R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências Agrárias

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Investigação e Tecnologia Agrária dos Açores - CITA - A [AGR-Acores-PontaDelgada-153] visitada em 11/02/2008

Classificação: Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
The Unit focuses on animal and agricultural productivity, food science and technology, climate and meteorology related issues of relevance to various sectors of society, and biodiversity in the Azorean/ Macronesian context. The Unit consists currently of four sections/ research groups (Agricultural and animal science, Food science and technology, Study Center for climate, meteorology and global changes, and Azorean biodiversity group).
Goals, ongoing and planned projects, strategic development in the future.
Some of the sections/ groups of the Unit have very interesting international collaborations that have materialized in joint projects/ research collaborations such as the biodiversity in lava tubes or the climatological modelling for island environments. The Unit has been rather successful in obtaining especially regional funding indicating good regional liaisons and the possibilities for active information and technology transfer at regional level. The Unit has been able to increase its active research staff from around 60 in 2003 to more than 80 active members in 2006.
The Unit has identified 17 specified objectives for its work (listed in the Unit report), under the headings of performing research on biodiversity, contributing to the existing knowledge on climate changes and weather forecasting, performing research on agricultural and animal production, and contributing to the existing knowledge on food science and technology. The numerous objectives of the Unit organized section by section indicate a clear need to strategic focusing of the research lines and targets and a need to seek synergies among the research lines adopted. The Panel is of the opinion the more synergistic approaches could be a great opportunity for the Unit.
Training of young researchers and students Regarding MSc student and PhD student training, the information provided indicates some problems arising from rather small research groups carrying out student training. The Unit should put more emphasis in creating a truly multidisciplinary training environment with strong links to regional stakeholders and potential future employers for the students.

Organization of workshops

Interdisciplinary activities
Internally and externally very well developed

Interactions with other national and international research units and companies:
The Panel is of the opinion that the Unit is in general performing well and is meeting international standards in its work. Interactions national and international well developed.

Participation in international research programmes (EU etc.)

Knowledge and technology transfer
Rather well developed at local level

Outreach activities:
Mainly at local level

Attitude and work environment
The Panel observed good atmosphere and enthusiasm during the site visit. The Panel is of the opinion that in spite of the geographical isolation of the Azores, the Unit as a whole shows a good capacity to link with other research institutions and stakeholders even outside the Azorean region.

Most pertinent comments and recommendations
The Panel would like to point out the following future development needs. There is a clear need for strategic development of future more synergistic research lines of the Unit that would benefit from the expertise now developed in individual sections. In addition, the Panel sees a great need to develop the organization, identity and presentation of the Unit as a whole, which should be a little bit more than just the sum of the activities in individual sections/ research groups. Therefore, management and strategic development of the Unit as a whole should be addressed as soon as possible to ensure the long-term competitive advantages of the Unit also in the future.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Animal and Agricultural Science [RG-AGR-Acores-PontaDelgada-153-2971]
This research group is doing good and solid work in animal science and is addressing mainly the needs of the animal farming industry in the Azores. It has relevant national and international collaborations. While its work has mainly regional and national impact, some outputs in, for example volcanic soils, reproduction and fatty acid components of food, have international impact.
The group has been very successful in attracting funding for its projects from different sources. It has been relatively successful in getting post doctoral grants and it has built up its publications in peer reviewed journals to respectable levels.
Involvement in training of young researchers and students is satisfactory as is involvement in knowledge and technology transfer and outreach activities.
The group enjoys a good availability of funds coming mainly from the regional government, which has invested a lot on local university. The group includes rather various specializations, and first of all animal production and soil science.
The soil science subgroup has a rather solid reputation due to the specific characteristics of Azores’ soils. For this reason many scholars from outside are attracted here.
In general, and especially as far as agronomy and animal husbandry is concerned, the group has a strong problem-solving approach, and to this extent its research activity is influenced by the strong specialization of the agricultural sector into milk production.
The number of PhD-students is limited.
No mention of workshops a.s.o. However, PhD-students enjoy a very friendly environment and a lot if interaction among the staff.

There is no specific reflection on interdisciplinarity. However, the strong interaction between researchers facilitates cooperation in solving problems linked to the territory.
Many contacts with the outside are reported, but mainly on informal and individual basis.
The group is involved in extension services, and especially training of farmers.
The group should define better its strategy in relation with local specificities, strengthen its contacts with the territory and looking to the ‘pluses’ that location and specific problems of Azores give to the group, so to better connect with other national and international networks.
Azorean βiodiversity Group [RG-AGR-Acores-PontaDelgada-153-2974]
The research group has a very limited staff number (7 PhD!) while it has to deal with specific biodiversity aspects of Macronesia. The archipelago is both remote, biologically distinct and internationally recognized as interesting and important for bio conservation. Logically, efforts should be divided over taxonomical aspects and conservation problems for which a staff like this is very small. To limit oneself is sensible but hard to do, choices made are realistic (key research areas, in which further narrowing down should be necessary). The overall situation shows the necessity of reinforcement either by extending staff or by structural cooperation with research groups elsewhere in Portugal or other countries. Productivity (Quant. & Qual.) seems to be high (relatively high IP's in journals) and meeting international standards; the amount of PhD and Masters (delivered or underway) quite good. The research group seems well organized with good leadership and stimulating

working environment; and has good international and national contacts. It is worthwhile to develop structural cooperation (nationally and internationally) further.
In view of my very positive comments above and considering the group’s small size, I feel there is a need for either focusing the future work - or expanding the group. Are there any considerations in that direction?
Are there any strategic plans for this research area in Portugal, e.g. in view of climate change research?
Are there plans for closer cooperation with the other group on Climate, Meteorology and Global Changes - which also seems to be a rather small group?
Food Science and Technology [RG-AGR-Acores-PontaDelgada-153-2972]
The group is engaged with studies on the biodiversity and quality of traditional food in Acores. The goals of the project are quite clear and obviously are aiming to understand more about the local value of the traditional food which is very important from healthy and economical (touristic) point of view.
The amounts to the funding grants which the group gained so far (200 000 €) is a good ground base for the 6 PhDs to continue successful accomplishment of the initiated projects.
Averagely the IP is not very high - 1.0... Looking the presented publications I have found that tree of them are related with the animal reproduction which studies are not indicated into the original objectives.
The objectives are very much related with practical needs and the priorities of the EC. The industry contract research gives me additional hope that the overall research of the group will be very much destinated to the SME.
The planned scholarships (all together 8) are sufficient to meet the respective future challenges.
There is a clear intention to internationalize the research effort but the results are only satisfactory. It may be necessary to prioritize research areas and to drop work in areas that appear to be more the responsibility of the veterinary regulatory authorities (e.g. salmonella contamination in broiler carcasses).
Study Center for Climate, Meteorology and Global Changes [RG-AGR-Acores-PontaDelgada-153-2973]
This is a rather small team of altogether 9 researchers with a significant number of externally funded projects (many of them INTERREG IIIB aiming at practical outputs). The research work is focusing on weather and sea forecasting and modelling and climate monitoring. The work has broad societal importance and practical applications. The group has been active in disseminating research and monitoring information through websites for various end-users. The group seems to be fairly well linked internationally. Training aspect is moderate with 2 PhD and 6 MSc theses.
The group is well composed with high skilled scientists. The productivity of the group is rich. There are lots of publications in peer reviewed journal and in other issues, none the less that the IF figures are relatively low. The research achievements are very important and directly applicable in a wide range of areas from basic to applied topics of research: maritime safety, fish markets, weather forecast, etc. They also directly contribute to studies of global climate change. There are very good characteristics on training and internationalization of the research activities.