Conde which is situated in the main dairy production zone in Portugal. This could possibly be achieved with some of the scientists from 772-2984 (Vila Real).
Excellent work for such a small unit.
Sub-unit of Animal Physiology and Genetics [RG-AGR-Norte-VilaReal-211-3096]
This is a small group difficult to evaluate on the information given. It seems to lack critical mass. The few research topics are interesting but diverse. The output of 2 PhDs is noted. The site visit will be necessary to make a better informed evaluation.
To me the general objectives could be formulated better. They sound as sub objectives.
It is not very clear whether the projects 1, 2 and 3 will be funded or not. The supported projects 4 and 5 however are giving ground base for the future research activities.
The ratio PhDs (5) to non PhDs (&) should be considered and changed The IF and the CI of the pointed five publications are not given. They are also repeated as previous publications the same duplications I have found for the objectives of the future research and for the funding. Why is this?
In special requirements any specific items are not given.
Sub-unit of Microbiology and Molecular Biology [RG-AGR-Norte-VilaReal-211-3097]
The group is rather small - working in a rather broad area. It seems to be performing well concerning productivity which is the most important stakeholders for the group’s research?
How is industry cooperation taking place, e.g. concerning technology transfer and the utilization of patents?
How does the group work together with other research environments, nationally and internationally?
Are there plans or possibilities to expand research in the area of animal-human interaction? The group is aiming to use the techniques and methods which are related with the stem cells and zoonotic pathogens in Portugal with relevance to both animal husbandry and humans by involving three institutions.
Unfortunately the IF and the CI of the published results are not given among the nine planned projects the funding of only three is given. They surmount respectively to 90,000; 180,000 and 180,000 respectively which is a satisfactory grade
The ratio between PhDs (4) and non PhDs (16) is not a balanced one and should be seriously considered.
- What is the IF and the CI of the publications published so far.
- Better explanations and motivation about the needs for infrastructural improvement and facilities
- What are the planes the group to be involved into the EC ERA NET, ETP and 7th FP
Sub-unit of Post-harvest and Research [RG-AGR-Norte-VilaReal-211-3099]
The absence of IF and NC makes it difficult to assess the international impact of this research which is nonetheless very productive. Very good training in terms of PhDs.
The site visit confirmed the initial impression of an enthusiastic and productive group (8 Ph.D. qualified staff).
They produced at least 10 ISI listed publications, 2 Ph. D. theses and 9 master’s theses. However, they are poorly integrated into a unit entitled ‘Animal science’ and whose other groups work on animal science, veterinary science and fundamental animal biology. They are aware of their comparative isolation and should be encouraged to contact other units (for example, 4033-134 in Vila Real or 240 in Lisboa) with a view to creating a stronger food & horticulture unit.
The research of this group is predominantly of an applied nature and it managed to receive significant support from the businesses. No international cooperation /projects/ is reported. The number of Ph.D.’s obtained is impressive for such a small research group.