R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências da Saúde

Unidade de I&D

Gabinete de Investigação de Bioética [HESC-Norte-Porto-721] visitada em 06/02/2008

Classificação: Very Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
The “Gabinete de Investigação de Bioética” is unique in Portugal. The field of bioethics is multidisciplinary and encompasses a variety of research areas. This Research Unit choose as a central research theme ethical issues raised by medical activities related to cloning and the applications of stem cell technologies, as well as ethical questions related to prematurity and life ending at the beginning of life. The RU developed also activities in teaching bioethics at High Schools. In 2007 the RU started a new group that focus on psychopathology in childhood and adolescence as a risk factor for later development. The aim of this group is to contribute to the characterization of psychopathological disorders in Portugal, in terms of prevalence and to characterize the national mental health services for children and adolescents, and their ethical implications. This latter development, however, lies outside what one would expect from a RU on Bioethics. Therefore the Panel does not support the specific requirement of the group “Risk and Vulnerabilities in Human Development”. to collaborate in developing a research line with a Psychology University Clinic.
Bioethics is usually regarded as a wider field than medical ethics. The difference is that in medical ethics, patients and the ways in which they are treated (or not treated) in health care systems are at the center of attention. But bioethics includes also ethical aspects of research on animals, plants and microorganisms, including genetic modifications of them, as well as the application of, and access to, the results of such research. This group has chosen other priorities, and no Research Unit can cover everything. But against that background we find that some of the projects ”stretch” the bioethics too far, while other internationally much discussed topics are not covered by the research plans.
The core of the group is small (7 people) but they have been able to attract a considerable number of interested part-time co-workers from different disciplines and different parts of the country. The group is strong in feasibility and in producing work relevant to the discussion of bioethical problems in Portugal. But considering that internationalization and international impact should be a goal, the focus on publication in Portuguese is a limitation. The productivity of the group (started in 2003) in terms of publications in international peer-reviewed journals is very limited, although the head of the group has a high citation index. We understand the interest of the group to reach a large multidisciplinary audience in Portuguese speaking countries. But given the goal to achieve an international impact, clearly an effort should be made to reach a more international public by publishing in journals of impact, such as, for example Am J Bioeth, J Med Ethics, J of Clinical Ethics, Bioethics, Health Care Ethics, Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, or general medical and nursing journals.
The report mentions a number of Master Theses but only one PhD thesis; a policy of stimulating the talented students to carry out studies leading to a PhD degree and to a thesis based on articles publishable in international journals has been set-up and should be strongly encouraged. Seminars of a “journal club” type where internationally important contributions to the field would also serve the purpose of helping to achieve the goal of internationalization.
The development of a core post-graduate course on Bioethics as a part of the PhD degree is planned and can become an important feature the Portuguese scientific community and should be supported actively.

The Panel rates the performance of this Research Unit as a whole as very good nonetheless it should be noted that some aspects, particularly the publication of papers in high quality international journals, needs further development.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Ethics in Life Sciences [RG-HESC-Norte-Porto-721-2494]
Risk and Vulnerabilities in Human Development [RG-HESC-Norte-Porto-721-2496]
The Panel does not support the plan to develop the research line proposed by the group “Risk and Vulnerabilities in Human Development” in collaboration with the Psychology University Clinic, since the Panel estimates that this proposal would represent a deviation from the main course of the Bioethics Research Unit and would lie outside what the research field of a a RU on Bioethics should be.