R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Engenharia Mecânica

Unidade de I&D

Centre for Aerospace Science and Technologies – CAST [MECH-Centro-Covilha-151] visitada em 05/03/2008

Classificação: Good


Comentários do Painel de reapreciação

Basis of Re-evaluation

FCT appointed three individuals to perform a re-evaluation of the Unit following a request to do so, in which it was noted that while the previous assessment in 2002 had been “Fair”, the Unit had expected a significant improvement in the 2003 to 2007 exercise. The appellant expressed disappointment that more information had not been provided by the evaluators to help identify strengths and weaknesses in the Unit. The appellant also asked the FCT to note the strength of the Unit was 11 FTE Integrated Researchers, rather than 28, which she feared may have been assumed by the original evaluators.

The FCT provided individual members of the re-evaluation team with the original submission made by the Unit for the period 2003 to 2007, the letter requesting the re-evaluation, and the scoring scheme that was used for the evaluation. Unlike the original evaluation, the re-evaluation was done using only these materials. It is noted that the original evaluation included a site visit and interviews. It is also observed that this re-evaluation is made about two years after the initial evaluation so that current perceptions may be different from those made then.

The re-evaluation team has endeavoured to assess the Unit as objectively as possible but notes that it did not have the same means to calibrate their assessment against the large number of Units that were assessed in the initial exercise.

General Observations

The unit consists of five Groups:

  • Dynamics and Control of Space Systems (DyCoSS - 1578)
  • Aeronautical Materials and Structures (AeroMaS - 2329)
  • Energetic Systems (Si Nerge - 2330)
  • Technological Forecasting and Industrial Management (TeFIM - 2331)
  • Information Technologies for Engineering Education (InTEE - 2963)

The Unit, which was created in 1994, has a high profile International Advisory Committee.

Over the evaluation period the number of Integrated Researchers has grown from 8 to 11 with an average of 10.25 FTE.

There is evidence of significant international scholarly activity in terms of collaborations and international conferences. It is not clear to what extent the international conferences held in Portugal have been successful in attracting world class speakers from overseas. It is observed that one of the international recognitions is for a contribution to a text book series in mathematics. The international collaborations appear to be, to some degree, historic rather than strategic. It is recommended that the individual groups review their international strategy, particularly with a view to obtaining future international research support such as the European Framework Programme.

It is observed that the Unit appears to be a combination of Groups that do not fit comfortably within the broad theme of aerospace science and technology. Most, but not all, of DyCoSS activities fit. TeFIM and InTEE do not fall under the aerospace banner, nor does a large part of SiNerge. Even AeroMaS cites future work that will take it outside the core theme. A number of Integrated Researchers are active in several Groups forming the Unit. Caution must, therefore, be exercised in any quantitative assessment of the output from an individual Group if this were normalised in terms of human resources. The issues cited above with the Masters and PhD theses that appear to have been submitted in other institutions or Units further complicate quantitative assessment.

It is recommended that the constitution of the Unit be reviewed prior to a future research evaluation.

There are some inconsistencies in the presentation of data between the Groups and, as noted earlier, between the Unit and some of its constituent Groups.

Productivity: Fair

The Unit published 35 peer-reviewed journal publications with an average impact factor of 0.7 and an average citation of 0.6 per paper. Among these papers, however, one had a publication date of 2002, that is, before the start of the evaluation period, and this had three citations. If this paper were removed from the evaluation, the citation rate would fall to 0.5. It is also noted that four papers from the DyCoSS Group and three from the TeFIM Group were listed as “accepted for publication”, as such, they would not, of course, have any citations. The overall productivity can still be rated as fair.

Relevance: Good

The Unit has many ongoing collaborations and projects with international partners in different countries, many of them quite prestigious, and most of the projects are of high relevance to the Unit’s main theme. The Unit is attracting international, national and regional funding, and has a perspective of obtaining industrial support. On the other hand there are several activities in some of the Groups which do not seem to fit well with the Unit (e.g. the subject of ’biomass’).

Feasibility: Very Good

The unit has attracted research funds from the FCT and other sources including international agencies. These resources have been converted to projects with clear outcomes.

Training: Good

According to the general indicator table in the Unit Summary document, over the evaluation period 7 Masters and 9 PhD theses have been completed in the Unit. However, the individual Groups cite a total of 10 PhD (and 7 Masters) theses. It is noted that two of these PhD theses were those of Integrated Researchers, and one is of another PhD level researcher in AeroMas. One of the PhD theses from DyCoss is in a subject unrelated to the Group’s core research theme. One PhD thesis and one of the Masters thesis cited appear to have been performed in other institutions (Cranfield University and Keldysh Institute), and another thesis is in a different Unit in a different field within UBI, but with associate supervisors from the Group. It is noted that preparation for the Bologna Process has had an adverse effect upon the number of Masters candidates in at least one Group in the Unit.

The volume of students trained through Masters and PhD programmes is an area for improvement.

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
The overall productivity of the Unit is good (although one of the groups is weak in this area), and the total impact factor per PhD is good.
The relevance is good. Some of the Groups have been involved in the organization of international and national conferences.
The objectives are well defined and the Unit is generating internationally recognised research.
The very wide spectrum of activities of the 5 groups makes it difficult to discuss the unit as a whole; it is more a sum of different fields joined together.
Some of the activity of the different groups can be classified in Aerospace with some reservations. Having stated that, the general opinion of the panel and a suggestion for future review is to merge the subjects of the different groups into a single one.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Aeronautical Materials and Structures - AeroMaS [RG-MECH-Centro-Covilha-151-2329]
This is a group of 5 PhD and 3 non-PhD researchers. The research is on the development of new materials with low environmental impact, on degradation of composites and ceramic materials, adhesive joints for structural applications, and design of material structures for aerospace applications.
The group has listed 10 papers with a total impact factor of 6.9 and a total of 5 citations. The other 7 relevant publications are 6 from international conferences and 1 from a national conference. The total impact factor per PhD is 1.4 and the number of citations per PhD is 1. The authors of these papers are from within the group, there are no international co-authors listed on these papers. The group reports a national patent. The productivity was accomplished with graduate students that were mainly self-supported. The panel would expect that the productivity of the group would increase significantly if the graduate students were able to apply for and win fellowships through the FCT.
The area of research is interesting, involving self-flowing castables without vibration and polymer matrix composites reinforced with carbon fibres. The group won international funding in the past to study metal-weld deposits in collaboration with a team from the University of Silesia in Poland. They also won significant FCT funding for the study of inclusions in self-flowing castables. This research was carried out in collaboration with industry and the University of Aveiro. Both these projects ended, but with this track record the group is expected to be able to win external funding if seed funds are made available to them through FCT. The PI is a reviewer of an international journal. With respect to internationalization, there are collaborations with institutions in Brazil, Poland and Spain.
The current funding is about 140,000 Euros, corresponding to two projects. One of the funding programs is from Portugal and the other from the GRICES Programme. The group has a track record of attracting external funding both on the national and international levels and with seed funding from FCT their performance is expected to improve.
This group has produced 3 PhDs, one in 2003, one in 2006 and one in 2007. Three Ph.D. theses were completed during the evaluation period. The Department has recently significantly revised its graduate (Master's degree) program which led to a temporary decrease in the number of MSc candidates. The number of MSc candidates is expected to increase after the transition to the Bologna program has been completed. This also led to a temporary increase in teaching load, with researchers having teaching loads of 18 hours a week, which is two to three times the teaching load of other universities. The teaching facilities of this unit are outstanding: the university has clearly made a significant investment into space and equipment used in instruction. Unfortunately funds for the support of graduate students are sparse and PhD. students have to work elsewhere to support themselves and their studies. The group is hoping to attract students that will be applying for FCT fellowships in the future.
Dynamics and Control of Space Systems - DyCoSS [RG-MECH-Centro-Covilha-151-1578]
This is a group of 5 PhD and 3 non-PhD researchers. The research is on Astrodynamics problems for applications in aerospace industry.
The 10 papers published in international journals have a total impact factor of 5.6, and a total number of citations of 1. Impact factors range from 1.175 to 0.283. The other relevant publications are 1 book chapter and 4 papers in international conferences. The total impact factor per PhD is 1 and the number of citations per PhD is 0.2.
The topics of research for this group have received international recognition with funding from 4 international research programs and collaborative publications with several authors from Russia and Brazil. The PI received a Russian award for a series of textbooks and is reviewer of an international journal. They had collaborations with Russia, within NATO and UBI, INPE ITA, KIAM, Brazil (doctoral fellowship and postdoctoral fellowship pending). The investigators organized numerous international conferences and seminars.
The current funding is 125.500 Euros. The research mainly involves modelling. At this point the researchers have not established collaboration with ESA to implement the results of their modelling efforts to physical space systems.
This group graduated 2 Masters (1 in 2005 and 1 in 2006) and 3 PhDs (2 in 2005 and 1 in 2007).
Energetic Systems (Production, Rationalisation and Sustainability) – SiNerge [RG-MECH-Centro-Covilha-151-2330]
This is a group of 8 PhD and 3 non-PhD researchers. The research is in the area of production, rationalization and sustainability of energy systems, and the development of Thermal Energy Systems with Phase-Change materials.
The 5 papers listed are published in international journals with a total impact factor of 4.72, and a total number of citations of 5. The other relevant publications are 5 in international conferences. The total impact factor per PhD is 0.6 and the number of citations per PhD is 0.6. The group presents the initialization of three pilot installations, the construction of one prototype and the submission of a national patent.
The researchers have been involved in the organization of 7 national conferences. The group is involved in two international collaborations.
The current funding is about 100,000 Euros in two projects ended in 2007.
This group has produced 3 Masters (2004, 2005, and 2007), and 3 Ph.Ds (in 2003, 2005 and 2007).
Information Technologies for Engineering Education - InTEE [RG-MECH-Centro-Covilha-151-2963]
This is a group of 3 PhDs who are also member of the other groups of this Unit, 1 PhD and 4 non-PhD researchers.
The publications were only a chapter in a book and 9 papers from national and international conferences. No publications are presented in journals with impact factors. One national patent is going to be registered.
The activity of this group has little to do with engineering research. The activities of this group can be important in order to teach to a large number of undergraduate students and can be important for the University but should be funded by other sources apart from research.
The group leader organized 4 national conferences. Two international collaborations are running and 1 collaborative publication.
The group received a grant of 198,000 Euros from UBI for active teaching and 636,000 Euros from a Portuguese Institute.
One Master’s thesis has been completed in 2006.
Technological Forecasting and Industrial Management – TeFIM [RG-MECH-Centro-Covilha-151-2331]
This is a group of 6 PhD and 4 non-PhD researchers. The research is in the area of development of modern integrated foresight methodologies, risk analysis, statistical approach and systems of management and production planning methodologies for small and medium enterprises.
The 10 papers published in international journals have a total impact factor of 8.1, and a total number of citations of 10. The other relevant publications are 5 book chapters, 2 papers from international and 1 from national conferences. The total impact factor per PhD is 1.4 and the number of citations per PhD is 10/6.
The researchers have been involved in the organization of 3 international conferences, as well as 2 national conferences. The PI is in the advisory board of an international journal and has received a Medal from the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences. With respect to internationalization, the group has established collaborations with institutions in USA, Austria and Spain.
The current funding is about 70,000 Euros from Portuguese companies.
This group graduated 1 Masters in 2006 and 1 PhD in 2003.

Comentários da unidade


Our research Center includes 11 integrated PhD researchers loaded with up to 18 teaching hours per week. In 2003-2007 this team

* Published 50 papers listed in ISI database (5 times greater than in 1998-2002 and an average of 4,7 paper/PhD);
* Participated in 15 projects with external funding of about € 1 350 000 (that is, respectively, 5 and 15 times more than in 1998-2002), the total funding being 14 times greater that the FCT base funding;
* Received 5 international awards;
* Organized 7 international conferences;
* Supervised 17 PhD;
* Collaborated with 13 institutions all over the world, and maintained active research contracts with 7 of them;
* Performed permanent and diversified outreach program.

We are convinced that this effort deserves more encouragement through stronger support by FCT.


We believe that the purpose of any evaluation is to improve the quality of research according to some well established criteria.

However, we could not find in the evaluation report either a clear explanation of the attributed classification or suggestions that could help our team to improve performance.

The only general suggestion of the evaluation panel is to intensify collaboration between our research groups.

Actually, this goal was always pursued by CAST. We focused on interdisciplinary research involving members of different groups in various studies, such as multi-body orbital dynamics, solar sail thermal balance, scenarios for energy consumption, elaboration of multimedia tools for SME consulting, etc. All the above research mentioned was started in 2005-2008 in an effort of the CAST team to integrate activities and to promote multidisciplinary of the conducted research. Our current research plan states the intention to maintain this approach quite clearly.

What else can be done to improve our classification? We would be most grateful for the evaluation panel’s suggestions.