R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Estudos Literários

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Estudos Interculturais (CEI) [LIT-Norte-Porto-4072] visitada em 08/02/2008

Classificação: Poor

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade

The Centro de Estudos Interculturais (CEI) is a very recent research centre, having been established in 2006 in conjunction with the organization of a conference by the centre’s directors. It is housed at the Instituto Politécnico do Porto (IPP). Although it is difficult to separate between teaching and research activities, the research activities of the centre have consisted in the organization of two conferences and the publication of proceedings.
Funding received by the centre has been directed primarily to the hosting of the conference and the purchase of some relevant library materials. The funding was incidental but diverse, from the Instituto Politécnico do Porto, ISCAP, FCT, FLAD and Gulbenkian.
The Centre currently has two directors and two separate but interrelated lines of research. In total the centre lists seven researchers (with PhD) and seven associated members (one with PhD). This makes the unit very small even though it has demonstrated the potential to attract researchers with similar interests from other institutions and has established some international contacts.
Given its institutional affiliation with IPP one can say that this Centre represents a sort of test case. Traditionally polytechnic institutions in Portugal do not have a research mission. As such they also do not confer PhD degrees and this causes serious difficulties for a research centre, since it cannot itself enlist PhD candidates. The Centre so far has shown a high degree of initiative shown in the topic of the conference, and has established some contacts outside of the host institution. Nonetheless, it might be more sensible to consider forming a partnership with other, established, research institutes such as the CEHUM in Braga that already have working research lines on similar topics such as postcolonialism.


The declared objectives of the CEI are all very general and concern the development and implementation of research into a vast array of areas in the humanities comprising both traditional disciplines in literary and linguistic areas as well as interdisciplinary crossovers. Furthermore, the CEI plans to continue organizing conferences, publishing the results of such encounters, attract students and solidify international contacts. These objectives are presented as common for both research lines. However, beyond the planning of a conference, there are not yet concrete plans for these research goals.


As could be expected from a very small unit the administrative structure is fairly simple. Each research line has a principal investigator and both form the direction of the centre. At the moment actually, given the size of the centre it would seem more appropriate to consolidate the two research lines even if opting to keep two directors in place. The relations between the Centre and the host institution were presented as excellent, with the host institution prepared to continue supporting the centre in terms of space allocation and research time. Given the incipient nature of the centre and its small size this is very positive. However, should the centre keep its operations and expand the precise nature of the relationship between the centre and the host institution would have to be clearly defined so as to insure the viability and autonomy of the centre’s operations.


Given the recent formation of the Centre one can say that it has been very productive, hosting a large conference, insuring the publication of its proceedings, and planning another conference for 2008. Nonetheless, the short time span under consideration does not allow for a proper evaluation of productivity levels.


Considering the short amount of time under consideration the publication of two, and possibly three books of collected essays, two of them outside of Portugal, as well as several articles in international journals and national publications, and the small size of the unit, the potential for significant publication is demonstrated. The researchers are aware of the need for publishing their results outside of a strictly national context and this should be applauded; however, the need for selectivity in the choice of publishers should also be emphasized given the fact that the one chosen publishing company outside Portugal still has to establish itself in the scholarly community.


Given the nature of the host institution, there can be no PhD training at the moment. However, researchers could collaborate with colleagues at other institutions in the case of joint supervision. At the moment the training is limited to the MA level.


This has been so far the strong point of the Centre as it organized an innovative conference: II International Conference “Female Slavery, Orphanage and Poverty in the Portuguese Colonial Empire (XVI to XX centuries)”, ISCAP 20 – 22 November 2006. Another conference is planned to take place still in 2008 as are several guest lectures.


The Centre has a good relation with ISCAP in Porto but could still develop plans for activities that would allow for better integration in the community.


Understandably, at present the primary concern for management is to secure the continuation of the Centre and its research. However, given its small size and the nature of the host institution it could make sense to develop strategies to anchor the research lines in already established groups. Given the small size of the Centre, one can question the need for two separate lines, especially as they intersect.



The research agenda put forth by the Centre is innovative and much needed.
The researchers have managed to identify areas that have been mostly ignored
by others in the same field. In strategic terms, however, the creation of two
separate lines results in some dispersion of efforts and it might be advisable to
try to identify common points and to seek more or less formal integration in, or
collaboration with, other more established research units.


The Centre has so far successfully sought external funding for the conference
and resulting publication. However, in future terms, if the Centre would continue
and develop along its aims, it would have to formulate a concrete research plan
beyond the organization of conferences.


There is much in favour of conducting the research aimed for by the Centre,
either in terms of postcolonial studies or intercultural communication; but the
expressed aims would need to become much more focused.


As can be expected from a very small Centre, the lines of communication are
good. In terms of future planning, the direction could consider the necessity of
having two separate lines.


During the site visit it became clear that principal investigators are energetic and
communicate well with fellow researchers so that decisions can be effectively
taken with broad support. Continuity depends of course very much on the
administrative viability of the Centre as well as on the fact that the principal
investigators carry much of the responsibility for the existence and possible
continuity of the Centre.


Porto and the northern region of Portugal have several universities with active research centres so that there is no specific regional importance for this unit.


Given its very small size and recent creation the question of national interest is not relevant. However, as a possible test case for research programmes at polytechnic institutions certainly this unit holds interest at national level.


Although one cannot speak of an international profile for this unit it should be remarked that the researchers are clearly aware of the importance of international networks and publishing and actively seek those out.


One distinctive feature of this Centre is its affiliation with a polytechnic institution. As those institutions currently have no research mission, the existence of the Centre raises a number of questions that are beyond the scope of this report.


Based on the conditions of the Centre, especially its very recent creation and the very small number of researchers, the panel can only conclude with some regret that this unit rates currently as poor. However, the panel would like to remark that both the high level of energy of the principal investigators as well as their ability to define research topics of clear value impressed us greatly and merit some support.


Considering the current formative state of the Centre as well as the way institutions of higher education are currently defined in terms of research missions, the panel cannot recommend programmatic support of this unit. However, the panel feels strongly that the projects elaborated by the Centre in the very limited time since its creation, deserve to continue receiving incidental support.
The panel holds the opinion that it would make sense to try to integrate the research being conducted at the Centre – possibly after reformulating the two lines into one that would focus on issues of postcoloniality, women and intercultural communication – into an already established Centre such as the CEHUM in Braga. This might allow for the researchers not only to continue their innovative work but possibly to anchor it better in a larger academic community that might facilitate international networking and publication. In order for such a move to be effective it would be essential that the eventually to be created new research line receive funding from the FCT, subject to further evaluation of results achieved after a longer period of time than the one currently under review.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Intercultural Literary Communications [RG-LIT-Norte-Porto-4072-1408]
Technical and Non-Literary Paths Between Cultures [RG-LIT-Norte-Porto-4072-1409]

Comentários da unidade

We acknowledge that defending established traditions as a means to promoting the scientific evolution of Portugal is part of the received wisdom of policy makers. Rather, we would like to argue that ideological bias and a priori classification leads to a stagnant academia. Indeed, Centres such as ours fulfil a serious gap in the current situation of academia, namely the need for a closer relationship between the research agendas and the community. Furthermore, these Centres are, in themselves, the initiators of a new tradition that should be cherished.
The actual scientific production of CEI and the visible results of our research endeavours are a case in point, as well as our multidisciplinary approach, clearly valued by the panel, which is perfectly adapted to the mission of our institution. Besides, and given the fact that polytechnics cannot legally grant PhD degrees, we currently do have MA students conducting sound research within CEI.
Centres like ours continue to produce science and knowledge autonomously, while paving the way for further evolution of the academic offer. Should the scientific research of the polytechnics be subject to the supervision of universities, not only would it reinforce the assumption that there is a first and a second-class system of higher education in Portugal, but it would ultimately forfeit the obvious benefits of diversifying the Portuguese higher education system.
“Small”, “beginning” and “polytechnic”, which pepper the evaluation document, are precisely the words that define our essence, as this Centre was at its very beginning in July 2007, when we first applied to FCT. Much has been done and planned in the meantime, as can be seen in the yearly report (April 2008). So, if “small” and “beginning” no longer accurately portray CEI, the same cannot be said about its allocation to the polytechnic, which seems to be viewed as its main disadvantage. We beg to differ, as we value our affiliation as an asset.