R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências do Mar

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental (CIMA) [MAR-Algarve-Faro-350] visitada em 19/01/2008

Classificação: Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
The Centro de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental is a large unit consisting of five extant groups and three future groups. Similar to other large units in Portugal, the topics of research are diverse and comments regarding the preliminary evaluation must be viewed group by group (see group evaluations).
In general the reviewers asked for more details about activities within certain international projects and about the groups' outreach activities. Reviewers also had questions about the reorganization of the unit and about the reasons for the discontinuation of groups.
The unit in Faro as a whole missed the ranking very good by a slim margin. This was, however, only related to the evaluation of two groups. Within these groups it was also the low number of students that received training that finally had an impact on the evaluation of the entire unit. However, most groups of the Centro de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental certainly qualify as very good and it should be emphasized that group 1701 (sedimentary dynamics) received the highest ranking of all groups working in this field that the panel evaluated in Portugal. Likewise the groups 1703 (Biogeochemical Cycles and Anthropogenic Alterations of the Environment) and 1706 (Technologies in Environmental Rehabilitation) were regarded as very good. The panel would very much regret if funding for those groups in Faro that are very good or even better would be affected, due to the fact that the unit as a whole missed the rating "very good" by a slim margin. Thus, the panel believes that, in the future, the Centro de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental should become a member of an Associate Laboratory. This would enhance the output of those groups in Faro that are already very good or even better. For those small groups working on geological and hydrodynamic processes that encounter some difficulties, the integration into an associated laboratory would provide an opportunity to restructure and to obtain access to expensive equipment and to ship-time. Both expensive monitoring equipment and ship-time are clearly difficult to obtain for the small groups working on geological and hydrodynamic processes.
Due to its location, Faro provides unique conditions for research and for the education of students. The direct access to the salt marshes is ideal for field studies and for teaching students. The students of Centro de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental have explicitly expressed their contentment, despite limited financial resources for their research. Students that receive grants from FCT should be encouraged to fully exploit the opportunity to visit other European laboratories.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Research objective III - Large Scale Geological Processes [RG-MAR-Algarve-Faro-350-2324]
Research Objective I - Marine Processes [RG-MAR-Algarve-Faro-350-2320]
Research Objective II - Marine Morfosedimentary Processes [RG-MAR-Algarve-Faro-350-2321]
Research Objective IV - Impact of Environmental Processes [RG-MAR-Algarve-Faro-350-2325]
TG 4 (FISOC) - Dynamics and Energy Transfers in the Ocean [RG-X-MAR-Algarve-Faro-350-1705]
The committee rated the overall performance of the group as good. The general impression obtained during the presentation and the exchange of views led to a more shaded overall appreciation.
Good, both in terms of publications in peer-reviewed journals and presentations at international conferences. At least 7 papers in JCR journals with IF in between 0 and 2. Many “Other publications” are listed.
The work presented is of good quality and represents a classical approach of local hydrodynamics. Hydrodynamic modelling of estuarine environments (completed by biogeochemical and ecological modules) has been appreciated and should be promoted in the future.
As for other physical oceanography teams in Portugal, this group suffers from insufficient sea-going equipments and almost no ship time access, a severe handicap for field research that is not necessarily its responsibility. However some discrepancies were made apparent during the presentation regarding the real involvement in international initiatives and the answers provided on that point were not convincing. The group has no capability for mooring deployment despite this kind of activity is mentioned as a “Main achievement” in the groups’ report. The group got a rather limited number of projects funded. The group is involved, with a minor role, in the recently approved ESONET NoE, funded by the EC. References were made to EUROGOOS during the presentation, as a significant activity for the group, while it is known that Portugal does not belong to EUROGOOS. According to the report and the presentation it is unclear what has been done actually by the group and what has been done by others.
1 PhD thesis for the entire period appears however insufficient.
Improving working facilities (e.g. instruments, research vessel availability) is perhaps beyond the existing possibilities at CIMA in particular and in Portugal in general. However the panel strongly encourages the group to connect with similar groups in Portugal with the aim of developing collaborative work (e.g. common experiments at sea) that could help to share sparse means and inspire a new dynamism. So far this is the only way the panel sees the Portuguese Universities to fully exploit their potentialities to further develop a sound physical oceanography of international relevance.
TG 5 (TECAMB) - Technologies in Environmental Rehabilitation [RG-X-MAR-Algarve-Faro-350-1706]
The committee rated the overall performance of the group as very good. The research project led by Dr. Rosa at the CIMA from 2003 to 2006 is basic research designed to investigate the potential of advanced technologies for the treatment of drinking water. Membrane technology for water treatment is very relevant internationally. This three year project has made significant advances in the development of flotation and nanofiltration technologies to remove cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins in the treatment of drinking water. A laboratory scale hybrid membrane-adsorption system (powdered activated carbon/ultrafiltration) for removing cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins from drinking water was developed and tested. It required a significant amount of effort to build the system for this research. The project involved two researchers with Ph. D.’s, five research assistants without a doctorate degree and several Ph.D. and M. Sc. students. Two students completed their degrees. The overall scientific productivity in terms of publications in leading journals and conference proceedings are rated high considering the relatively small size of the group with two researchers (Ph. D.) conducting this project. The group completed 7 industry contract research projects and the technology developed by the group was transferred to industry. There is no patent listed.
The group organized one conference at the national level during the period under review. They were effective in making the correct choices to develop appropriate technology to control the outbreak of cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins in drinking water, which remains an EU and global concern. Within a short period of time they were able to link their research program with other European institutions of mutual interest. The socio-economic impact of the work of the group is difficult to judge but the results will improve the quality of drinking water in Portugal. There were strong international linkages with Finland, Germany and UK. Collaborative publication and research involved scientists from UK, Switzerland, Denmark, Spain, Netherlands, Finland and Poland. The contract funding from the private sector in 2003-05 indicates the relevance of this work to society.
This project has made significant advances in the development of technologies to remove cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins in the treatment of drinking water. The overall findings on the hybrid membrane-adsorption system (powdered activated carbon/ultrafiltration) for removing cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins from drinking water have a practical application, which is utilized by the industry in the treatment of the drinking water. A performance assessment system for drinking water treatment plants was also developed, however the results are preliminary. The research was conducted at the scale of a laboratory. Thus the feasibility of these technologies was unclear and would need to be validated through pilot projects at the industrial scale. It would also be useful to link this work with monitoring of receiving environments.
Twelve students were involved during the 3 year funding of the project. One Ph. D. and one M. Sc. thesis were completed during the term of the project. However, other students completed their degrees after 2006. The training opportunity was excellent for the graduate students involved in this project.
The future of this group is uncertain because the dynamic group leader has left CIMA and no new leader has been identified. The rationales and achievements for this small project were clear from the information provided during the presentation and most of the major points were clarified during the presentation. The feasibility of continuation of the project should be assessed and reconsidered because of emerging problems with pollutants and cyanotoxins. Global warming may have significant impacts on algal blooms and toxin production. Involvement of industry partners may also help to continue this area of research.
It was an efficient, cohesive small group which generated basic scientific technological information to improve water quality in Portugal. Overall productivity was excellent, the project was relevant in terms of industrial application, feasibility of the project was clearly demonstrated and a relatively large number of graduate students received training from two Ph. D. researchers in the group.
TG1 (DINSED) - Sedimentary Dynamics [RG-X-MAR-Algarve-Faro-350-1701]
The committee rated the overall performance of the group as very good to excellent. Productivity in terms of scientific publications is noticeable, with a substantial number of papers published in journals within the JCR of the ISI, five of them with an IF >2. In terms of publications it would be wiser to select more journals with high IF's. Considering the quality of the research topics addressed by the group and its wider relevance there should be no difficulties to publish more in higher ranked journals. The panel understood, during the presentation and the questions, that the group was subject to some difficulties related to the very fast turn-over of younger staff. It strongly supports and encourages the group members to find solutions (at the unit level or higher) that could help to overcome this problem.
The work developed along the two research lines (coastal dynamics and estuarine and shelf dynamics) is very relevant to the field. Though it is applied to “local” areas, the results obtained are of interest to a much larger community, also outside Portugal. Fruitful collaborations exist with several EU groups. The overall impact of the group’s activities possibly has a potential to further extend beyond Portugal that the group is trying to exploit (e.g. through the formal involvement in a larger number of international research projects). The group has been involved in the organization of three symposia, conferences and workshops. The cooperation with mainly Spanish researchers translates often into paper co-authoring.
The strategical geographical location of Faro, with plenty of nearby coastal spots deserving the highest international interest, is a benefit for the group, which has demonstrated capabilities to exploit this advantage.
2 Master Theses and 6 PhD Theses are reported within the evaluation period. This is very good, and higher than average with regard to the small size of the group. European co-supervisors of PhD and MsC students exist, altogether with graduate training by group researchers in Spain, Brazil and Angola. The group keeps the links with its former PhD students, which helps it to enlarge its international collaborations.
This group clearly is a masterpiece within CIMA, and also at national level for coastal sedimentary dynamics.
The group has a well balanced in / out flux of young researchers that leave the group after finalizing the PhD Thesis. It seems that the outward flux is not weakening the group.
The panel has been overall impressed by the quality of the research presented, the dynamism of the group leader, and the scientific impact beyond national limits. This group is undoubtedly the most efficient of the entire unit.
TG2 A (BIOGEO) - Biogeochemical Cycles and Anthropogenic Alterations of the Environment [RG-X-MAR-Algarve-Faro-350-1703]
The committee rated the overall performance of the group as very good. The group is doing very good publishing in high quality journals.
The group is doing high quality research both on local topics but also on international level. It is also internationally well integrated in activities such as ICES.
A large number of PhD students are trained. The students seemed to be very satisfied with their working conditions and support of supervisor.
The group should make the results of its research more visible.
TG2 B (BIOGEO) - Biogeochemical Cycles and Natural Alterations of the Environment [RG-X-MAR-Algarve-Faro-350-2744]
The committee was pleased by the good overall performance of the group. The overall publication record of the group is good. The number of publications could be somewhat higher, but the journals in which they appear are good to very good.
The research has a large fundamental component and in addition important applied aspects, especially regarding an understanding of sea level changes. The group has participated in the organization of international meetings and collaborates with international scientists.
The feasibility of the research of this group is good, given the level of funding, the quality of the research and the attractivity of the group for students.
A good number of Masters and PhD students have been supervised by this group on technical subjects, but also on outreach tools that are relevant to the field.
We recommend the group to continue the good research and teaching and to try increase the number of publications.

The group is doing well overall. Good fundamental and applied research is carried out, although the number of publications could be somewhat higher. There is attention for outreach activities. The teaching is good. The internationalization is also good.
TG3 (GM) - Structure of the Earth’s Crust [RG-X-MAR-Algarve-Faro-350-1704]
The committee rated the overall performance of the group as good. Taking into account the size of the group, the productivity measured in terms of scientific papers is quite good, with at least 12 papers in JCR journals, including 3 with an IF >2. This aspect of the evaluation is very positive. According to the presentation, the most productive researcher (Lourenço, N.) in the reporting period has disappeared from the group. Apparently he will come back to the group within a short period.
The work performed partly is of noticeable scientific impact. The group leader fails in giving concise, clear answers on the main scientific achievements of the group so far. Indeed, the group partly failed to demonstrate the overall relevance of the modelling performed (i.e. beyond the technical development of some routines included in larger models).No conferences and seminars are reported. Some differences appear between the group report and the presentation given during the site visit. The group leader seems not to be fully aware of international relevant activities on topics of direct interest to the groups (e.g. tsunamis vs. EU-funded projects NEAREST and TRANSFER).
The group does not seem to have a too strong capacity of transforming plans into relevant projects, though a sound international cooperation (dependence?) exists as illustrated by the co-authoring of papers. The sea-going activities of the group are critically depending on support from other countries that may offer, eventually, positions on their cruises. Too much activities appear more relevant to engineering work or are done because of an opportunity without a clear objective in view, even though the panel recognizes the strong difficulty to access ship time.
No Master or PhD Theses are reported.
According to the report and the presentation it is unclear what has been done actually by the group and what has been done by others. The group suffers of tremendous difficulties to access to ship time and to the necessary instrumentation (e.g. multibeam), which is not unique to this group but a general problem in Portugal. The panel recommends a severe in-depth introspection of the group to clearly redefine its activities, so as to make a better use of the existing capacities and expertise.
This is a very small size of the group, undoubtedly below the efficiency threshold. The fact that it will be incorporated into a larger one (Large scale geological processes) should be considered as a chance of redefining clearly the research objectives as well as the tasks needed to pursue them in a more efficient manner. Training is also clearly a weakness that could be easily corrected.

Comentários da unidade

The rating “good” does not reflect the evolution of this unit, which has been rated as "very good" in the 3 previous evaluations. All quantitative measures of our R&D activity have increased markedly with respect to the previous three years. For example:
a) the number of articles in ISI-referenced journals has increased by 65%
b) the number of international meetings organized by CIMA has tripled
c) the number of completed PhD theses has increased five-fold
The evaluation commission justifies the rating of "good" on the grounds that 2 of the 5 groups in CIMA did not perform sufficiently well in the area of post-graduate training. However, in the period under evaluation, 75% of CIMA researchers were working within 3 groups rated as "very good". This simple proportionality indicates that the overall rating of this centre should better than "good". Moreover, the whole of CIMA was responsible for 2 MSc courses during the evaluation period, both of them international and one financed by the EU Erasmus Mundus Program. The evaluation report’s analysis of the internal coherence of CIMA, and of its strategy as a whole, has neglected the fact that the centre had already restructured itself around 4 major scientific objectives (NOT 3 AS STATED BY EVALUATORS) in order to equalize the distribution of researchers, which is one of the recommendations in the current report. We cannot understand the reason for this notable oversight since, in the written report presented by the Centre, these subjects were dealt with in great detail. The evaluation approach seems incomprehensible because the very essence of the centre’s existence is its interpersonal and intergroup complementarity in terms of outputs and activities. Despite this disagreement, we acknowledge the detailed analysis of CIMA and the recommendations of the evaluating panel. Both will certainly serve to improve the quality of our future work.