FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Estudos Literários

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Línguas e Culturas - Centre for Languages and Cultures [LIT-Centro-Aveiro-128] visitada em 08/02/2008

Classificação: Fair

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
1. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Closely affiliated with the Department of Languages and Cultures at the University of Aveiro, the Centro de Línguas e Culturas (CLC) began its activities in 1994 as a small group of senior researchers who, for the most part, tended to work individually. After a reorganisation of the unit, three distinct research groups emerged: Sciences of Language, Literary Studies and Cultural Studies. These groups loosely correspond to the undergraduate and graduate teaching mission of the department. The number of researchers affiliated with the Centre has grown a good deal in recent years and it now counts a total of 53 senior researchers and 35 PhD students. The majority of these researchers belong to the Literary Studies Research Group (26 PhD holders and 17 doctoral students). The other two groups count 15 PhD holders and 7 doctoral students (Sciences of Language) and 12 PhD researchers and 11 doctoral students (Cultural Studies).
During the site visit, members of this Centre referred several times to a recent reorganisation of the undergraduate curriculum of the Department of Languages and Cultures and the impact that it has had on the Centre’s research projects. Teaching duties have been reconfigured within the department, as teacher-training courses have been eliminated and new emphasis has been placed on courses in translation and language training for business. In response to this institutional reorganisation, the Centre has begun to expand its research into these areas.


2. DECLARED OBJECTIVES

The objectives declared on the Unit Report Form of the FCT report are quite general. They describe the Centre’s commitment to carry out high quality research in the Humanities that is interdisciplinary and collaborative. These objectives also include a plan to internationalise the CLC’s research projects through the increase and development of contacts with foreign centres that will lead to partnerships and shared applications for European projects.
Each of the CLC’s research lines also includes extensive lists of general objectives which, for the most part, describe the different projects that have been or are currently being pursued by various subgroups of researchers. These are: Computational Processing of Linguistic Variation, a Philological-Lexical project, Translation and Terminology Studies; Applied Linguistics (Languages Sciences Group); Short Literary Forms, Classical Philology, Representation of Portugal in Foreign Literatures and the Representation of the Foreign in Portuguese Literature, Readings. Discourses. Contexts, Intercultural German Studies (Literary Studies Group); Cultural Identities and Representation in the Modern Era, Portuguese Anticlericalism: Its History and Discourse, the Ibero-American Inheritance of Portuguese Culture (Cultural Studies Section).


3. ADMINISTRATIVE STRUCTURE

According to documentation distributed during the site visit, the CLC’s administrative structure is comprised of a four-member management committee.
These members are: the Unit Coordinator who is elected in a plenary meeting of all the Centre’s members (PhD and non-PhD) and the Heads of the three research groups. As the Unit Coordinator is also the Head of his respective research group (Literary Studies), his deputy in that group has been appointed a member of the management committee.
The management committee is responsible for the financial management of the Unit. It distributes funding for activities and bibliographical acquisitions to the different lines in proportion to the number of researchers in each line. The Unit Coordinator also is authorised to hold back and manage a portion of the Centre’s overall budget in order to fund general activities, support publications, acquire equipment and make up for unforeseen budget overruns in the various research lines.
We have looked for a confirmation of this structure in the documents posted at the Centre’s web site and have not found any such description of the management team. There, it states that there is a “Scientific Council” comprised of all PhD members. It is this group that has the power to approve budgets, etc. This document is from April 2001, the year that the current Unit Coordinator was elected to a two-year term. It seems that no plenary meeting of the CLC’s researchers has been held since then. We find these discrepancies perplexing.


4. PRODUCTIVITY

4.1 PUBLICATIONS

The details of publications, conference organisation and participation as well as the production of MA and PhD theses are listed in the Centre’s report to the FCT. Each research group lists extensive publications; however, given the large number of senior researchers affiliated with the Centre it might be safe to say that the proportion of publications to the number of researchers does not exceed a satisfactory rating. Also, it should be noted that certain members of each group are clearly more productive than others and that individuals in each line have consistently published in journals and volumes edited outside of Portugal.
The CLC edits several publications: Ágora: Estudos Clássicos em Debate, Forma Breve, Revista da Universidade de Aveiro – Letras. Several of the representative publications listed in the FCT report appeared in these and in other publications edited and produced at the University of Aveiro. While these publications circulate nationally, their international profile was not addressed in the FCT report or at the site visit. The process of peer review for these publications also was not clarified.


4.2 TRAINING

The CLC is a very large Centre that has produced many MAs and PhDs over the past four years (21 completed MA theses and 6 PhD theses in the Languages Sciences Group; 14 completed PhD theses and 16 MA theses in Literary Studies; 3 completed PhD theses and 27 MA theses in Cultural Studies). Many of the Centre’s PhD candidates work as adjunct faculty in the Department of Languages and Cultures and several have also received scholarships from the FCT. Although the graduate students affiliated, reiterated the apprehension expressed by the senior researchers in regard to the recent remodelling of the department’s undergraduate degree programs, they expressed a general sense of good will towards the programme and most seemed well integrated in its activities.


4.3 ACADEMIC EVENTS

All of the research lines housed in the Centre have been responsible for the organisation of a significant number of seminars and conferences on topics such as Portuguese Studies, Classical Studies, Short Story Theory, the Power and Persistence of Stereotypes, Television, Aesthetics and Reality, Languages and the Marketplace and Translation and Terminology. Future plans include the intention to continue this practice. In addition, members regularly present papers at national conferences and certain members also have participated actively in international conferences. It is not clear, however, whether this participation is voluntary or has been generated by invitations. There is a lack of clarity between these meetings, both national and international, as occasions for networking or as opportunities to develop and produce high quality published research, this being a problem common to research centres in Portugal as a whole.


4.4 OUTREACH

Members of the Centre regularly present lectures and conferences at area secondary schools and many events organised at the Centre are specifically aimed at secondary school audiences. The Centre is active in the organisation of the University of Aveiro’s English Film Festival. As several of the senior researchers included in the Centre have institutional affiliations with other Portuguese universities or polytechnics, the CLC naturally maintains ties and affiliations with these institutions. The Languages Sciences research line is an active member of the project AMPER (Atlas multimedia prosodique de l’Espace roman) and plans are being made to establish more links to international universities, particularly in Portuguese-speaking countries.


5. MANAGEMENT STRATEGY

The present management strategy does not correspond to the statutes of the Centre as listed on the CLC web site. For such a large centre, the formal decision-making process seems to be restricted to a small group of individuals. It was not clear during the site visit whether the Centre has come together often as a whole to discuss the direction of the various research lines or to address the concerns regarding the departmental restructuring and its impact on the Centre’s future research that were expressed during the site visit. This seems to be corroborated on the Centre’s web page where, apparently, the last plenary meeting of the CLC was held in April 2001.


6. FUTURE PLANNING

During the site visit, the management team of CLC expressed a certain amount of anxiety regarding the future and recognised the need to allocate resources and build up expertise in new areas such as Languages and Business Training, Languages and Editorial Studies and Languages and Specialised Translation. Several recent initiatives on translation and terminology have been taken up by the Languages Sciences Group. However, no specific plans for developing new lines in any of these areas were discussed, and there seems to be a bit of resistance to the idea that the Centre needs to rethink its present division into three distinct lines. While these research lines were presented to the panel as autonomous, the FCT report reveals that they already share some concerns and interests that could be capitalised on if the Centre were to undertake an in-depth reorganisation. There is some overlap between the publications and PhDs produced by the Cultural Studies group and those in Literary Studies. In the same vein, at least one conference, on Languages and the Marketplace, was organised by two lines (the Cultural Studies and Languages Science groups) in collaboration.
The individual research lines operate according to their own internal dynamics, and at present there is very little synergy between the three research lines. Within each research group, there are internal structures that facilitate development, but it is not clear whether the thematic lines of research within the groups have emerged from circumstantial or conceptual considerations. This in turn, weakens the organisational and intellectual coherence of the Centre as a whole.
At this moment, the Centre’s management team seems to be planning for the future in a reactive, even defensive manner. The greater part of the report filed with the FCT focuses on past achievements, and the site visit also concentrated almost exclusively on the past instead of the future. The management team, moreover, did not demonstrate a coherent plan for formulating a unified strategy for future research, teaching, international networking and outreach. Nor did it see a need to open the Centre’s administrative structures to a wider group of members, which might allow for more constructive discussions about the Centre’s future projects. This Centre has the capacity to produce a very high order of interdisciplinary research, but in order to do so; it will need to explore innovative possibilities in a more positive manner.


7. REGIONAL ROLE

The CLC has acted an important mediator between secondary schools and polytechnics in the region, with several collaborators in the Centre coming from the latter type of institution. Researchers are also aware of the need to build new bridges with colleagues working in business, technology and the sciences at their university. These collaborations should be encouraged, and the Centre should look for ways of strengthening its ties to the region without sacrificing its projects that bring it national and international attention.


8. NATIONAL INTEREST

As a research unit dedicated to interdisciplinary and comparative work, this Centre has a strong national profile. Certain thematic areas within the three research lines (such as Short Literary Forms and the Dictionary of Portuguese Dictionaries Project) have attracted national attention. More formal relationships between other centres interested in these and other research topics should be encouraged.


9. INTERNATIONAL PROFILE

Some individuals affiliated with the Centre currently maintain formal and informal ties with international institutions and with individuals working at foreign universities. Attempts to deepen existing relationships and to formalise new ones would certainly benefit the younger researchers affiliated with the Centre. The Centre will also need to rethink its publication strategy in order to widen the distribution of its already existing journal and reviews, and to place greater emphasis on publication in international, peer-reviewed journals.


10. GRADING OF AND EVALUATIVE STATEMENT

All seven members of the review panel who visited this Centre classified below standard. This relatively low final evaluation of “fair” reflects the panel’s impression that the Centre needs to rethink both its administrative and management structures and the current organisation of its research lines. A centre of this size should be governed by an administrative unit that is more dynamic, inclusive and transparent. While the Centre’s current management committee has recognised the changing role of literary and language studies at the University of Aveiro, in practice it has shown little interest in creating new, more synergetic lines, or in reorganising current research lines so as to better address these changes.


11. RECOMMENDATIONS

i) To develop a shared conceptual, administrative and strategic framework that would underpin the reorganisation of the Centre

ii) To target productive research themes and reorganise existing research lines so as to emphasise what is convincing and distinctive about this Centre’s interdisciplinary work

iii) To develop a permanent collaborative doctoral seminar program together with, or as part of, the programs in other centres

iv) To update the Centre’s web page

v) To continue outreach to local schools and polytechnics

vi) To improve international publications

vii) To strengthen and formalise relationships with national/international institutions and universities
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Ciências da Linguagem - Languages Sciences [RG-LIT-Centro-Aveiro-128-420]
Estudos Culturais - Cultural Studies [RG-LIT-Centro-Aveiro-128-422]
Estudos Literários - Literary Studies [RG-LIT-Centro-Aveiro-128-421]

Comentários da unidade

The most striking impression any member of the CLC gets after reading this report is of one of deep injustice.
Some facts visibly underlying the panel’s judgement do not correspond to reality.
The proposal that was submitted – and apparently not fully understood – implied the transition from a CLC which was structured according to specific research lines to a strategic plan aimed at the exploration of synergies. As stated in the proposal, these lines would effectively cluster (in reality, and not only in paper) into three main research groups.
Moreover, the panel members were informed that the recent reconfiguration of teaching tasks within the Department, which involved most of the researchers affiliated with the CLC, had significantly interfered with their research activities, and that the CLC was not yet fully prepared, with the exception of a few cases, to move a step forward and launch consolidated research activities in these areas, since the priority until now had been to ensure sound patterns of teaching quality. Again, this explanation appears to have been ostensibly overlooked in the evaluation report.
Most of the comments pertaining to the ‘administration’ of the CLC are complete fabrications deriving from two circumstances: the answer given to a very specific question and the access to the old web site of the CLC.
During the site visit, we were asked if, prior to the panel’s visit, a general preparatory meeting had been held. We explained then that the actual preparation of the panel’s visit had been for practical reasons carried out through e-mail. However, both general and sectorial meetings had taken place when the project for the Centre had to be submitted to the Foundation for Science and Technology, a few months before. Since from the time when these meetings occurred up to the date of panel’s visit the project hadn’t been altered in any way, another general meeting was obviously unrequired.
However, the evaluators, solely on the basis of the information they gathered in the old web site of the CLC have hastily drawn several conclusions which are absolutely untrue.
We wish to point out that it is absolutely false that:
1) the Scientific Council hasn’t met since 2001;
2) the decisions taken collide with statutory regulations;
3) all management decisions are taken by a restricted group of four people.