FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências da Linguagem

Unidade de I&D

Instituto de Linguística Teórica e Computacional - ILTEC [LIN-LVT-Lisboa-146] visitada em 14/11/2007

Classificação: Very Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
This is a small but dynamic Unit, with positive students that feel encouraged and are engaged.
The research group on Discourse and Literacy is carrying out new and relevant work on Portuguese and other
languages, which can be seen as a very important contribution to widening the field of Linguistics in Portugal.
The Language and Linguistic Diversity group carries out work of potential social significance. It also has the potential for international significance if it could manage to pull out theoretically important components of the research and publish internationally.
The project is very important, with solid methodology and is creating a good database on children learning Portuguese. The database includes many relevant dimensions, but it appears to lack a principled approach.
Maarten Jansen has a particularly central role in this Unit – he has a good publication record and has successfully promoted the Units visibility on the web. This Unit has clearly has a very good state-of-the-art foundation in computational linguistics. Its only vulnerability is that for the time being most of the Unit’s international visibility is dependent on the work developed by Maarten Jansen. However, in view of the students’ enthusiasm and engagement, it seems reasonable to expect that a critical mass may be achieved in the near feature.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Discurso e Literacia/ Discourse and Literacy [RG-LIN-LVT-Lisboa-146-1613]
This is a new group and there are so far no results to evaluate. The group is relatively small but its goals are ambitious. This is one of the few groups where a truly cross-linguistic perspective is applied (i.e. one that goes beyond Portuguese and its closest relatives).
Léxico e Modelização Computacional/ Lexicon and Computational Modelling [RG-LIN-LVT-Lisboa-146-1610]
I did not get a clear picture of how many people are active in this group. I met only two researchers plus the head of the group. And it seems to me that these 3 people are by far the most active in the group. In particular Maarten Janssen, a Dutch post-doc, has implemented large parts of the Portal da Lingua Portuguesa and at the same time published a number of articles in prestigious international journals and conferences.
This Portal is one of the few web sites in Portugal that provides easy access to Portuguese lexicons and related resources.
The group has also built a state-of-the-art neology tracking system by automatically searching through online material and comparing it to exclusion lists consisting of dictionaries and corpus tokens.
This group has actively participated in the TermiNáutica project which resulted in an International Conference and a PhD thesis.
The head of the research group has also supervised 4 MA theses which were finished in the reported period.
This group has the computational skills needed to do international standard competitive work in lexicography. But these skills are very much centred on one person (Maarten Janssen). The group should make an effort to spread this knowledge to other members of the group and in particular to young researchers (e.g. through MA courses). The panel has the impression that this research unit as a whole and this group in particular is lacking office space.
Língua e Diversidade Linguística / Language and Linguistic Diversity [RG-LIN-LVT-Lisboa-146-1611]
The research group on Language and Linguistic Diversity has been running since 2003 and is made up of 6 PhD researchers addressing the acquisition of Portuguese as a second language by primary school children of immigration origin. The study has lead to an extensive database of written, oral and conversational Portuguese materials produced by the children, on which syntactic and lexical analyses are being carried out. CDs with teaching materials based on their results have been widely distributed to schools with the aim of promoting teaching strategies for children learning Portuguese as a non-native language. The project has a valuable national focus and has the potential for high level national impact. To determine this, the influence of the materials prepared to date would need to be evaluated.
Primary school children learning a non-native language is an overlooked population, despite the associated linguistic issues of learning a non native language being highly pertinent world-wide. With this basis, in addition to the project’s high practical relevance, strong national focus and outreach service, it also has great potential for international relevance if the research’s theoretical importance is extracted and extended from the data and analyses carried out to date. In this respect, the group’s research and international exposure would greatly benefit from developing international contacts that could provide an external view of the project’s research value in a broader perspective. The research to date has not yet reached peer-reviewed publications, although it has been printed in international guides for teachers and delivered as 6 international presentations. Research from the previous project period has otherwise come out in 8 MA theses and in national publications.
In addition to the PhD researchers in the project, the research group has actively worked to collaborate with primary school teachers. Although PhD degrees are yet to come out of the project, 8 MA theses have. The research group appears to have a good leadership, with clear objectives and well coordinated approaches for addressing them.
In the above assessment of "Resources for the research activity of the group", only "Funding" is evaluated.
The group’s research is strongly based on contact with teachers in the schools. To continue the project at its current pace, funding would be needed to support this form of collaboration.
To promote international publication of the project’s research, in particular in peer-reviewed journals, it is essential that the group has access to international publications to orient their own research and its publication.
In the "Summary of Individual Group Evaluation" below, the evaluation of the project’s “productivity” takes into account both that the research, on the one hand, has received only limited international exposure despite its broad impact potential, and on the other, has resulted in an extensive database of valuable materials being gathered and evaluated in a relatively short time period.

Comentários da unidade

Despite an absence of precise, substantiated criticism in the panel’s report, ILTEC has surprisingly been relegated from VERY GOOD to GOOD. The series of transformations initiated during the period under evaluation, undertaken to augment its productivity and standards of quality to the EXCELLENT level, seem not to have been understood by FCT and the panel as in fact being a huge step forward in ILTEC’s life. Originally created as a unit organised in clusters around specific projects, i.e. as a project-driven unit, ILTEC in 2005 adopted a dual policy of enlarging the body of researchers and of creating research groups, following the 2003 evaluation panel’s report and the recommendations of the Advisory Board. In 2003, ILTEC had only 3 doctoral researchers, who supervised 2 MA theses, but in 2007, as stated in the report and made clear to the evaluation panel, ILTEC had 11 doctoral researchers, and 18 junior researchers (10 of these being PhD students). This transformation, intended to contribute to establishing research capacity in fields that had not been traditional for ILTEC, was a major development in ILTEC’s history, constituting a significant leap forward taken during the period under evaluation. Can there be clearer indicators of growth than these? Is this not what it means to achieve critical mass?
Furthermore, ILTEC’s international visibility may have been dependent on work by M. Jansen, but it should be stressed that other researchers published around 20 items in important international books and journals in their areas of research (edited books and book chapters appearing with leading international publishers, and articles in journals, as stated in their CVs). The fact that most of these publications are by researchers who recently joined ILTEC and not in computational linguistics is no reason to deny their international visibility and importance, but a means to stress ILTEC’s path towards broader scope and impact and for increasing internationalization.