R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências Agrárias

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Desenvolvimento de Ciências e Técnicas de Produção Vegetal [AGR-Algarve-Faro-52] visitada em 15/02/2008

Classificação: Fair

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
CDCTPV is a medium-size unit with 20 PhD and 43 non-PhD members. The unit is part of University of Algarve. The unit now comprises two research groups: Plant and Environment and Food Safety and Biotechnology. The unit was recently restructured, when the former four research groups were merged into the present two research groups. This restructuring took place when members of the former research group on “Agricultural genomics” left the unit.
Among these members was the former unit coordinator.
Goals, ongoing and planned projects, strategic development in the future.
The unit is performing ordinary research in the areas of plant physiology and nutrition, in postharvest quality of horticultural products and in biotechnology and bioreactor engineering.
The research comprises some international activities, but is primarily of local and regional orientation.
The panel recognizes this attempt to perform technology transfer and industry cooperation.
However, the panel did not feel that the unit was performing fundamental research as a basis for this technology transfer and as the basis for long-lasting partnerships. Likewise, the panel did not feel that the possibilities for regional cooperation and a specific regional role of the unit have been exploited.
This can be exemplified in the area of research on golf courses. We did not feel that the potential for research in this area was being utilized. The panel also questions the perspectives of the unit’s work on biofuels considering the competencies of the unit and the complexity of this area of research.
The panel felt a severe lack of research strategy for the unit and a need for leadership with dynamics, initiative and strategic thinking. In this connection, the panel was surprised that the Advisory Board of the unit had not been activated in the process. Likewise, the panel was surprised that there was seemingly no attempts on strategic collaboration with other institutes, as e.g. the local Polytechnics or the institute in Evora. The panel has a suspicion that some of these serious weaknesses are due to the lack of strategic research policy of the faculty and the university. The impression was that there was much emphasis at the university on teaching activities and no emphasis on research activities.

Training of young researchers and students
No data were presented but general impression is OK

Interdisciplinary activities:
Not very well developed

Interactions with other national and international research units and companies
Not very well developed

Participation in international research programmes (EU etc.)
Not very well developed

Knowledge and technology transfer:
The unit holds patents that are utilized for industry cooperation. One of the patents was the first one to be taken by the University of Algarve.

Outreach activities:
Below potential

Attitude and work environment
The unit’s laboratory and office facilities were up to date and modern in the new university buildings. The panel did not see the unit’s greenhouse facilities which were claimed to be in a very bad shape as renovating them has been given low priority by the university.

Most pertinent comments and recommendations:
The panel recommends that the unit either concentrates on professional education activities – e.g. in cooperation with the local Polytechnics and without research activities – or enters into strategic cooperation with a strong research environment elsewhere, e.g. in Évora. In that case emphasis must be put on establishing a fundamental research platform as the basis for international cooperation and regional innovation and development.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Agricultural genomics [RG-X-AGR-Algarve-Faro-52-2208]
This is a rather small and focused research group.
How is cooperation established nationally in this area of research?
How is technology transfer planned to take place?
Which are the plans for the future?
Agroenvironment [RG-X-AGR-Algarve-Faro-52-2224]
The research group (in between non existent )fits well within general objectives of the Unit having relevant focuses (reuse of residues, clean techniques, environmental constraints such as drought and salinity) in view of existing staff. Productivity of the group is reasonable for 12 PhD; the quality also. Further (inter) national cooperation could improve relevance, efficiency and scientific quality of output. Training, in view of PhD’s and Masters seems to be good and supportive to contacts.
The group will be closed and its members will be reintegrated into two newly formed research groups. Its research achievements were focused on protection of natural and agricultural environment under conditions of southern Portugal with effects on public health.
The group reports variable achievements and patents’ pending, a good number of Ph.D. and MSc thesis completed. In the future it is advisable to attract more foreign scientists and to increase the international exchange and cooperation, as well as to increase the businesses involvement in the research funding and implementation of the results and recommendations.
Ecophysiological studies on Mediterranean species [RG-X-AGR-Algarve-Faro-52-2202]
The group has a good productivity, but few connections with national and international networks are reported.
The general focus of the group seems to be relevant in view of climatological and environmental developments.
The achievements seem to be presented in a strictly academic context and no outreach to society, policy and/or stakeholders is mentioned.
The productivity (combination IP and NC) seems rather low.
Some involvement of researchers in other programmes is mentioned, but no added value is mentioned nor is it quantified.
No internationally funded, industry funded or cooperative project are mentioned.
Educational responsibilities are not mentioned nor the involvement of students in the research activities.
What is the IF range of journals in the scientific domain the group is active in?
As the group will not continue; is there a final or concluding report?
What proportion of time is allocated to research/education?
What criteria have been applied in choosing the concrete research themes?
Food Safety and Biotechnology [RG-AGR-Algarve-Faro-52-1984]
The additional written and oral information was not sufficient and clear in order to give complete evaluation of the group activities for the period 2003 – 2006. The research is not enough focus and strong nationally and internationally linked and without the respective strategy vision from regional, national or EC point of view. The technology transfer, the patents and the links with the industry did not show how they should get practical application.
The progress for the year 2007 was not very obvious.
The question raised in my preliminary evaluation did not receive any expected answer:
- How far do the new (future) objectives differ from the old ones?
- Among the new five projects only one is approved so far.
- When the other four are expecting to receive the respective answers.
- How much the group cooperate within and outside of the country
Plant and Environment [RG-AGR-Algarve-Faro-52-1990]
Similarly to the Food and Biotechnology group the additional information was not clearly given. Nevertheless the group showed more focus and relevance in regard of the environmental issues as plant / environmental interaction in connection with water deficit, soil contamination, salt salinity, which was sufficiently reflected by publications in the well refereed international journals. However the practical realizations of the patents did not get the expected positive answer. It turned out that the PhD number is diminishing.

The progress made for the year 2007 was mainly related with some better determined and focus research line.
Also here unanswered questions:
- How is technology transfer performed - is there cooperation with industry based on the patents cited?
- What kind of international cooperation is taking place?
- Which are the plans for the future?
- What is the ratio between the publications with IF and without IF
- Who is going to assure the funding of the new projects?
- Are there projects funded by the EC FP’s?
Post-Harvest of Horticultural Commodities [RG-X-AGR-Algarve-Faro-52-2233]
Similar to the group of Food Safety and Biotechnology and Plant & Environment group there was no much additionally given information. The questions arisen from the preliminary information have not received the respective answer. All this together probably determined the reason the group to join the Food Safety and Biotechnology group for the period for the next evaluation period.
It seems that the new research group instead to show more concentration and interlinked got more dilution including more biofuel research which for such small group could not expect to be competitive and realistic.

Comentários da unidade

Comments of CDCTPV
The comments report (general and specific) of the evaluation panel is lacking objective assessments revealing some misunderstanding about the past and present unit structure and objectives. It is characterized by vague or sometimes contradictory sentences, exhibiting even in some cases rather vulgar or even incorrect appreciations. For example it is not referred the higher average scientific papers production by the research members comparatively with last panel evaluation. The panel also questioned that no answers were given about the future of former research groups, giving thus the idea that the panel missed the written fact and the oral information given that those groups were already extinct! Considering these and several other comments, the members of the unit feel that the panel did not conduct a fair and correct analysis of the CDCTPV and therefore, according with the regulations, will contest the given classification.