FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Estudos Africanos

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Estudos Sobre África e do Desenvolvimento - CESA [AFR-LVT-Lisboa-220] visitada em 17/12/2007

Classificação: Very Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
The panel site visit has been organized as was planned by FCT. We were welcomed by the Unit coordinator J. Oppenheimer (Chair) and the other members of the board, Prof. Serra (deputy chair) and Prof. Joana Pereira Leite (commissioner). João Estêvão, PI and also chair of the financial council was present together with a young researcher (MA) Maria Carreiro, working on the small islands project.
The chair made a few introductory remarks and summarized the activities of the centre as stated in the unit report. We then started the discussion with the two following questions
1) do you think there is enough focus in your research program in order to be specialized enough in the international scientific arena?
2) Is your teaching program (MDCI) research driven or is it the other way round?
In fact, the answer was given on the two questions in the same vein, very much as anticipated. CESA is embedded in ISEG and the latter is the main driver of the programs, research included. The fact that the educational program is linked to the economics faculty, including the master’s program, even though it is in development and international cooperation, means that it has to be approved by the faculty and by the standards of the economics discipline. This situation implies that Cesa falls between two chairs. For their disciplinary domain is economics, whereas a development centre and African studies unit is much more multidisciplinary in scope and theme. The members of the board acknowledged that they were happy to finally pass before an evaluation panel where different disciplines were represented. FCT allowed CESA by their funding to have somewhat more autonomy in the choice and specialization but this autonomy is very relative. This somewhat uneasy relationship is reflected in the choice of the RGs, as reflected in the very broad scope of some RGs who want to encompass all continents and all general development problems. We can understand the latter as a requirement for a more or less general MA program in development but it is somewhat uneasy to have that under the heading of an African Studies Unit who specialize in particular research themes, areas, or disciplines. So the spread between the requirements of the development field, the African studies unit and the economics department is a broad field to encompass. An inclusivity in the scope of an RG, which can motivate staff to feel involved, might have the adverse effect of making the actual research agenda unfeasible. To counter this problem it is better to accept that in any group, particularly in a small one, lone researchers will exist who need protection and collegial recognition in a wider context than an RG. Having and RG on ‘development economics’ for example, might mean all of CESA staff would be happy to join, but it would not provide them with a researchable research project in and of itself.
Different choices are then open that are more or less coherent for a limited unit in terms of funding and human resources. For example, CESA could opt for an economics development centre where it could perform in a division of labour in Portugal between Africa and development units, as the one who specializes in economic development. From this perspective, it could form, with the other units, one African PhD program where each of the institutes brings in its background, and wherein CESA specializes in Economics. But in this option the history and anthropology part of the unit would be problematic, in that it would be orphaned to the central agenda, unless the entire research portfolio was nonetheless protected.
Another option would be to opt for more autonomy and become an African Studies unit, but then the broad development choice of the globalization and other RG's is problematic and you loose the link with your host institution. In the absence of the first two more radical alternatives, that demand a strong vision on complementarily and cooperation between units and the political will to pursue - a third alternative, would be to look into the intersection of different sets that are now constituting the unit (Portuguese development cooperation, economics, African Studies ). In this option the focus of the RG's should be narrowed down and a more research driven educational program (MA) designed. (First recommendation). In fact the unit has already chosen this direction in a certain sense, since they plan to diminish the number of RG to two. We recommend the one on globalization to be less general in scope and narrow the specialization in the direction of Portuguese 'comparative advantage' so as to represent a value added in an international network on development and African studies. (Second recommendation)
On the choice of narrowing down the number of RGs to two, we had a few comments. First, it is a judicious choice to limit the number of RG's since human resources are limited. However there is also a drawback: We see that those persons responsible for the Unit (the board) are also the two responsible for the two new RG's. This leads to the situation where younger researchers and other PI's do not learn to take responsibility and prepare for the necessary continuity. Experience of research governance is a vital part of a junior researchers career, and ways need to be found of mentoring and building up skills in this area. Since we met with a number of promising young researchers it is good to consider shared responsibilities. There are also a number of possibilities to address the problem of continuity and renewal. Either you share responsibilities with a younger generation or create a space within your two RG's where they can access funds and dedicate part of the time to an area within the scope of the RG's research agenda. (3rd recommendation)
Another point of concern is the downward trend of the number of MA students. It would be good if the unit tries to give an answer to the different questions; Is it because development studies is going down in general? Has it to do with less attractiveness of the economic domain? Is there too little specialization in the MA or do students have the option for similar programs in other European centres? Is our program enough embedded in a European network? What is the value added of an MA in development in Portugal? Etc. Although an answer was given which referred to different and higher relative fee levels with comparable Portuguese institutions, we could not go into this in any detail since the aim was not to have an evaluation of the educational programs. That would require a different and more time consuming panel to try to give an answer to these questions, nevertheless since the research was so determined by the insertion of CESA in ISEG, it is somewhat artificial not to link at least these questions. This is especially so, because we met in our site visits a number of promising young researchers coming out of these MA programs and it is therefore important to raise the question of what context and facilities they have to continue in the profession. We recommend to consider jointly with other units to assess and propose the contours of a longer term cooperation in the field of education (MA's and PhD program); (4th recommendation)
We further recommend the Unit to continue and deepen the cooperation and synergy of the digitalization of the library (Memoria) together with the other Units on African studies. (5th recommendation)
We finally recommend strongly to develop the website for the CESA as a Unit. (6th recommendation)
In sum, because of the outstanding activities in the area of development and African studies, and the considerable quality of publications produced by individual members of the group, which weight our evaluation positively, we consider that CESA has performed very well within the opportunities created by FCT funding. We therefore grade the unit between 'Good ' and 'very good'. There is still room for improvement, especially in the following domains
1) Publication and participation in the international scientific arena (peer reviewed articles for a wider European and North American audience)
2) The development of a website
3) The reinforcement of the network of the Portuguese African and Development studies. In order to give a prominent place to Portugal within the networks of African studies, what is needed is cooperation (not competition) and looking for complementarities in the domain of education and research.
4) Stimulate young researchers to access responsibility within the RG's and the unit in order to prepare for the future.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
African Studies: History and Post-Colonial Luso-African Identities [RG-AFR-LVT-Lisboa-220-2107]
As this is a starting project, following the one that ended in 2007, criteria can only apply to the team and to the feasibility of the starting project. This is being led by a group of researchers of which 4 out of 7 were involved in the ending project.
Therefore, I have briefly evaluated this previous project.
The theme chosen by the group during the previous years wais quite novel as Asian migrations have been little studied by Africanists.
The group has basically achieved the aims of the project. Links have been established with French historians.
The publication of a special issue of the international journal Lusotopie is certainly an output to take into consideration. Twelve articles have been accepted for publication within this collective work.
The expertise acquired during the first phase enhances the potential of the second one, even if its theme is indeed broader. As the main investigator has a good experience in directing PhDs, one can suppose this will be an asset for this aspect of the project. The theme of the project is broad, allowing for diverse research and interdisciplinary, and this will certainly create a lively scientific environment.
The ongoing project is extremely interesting, well in tune with current trends where current community building is studied within its historical context. Centred on the lusophone world, and in particular on the Ismaïli Indians of Mozambique, it fills a gap in the study of diasporas. The comparison with Rwanda seems far –stretched and resulting from personal connections but is not completely inappropriate, and follows lines already present in the previous project.
The research group has connections with universities in Mozambique and is well connected with French researchers. Activities, such as the organization of regular seminars etc. remain unclear after the visit, as do the logistic aspects. How exactly this project is a team work remains unclear, but one can suppose each area will be covered by an appropriate member of the group. Judging by the output of the group in the context of its previous project, one could suggest that the output of the current one be more international, and also better integrated within studies led in Portugal by other centres of African Studies. Indeed, the theme postcolonial identity studies is also present in CEA (ISCTE) where the group could find more opportunities for academic interactions, as well as an outlet for publication in a Portuguese journal of international level. This project belonging mainly to historical studies could also find an appropriate outlet in Porto where the CEAUP has launched a journal of an excellent standard. Then, of course, remains the question of publishing in English, upon which I shall come back; I would already suggest that better connections of CESA with the two other centers might foster an appropriate outreach to international networks.
Such collaboration would also be favourable to a better internationalization of the research results.
At the end of the interview with the other members of the unit, a brilliant and promising Ph.D. student, Maria Carreiro, is called forth by the PI and presents her study on decentralized cooperation in a comparative perspective, taking into account Guinea Bissau and Cabo Verde. As far as I am concerned, this Ph.D. candidate is an important aspect to be taken into account in the context of funding the research group. In which measure and in what way Maria Carreiro is part of this research (and benefits from the funding thereof) remains unclear.
On the whole, I did not get the feeling the researchers of the group were really a team or were stimulating each other in their endeavours.
China and the World Trade: From Domestic Reforms to the Consequences for the Portuguese Economy [RG-X-AFR-LVT-Lisboa-220-1673]
Maria Fernanda Pargana Ilhéu seems to carry the bulk of the publications produced on the specific core of the research topic, including a book and article. The expertise of the other two researchers does not seem to fit so well, and a group output would have been desirable on the specifics of China. Productivity in terms of graduate students is tremendous, but does this hold back the research potential of the staff?
Productivity in terms of graduate students in tremendous, but seems to be crowding out some of the publications potential of the staff. The staff have made impressive efforts to encourage junior researchers and MA students, although the group seems to be less cohesive and focused among its staff members.
As with the Small Island Economies group, it would be prudent to publish more collaborative titles, and to identify pieces of work which are specific and accountable to the RG resource model: it is difficult at present to identify the value added of the RG to development economists at CESA, since their individual publications, which are none the less very impressive and in some cases exceptional, seem to have a separate and pre-existing logic independently of the RG and RU structure. In other words, the impression is left that people would do what they are doing regardless of the research groupings. If separate budgets are applied to each RG, for the purposes of accountability, it is important that publications be identified which result directly from activities funded by that budget. Senior management should ensure that teaching and other duties does not crowd out the proper planning of activities and fieldwork around an RG budget stream.
In short, there are examples of international excellence in publications emanating from the group. The future of comparative economics within the wider group on Development, Globalization and Institutional Change should be protected, as expertise on China and Asia more generally is rare in Portugal. However, a word of caution here is that the specific outputs promised which would be of value to an African audience or user group are thin: the benefit of returning this RG to an African Studies, rather than Development Studies panel is not easily evidenced, and it is a liberal view of the scope of African Studies which allows the group to still perform on the criteria of relevance.
Contemporary Diasporas Originating in the Portuguese-speaking World and in its Margins [RG-X-AFR-LVT-Lisboa-220-1454]
The project that is being evaluated here has come to an end. It remains interesting to evaluate it, as its PI is now starting on a new project.
The PI (J.Pereira Leite) has an excellent international network that has materialized into the organization of an international conference. She also collaborates in an efficient manner with colleagues but at ISEG and in Paris, and coordinates a program of cooperation funded with the support of bilateral Cooperation luso-Francesa.
An impressive number of Masters and Ph.D. have been supervised by members of the group, mainly in the area of literature, which makes me wonder why they are referred to in an Institute dedicated to Economy and Management.
Adequacy of group organization and leadership.
Culture of creativity and opportunity/encouragement of younger researchers.
The cohesion of the group seems low, as appears in the lack of common projects within it and in the lack of coherence in the themes of dissertations supervised.
We got no idea about secretarial and technical support. The only room available was (too) small to hold a meeting in an efficient manner, which means the group works usually under the same circumstances.
Development, Globalization and Institutional Changes [RG-AFR-LVT-Lisboa-220-1674]
Evaluation is hampered by the fact that this is a future project, so it is based on an estimate of likely outcomes only. On productivity the assessment is based on a short list of relevant publications of a high standard, but not submissions from all those listed. The relevance criteria is based on the five strands identified, as is high, but could not fail to be at this level of broad programmatic content. It is unclear at this level of generalisation what exactly the group will focus on, and the methodologies it will adopt. There are only large subject areas identified here, although the emphasis on institutions is particularly 'current' I would say. There is not enough data to assess training, as it is in the future, but plans over recruitment could be used.
The housing of the project on Decentralized Cooperation within this research group illustrates its strong potential, a project that would be excellent.
The remainder of the group is made up of some exceptional researchers with strong international publications records, and some other researchers with lesser records of publications, mostly explained by age and career path in the case of the junior members. As a strategic endeavour the group, which has a broad agenda, cannot fail to be relevant to development agendas internationally. However, it still remains to be proven that the group can mount collective research and publications projects on a specific theme, planned, resourced and pursued within the framework of this new RG. Interactions and networking activities do not appear particularly strong.
In short, members of the group should consider a joint project, or several, at an early opportunity, for which special funding can be sought to help underscore and embed an ethos of collaborative working.

Strategic leadership to place the group internationally does not convince, and there is a risk that the group will become too broad and either contribute nothing of specific value to international debate, or nothing of further value-added, over and above the list of publications pursued by individuals on their own account. The RG may not also have a relevance specific enough to African Studies. However, if the leadership of the group can motivate and inspire specific collaborations and new synergies among members, there is the potential for international excellence. However, there still some outstanding questions that the group should consider: What are each of the academics going to do who are listed in the group? What specific projects are planned under the five research areas? How this build on the expertise will build up under the 'small islands' and 'China' programmes? How will work on 'globalisation' be specific enough to capture the African Studies expertise of the Unit?
Small Island Economies: Models of Analysis and Economic Development Prospective [RG-X-AFR-LVT-Lisboa-220-1672]
There is a problem here in that we are told that the focus of the group changed even during the 2003-6 time period when you would expect a primary focus on Island Economies. In fact few of the core publications listed seem to be in this area, and the very promising work mentioned of a model of small island economies seems to feature in only one working paper and subsequent publication. The stream on development finance introduced is not in a completely overlapping geography, in terms of the initial narrower focus, but does work better in the new merged group on globalization and institutions. The social psychology stream looks promising. The Island economies work is arguably a specific expertise that the RU could offer, whereas the newer plans might need more focus, and are in a more competitive international market, thus risking that the Unit loses a unique niche.
These points put questions marks over productivity and relevance, which need answering, so the scores at this stage are conservative.
João Estêvão answered questions directed to the group's activities, while Maria Carreiro, an exceptional young researcher, answered questions on the Decentralized Cooperation project (FCT funded in 2004), led by Carlos Eduardo Machado Sangreman Proenca.
In the preliminary evaluation I noted that the focus of the group had changed and expanded substantially during the period under review, such that a primary focus on Island Economies was hard to evince. Few of the core publications listed were in this area, while there was little evidence of researchers working collaboratively or specifically under the auspices of the RG. The very promising sounding model of small island economies did not feature prominently in the publications of the group. The research streams on development finance, social psychology and EU institutions do not immediately fit within the narrower expected focus of the group, and could risk diluting the core expertise on Lusophone small island economies.
During the site visit some of the substantive weaknesses within the reports supplied were, however, allayed. The group did suffer some loss of specificity, undoubtedly, but this was explained within the acceptable bounds of inevitable change prompted by staff changes beyond the control of the group leadership. Indeed, an effort to be inclusive of junior staff and incoming colleagues explained in large part the widening of research agendas. In this respect, it is wise to discontinue this research stream in favour of the newer and broader RG group - Development, Globalization and Institutional Change - in so far as the specific skills related to Small Island economies are maintained.
To underscore, however, the collective identity of the new group, and to build on the synergies of staff, it would be prudent to publish more collaborative titles, and to identify pieces of work which are specific and accountable to the RG resource model: it is difficult at present to identify the value added of the RG to development economists at CESA, since their individual publications, which are none the less very impressive and in some cases exceptional, seem to have a separate and pre-existing logic independently of the RG and RU structure. In other words, the impression is left that people would do what they are doing regardless of the research groupings. If separate budgets are applied to each RG, for the purposes of accountability, it is important that publications be identified which result directly from activities funded by that budget. Senior management should ensure that teaching and other duties does not crowd out the proper planning of activities and fieldwork around an RG budget stream. The particular project on Decentralized Cooperation seemed to have these discrete identifying features; a boundedness of effort and employed persons, which could make it stand out as something that would not have otherwise happened in any case.
In short, there are examples of international excellence in publications emanating from the group, which also promises to deliver such contributions in future. However, the research governance structure, motivation and focus of the group seemed somewhat more disparate than the discrete efforts of individual researchers: the sum of the parts was much less than the value of the same taken separately.
Some staff reported higher teaching load than would be an international norm for research active staff.