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R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências da Terra e do Espaço

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Geofísica - Évora [EASP-Alentejo-Evora-78] visitada em 04/02/2009

Classificação: Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
Overview
The assessors, during their visit to the Unit, were provided with comprehensive and detailed presentations, and the opportunity to visit the research facilities, to look at a range of publications and to talk to research students. The visit confirmed that this very large, well-established Unit is involved in a wide range of scientific activities including fundamental research, atmospheric and geophysical monitoring and outreach projects. Productivity of the Unit has been moderate to high. In most subareas some of this activity has met international standards in terms of relevance and importance. The Unit also fulfills an important national and international monitoring role through its atmospheric and geophysical monitoring stations. The Unit has supported and trained a large number of research students over the years. Those in the current cohort include a number of overseas students. The students receive good support and training within their individual research groups (or sub groups). However, they would benefit from being, collectively, more closely integrated into the Unit.

Management
The Unit comprises two groups, FIDAC and SEISMOLTIOS. Each group is divided into two subareas with four named individuals as leaders. We note that the Unit benefits from advice from three external advisers. However, the overall management structure and processes within the Unit, Groups and subareas (notably in FIDAC), and the role of the external advisers, was unclear. In particular, it was difficult to ascertain how the Unit develops and monitors its overall research strategy and performance.

Facilities
Facilities are good and in some instances very good, although the space available to the Unit is rather limited. The amount of space allocated by the Faculty/University for Laboratories and for research students should be increased.

Commendations
The assessors commend the Unit on their outreach activities, especially their leadership in the highly successful Estremoz Scale Solar System initiative, which was recognized in 2005 by the award from the City of Évora of their Gold Medal to the Centro de Geofísica. The setting up of an external scientific advisory panel is also commendable. In future this should help the Unit to focus its strategy for increasing the international impact of their research efforts (see Recommendations and Conclusions).

Recommendations to Unit
The Unit is strongly encouraged to develop a more strategic and pro-active approach to research management and organization of sub-groups and to more clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the external panel members. In addition the Unit is advised to address the issue of decreasing PhD student numbers in recent years and to explore ways for building a more integrated research culture among the diverse groups of research students.

Conclusions
This is well established Unit, with a good track record in research and postgraduate training extending over some 15 years. For its large size, the overall productivity of the Unit in terms of scientific outputs of international importance has been good. Other activities, impacting on, and involving the international scientific community, have also been good to very good. Future research plans and strategy need to be more focused. In some subareas, the research would have a greater impact by becoming less re-active and more pro-active. There is clearly potential for the Unit to move into the Very Good category in the future. But we feel that this would require the Unit to have a more focused and selective management approach in order to identify and then support those areas and activities with the greatest potential for raising the international profile of the Unit as a whole.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
FIDAC – “Physics and Dynamics of Atmosphere and Climate” [RG-EASP-Alentejo-Evora-78-2992]
Introduction
This large group of staff and associated PhD level researchers has been active and productive since 1991.

Focus, Relevance and Feasibility of the Research Aims
The Group encompasses 2 main research areas: Atmospheric Physics & Climate, and Transfer Phenomena in the Geosphere. The Group covers a number of research themes: Development of scientific prototype instruments; modelling of flow structures; environmental energy sources, devices and assessment; atmospheric electric field monitoring; numerical modelling & observation of atmospheric processes; climate change & climate impact studies.

The general research focus is on the study of the atmosphere, climate and climate change, which is clearly of relevance. Stated research aims including the development of instrumentation, improvements in numerical modelling, and continuation of previous studies, are deemed to be feasible.

Productivity (including evidence of international levels of attainment)
The Group has achieved a high level of productivity in terms of publications over the review period including a reasonable number in international publications. Other outputs include a book, book chapters, workshop proceedings, patents and instrument prototypes, and industrial research reports.

The Group’s record with Conferences internationally is very good with the organization of International workshops, symposia and conferences. The Group has been involved with European and national field projects and their associated steering committees. It also participates in International Observational Networks such as AERONET, and collaborative research projects with groups in Europe and the USA.

Training
9 PhD and 24 MSc projects completed in the review period is evidence that the group provides a very good research training environment. Other commendable features are the running of seminars and participation in Graduate Advanced Training Networks & Programmes (PhD and MSc).

Overall Perspective
The Group’s overall achievements have met expectations with significant indications of the impact and relevance of its work at international level. However, it was felt that aims and objectives of the Group were not well articulated, too broad, and lacked focus both at the site visit presentation and in the documentation provided. It was generally felt by the panel, that the Group lacked an overall coherent strategic plan. The panel recommend a restructuring of the Group with a new governance structure, and devolvement of the present single group into a number of well-defined more focussed sub-groups (~3-4) each to have designated leaders, together with an over-arching co-ordinator/director.

Overall, productivity, while very good, was deemed not to be commensurate with the Group size. It was also clear from the documentation provided during the site visit, that productivity while high over the period 2003-2006, has declined in the last 2 years (2007, 2008), which probably has not been helped by the departure from the Group of 6 PhD members and 4 non PhD members on 1st January 2007.
SEISMOLTIOS – “Seismotectonics and processes of lithospheric deformation” [RG-EASP-Alentejo-Evora-78-2993]
Introduction
This very large long-established group is organized in two sub-groups “Internal Geophysics” and “Dynamics of Geological Processes”.

Focus, Relevance and Feasibility of the Research Aims
The general research objective is to provide an integrated understanding of lithospheric processes based on seismology, tectonics and geology. A specific emphasis is on aspects particularly relevant to society including hazards. These are established and topical research areas in the Earth Sciences which would be expected to lead to significant contributions to knowledge and understanding at national and international levels.

Productivity (including evidence of international levels of attainment)
For its size, the group has achieved a moderately high level of productivity in terms of publications. A reasonable number of these are in peer-reviewed international journals such as Geophysical Journal International, Earth and Planetary Science Letters and Precambrian Research. Some papers are receiving citations.

Evidence for International standing in the Earth Sciences is apparent from the involvement of staff in organizing international conferences and workshops and the group is commended for their formal adoption of clear objectives to enhance their international activity in 2007-2010.

The Group is commended for their contributions to outreach activities which were recognised in 2005 by the award from the City of Evora of their Gold Medal to the Centro de Geofisica'

Training
12 PhD and 14 MSc projects completed in the period 2003-2007 and the launch in 2007 of an MSc in Earth, Atmosphere and Space Sciences under the Bologna framework is evidence that the group provides a very good research training environment.

Overall Perspective
The Group`s overall achievements have met expectations with significant indications of the impact and relevance of this work at international level. Future plans and objectives are well developed and ambitious and will lead to outcome of international relevance and importance.

Comentários da unidade

Discordamos do resultado da avaliação da Unidade. O relatório produzido pelo painel de avaliação apresenta substanciais incongruências e não justifica a classificação atribuída, seguindo as orientações para a avaliação publicadas pela FCT.
Iremos, no período previsto, apresentar os comentários fundamentados da Unidade, de acordo com o estipulado no artigo 9º do Regulamento do Programa de Financiamento Plurianual das Unidades de I&D e requerer nova avaliação.