FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Estudos Literários

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Investigação em Estudos Germanísticos [LIT-Centro-Coimbra-25] visitada em 13/02/2008

Classificação: Good

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

The Centre was created as the Inter-Universitary Research Centre for Germanistic Studies in the University of Coimbra in 1994 and originally comprised eight research groups. In addition the Centre has established collaborative relations with experienced researchers and doctoral students from a number of other universities and polytechnics. In this capacity the Centre has acted as a regional Centre covering the field of German Studies in literature, language, culture, and translation studies. Some of these groups have now been discontinued, and at present the Centre comprises only two research lines. The history of the Centre’s evolution is described in the report submitted to the FCT which provides the background material for the panel. In 2007 the Centre was reshaped under its present name with research work condensed into two research groups of approximately the same size (4-5 Ph.d holders in each group plus 2, and 7 doctoral students) and with a slightly reduced number of regional partnerships. The founder of the 1994 Centre, now retired, continues to play a central role in determining the policy of the Centre and its scholarly activities, although there is also a director responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Centre. The most important historical challenge facing the unit at present is the decline in number of students to German Studies, although this is a Europe-wide problem, and the restructuring in 2007 was an attempt to respond to this situation. The presentation during the site visit concentrated on the present situation and the future planning. The panel focused its evaluation particularly upon the way in which the Centre has attempted to confront the problem on a scholarly and managerial level. The unit as a whole has received funding from the FCT relating to its original plans and structure, and the Centre is still in receipt of some FCT funding.


2. DECLARED OBJECTIVES

The overall objective stated during the presentation and in the report is to continue to publish research in the field of German studies, mainly focusing on German-Portuguese relationships, but also including the cognate fields of linguistics, literature and translation. The presentation revealed a very weak unit cohesion and very different styles of management of the two subgroups. There appeared to be no clear synergy between them in spite of their partly overlapping research agendas, a fact that will need to be taken into consideration in the panel’s general grading of the Centre and the recommendations for its future work and organization.
The sub-group on “Studies on Reception and Intercultural Hermeneutics in the Portuguese-German and European Context” focused on German Studies from an intercultural and interdisciplinary perspective with the Portuguese-German relationship as a primary focus, both in Portugal and in Europe. This group has continued on a smaller scale, work that was originally carried across the now discontinued groups, although on a much smaller scale. Its remit embraces literature, linguistics, translation as well as hermeneutical theory insofar as it contributes to the analysis of particular cultural encounters. The principal investigator is a recently retired professor, specializing in literature, while the most senior linguistic researcher is close to retirement. The Centre’s two series of publications are run by the principal investigator of this group. In the discussion with the panel it became clear that the group’s approach to the difficult situation facing German Studies in its national and European context, was defensive and conservative, in an attempt to maintain the Centre’s original ethos and to preserve as much of its customary procedures as possible. There was a reluctance to seek to redirect research in order to address the actual challenges presented by the present situation. Therefore, the presentation itself mainly took the form of an extensive listing of the results, but very little discussion of goals and strategies that would help to revitalize the work of the Centre. However, the quality of the published research carried out over the last 10+ years is substantial and not in question.
The other sub-group, on “Linguistics, Literature and Translation”, adopted a very different approach. The principal investigator is a younger scholar, and the general objective is to construct a common foundation designed to produce a synergy between the three main fields mentioned in the title of the group. Three main research foci have been identified, each combining two of the three domains: literature/translation focuses on specific translations of literature, linguistics/translation focuses on language didactics, and finally literature/linguistics focuses on body images. The individual projects fitted well into this framework. This organization of research agendas allows the members of this group to traverse the boundaries of the separate elements that comprise their field of research, and promotes an important sense of synergy between group members, enabling them to adapt their own research to the overall structure of the group. In this way the group has resolved to take a proactive and positive approach to the present crisis in German Studies. This group represents younger scholars who have yet to establish an international reputation for themselves. The presentation of the work of this group was clear and goal-oriented in relation to scholarly content, strategy and sought to address in an innovative way, the actual predicament of the discipline.


3. ADMINISTRATIVE STRUCTURE

The administrative structure was not made clear in the report, and the site visit did not produce any clarification of this issue. Administrative and managerial structures do not appear to be transparent, and there do not appear to be regular meetings with written agendas and minutes. There is a loose management committee, and collective decisions are taken in informal meetings between the coordinator and the two principal investigators, mainly in the months during which there is no teaching. Moreover, the editorial responsibility for the Centre’s publications is in the hands of only one of the principal investigators. Even in small Centres such as this one it is important to establish transparent structures in order to enhance the cohesiveness of research activity as well as the synergy of the Centre as a whole. The regional network with other universities and with polytechnics is mainly established on an individual level, and is not on a formalized institutional level. A clear and transparent administrative structure would facilitate the creation of formal relationships with other institutions, and this would assist in the business of increasing the volume of researchers involved in Germanic Studies as a means of compensating for the reduction of affiliated researchers that has occurred during the last 13 years. A substantial reorganization of its management structures would enable the Centre to better address the present challenges in German Studies. The website is not updated nor does it take account of the new name and structure after 2007, and on the whole it is not sufficiently informative.


4. PRODUCTIVITY

4.1 PUBLICATIONS

The details of publications, conference organization and participation as well as MA output and production of Ph.d dissertations are listed in the Centre’s report to the FCT. It must be noted that apart from participation in, and organization of, local and international seminars, the main channels of publication are the series of monographs and anthologies, selected doctoral and MA theses, Minerva, and the series of minor work published in Cadernos do CIEG. The two last named series were established before 2007 and it is planned that they will continue to disseminate the research of the two groups that now comprise the Centre. On the whole, the number of publications is satisfactory and they are representative of the entire field of the research at the Centre. Although publication is mainly produced by a few researchers, the Centre has a fine track record of international publications dating back to the early 1990s and this should provide a substantial foundation for the Centre’s future planning. However, on the evidence of the current list of publications, insufficient attention has been given to any strategy that will involve encouraging the next generation of scholars. In recent years publications have been mostly concerned with the Portuguese context, whereas it is important that the Centre establish wider European networks for its own research outputs. The two internal series have no identifiable peer reviewing practice, and there are no plans to establish one. Also there appear to have been no attempts to find international publishers, or to amalgamate with other Portuguese publications in the field in order to strengthen German Studies on a national level. A more systematic attempt to gain access to international peer reviewed publications is needed as a matter of urgency, and a collective strategy for the Centre as a whole could further that process.


4.2 TRAINING

The integration of doctoral students in the Centre’s activities functions well. Students expressed satisfaction with support for conference and library travel, and with the operations of the library in acquiring printed materials for ongoing research. The present cohort of doctoral students has been recruited from a small group of older students, and it is not possible at this stage to be able to evaluate the Centre’s capacity to attract new PhD students. The general problem for all Portuguese doctoral students is the teaching load, and the situation at this Centre is no exception. However, the Centre has no formal doctoral seminar program and appears too have established no cooperative plans to introduce one, either in cooperation with other national or international universities.


4.3 ACADEMIC EVENTS

The Centre does, however, organize a number of seminars and conferences, and members regularly present papers at international conferences, which are often published in conference proceedings. However, participation does not seem to be based on invitation, and it is not made clear in the documentation whether conference papers go through a selection process or, when they are published, a peer review process. However, some of the symposia and colloquia are arranged in cooperation with other European universities, and important individual guest speakers attend as listed in the Centre’s report to the FCT.


4.4 OUTREACH

The outreach is directed mainly to secondary schools as a means of trying to generate interest in German Studies, and to the polytechnics particularly in the area of language studies.


5. MANAGEMENT STRATEGY

The present structure is weak and is in need of radical overhauling. The existence of two groups with a partly overlapping agenda in the field of translation, gives the appearance of two autonomous groups, whereas greater effort needs to be made to give organic coherence to the Centre. What is lacking is a management strategy that would help to bring together the first group, with its solid, traditional foundation, and the second with its innovative thinking and strategy into a coherent whole. A transparent administrative structure with formalized responsibilities and a firmer investment in the younger generation of Germanist scholars would facilitate the pooling of resources of the Centre and would improve the chances of its realising its collective potential in the future. As in most other research units around the world, and also elsewhere in Portugal, it is the usual practice for retired or near-retired professors to provide informal advice, to encourage and support the next generation of scholars, but not to participate in the process of formal decision-making. A clear strategy that would establish continuity and at the same time would guarantee a smooth transition is needed, and also what is required is an appropriate structure to ensure that it will be put into practice.


6. FUTURE PLANNING

The future of the Centre as a whole depends on its capacity to formulate a unified strategy for research, teaching, international networking and outreach. This strategy will have to be formulated by the Centre as a whole and must not be left to individuals and/or sub-groups. Closer cooperation on various levels with other centres should be explored, and given that German Studies are facing problems throughout, the creation of stronger formal relationships with other relevant centres as a means of initiating collaborative research, joint publication and collaborative research training would seem to be a desideratum as a means of securing the ongoing existence of a viable Germanic Studies Centre both in Coimbra and in Portugal. The various plans for cooperation indicated in the documentation by the second subgroup, “Linguistics, Literature and Translation,” with Centres of comparative studies, and its plans to establish more formalized connections with polytechnics seems to be a sound strategy that should be followed.


7. REGIONAL ROLE

The Centre has acted as a regional mediator between institutions. This role has been reduced due to the contraction of the Centre, but a strengthening of this role, based on more formalized relationships should be encouraged.


8. NATIONAL INTEREST

It is clearly in the national interest that German Studies should continue to exist, and in more than one Portuguese university. Mergers designed to combat the fall in numbers of students within the discipline of German Studies are unlikely to be effective as a single strategy. It is more important to pursue a strategy of securing closer cooperation with other independent German Studies centres and with other related Centres (comparative centres, linguistics centres etc.). This strategy would help to facilitate a full scale study of literature, language and culture in a theoretical and historical perspective, while at the same time giving some support to smaller centres that do not have adequate resources to survive alone. This strategy should be considered for German Studies in Coimbra.


9. INTERNATIONAL PROFILE

The international role is most clearly related to the Centre’s position in the German speaking world and to German Studies centres there and elsewhere. The international reputation of the Centre has rested mainly on the shoulders of individual researchers now retired or close to retirement. An effort has to be made to capitalize on their contacts and to formalise connections for the benefit of the younger generation. Also, the use of the two local and well established channels of publications, Minerva and Caderno do CIEG, will have to be reconsidered. Formalized peer reviewing, cooperation with other journals (maybe mergers) and contact with external publishers will be important if the Centre is to sustain an international reputation.


10. DISTINCTIVE FUTURES AND ADDED VALUE

Some serious thought needs to be given to the future of German Studies in Portugal. There are a number of ways in which this area can be revitalized, not least by capitalizing on some of the German literary and cultural theory that has proved very influential in recent years. Because of dwindling numbers of potential researchers, new strategies need to be devised.


11. GRADING OF CENTRE AND EVALUATIVE STATEMENT

The grading of the Centre as a whole is good, but with a different evaluation of the two subgroups. The second subgroup on “Linguistics, Literature and Translation” is graded to good. The innovative drive, the well thought out scholarly structure and strategy, and its forward-looking approach should provide the back bone for a revitalization of the Centre. This group’s energy partly compensates for its comparative lack of experience due to its recent establishment. The first subgroup on German-Portuguese relations should not receive funding, but its projects should be integrated in the second subgroup as a means of contributing to the establishment of a solid foundation. A stronger Centre management should oversee this integration on all levels. The retirees should be encouraged to take on the role of advisors with no formal obligations. Together with funding for the continuation of the Centre via the second group, a plan for the reorganization should be submitted replete with targets and deadlines implementation as part of the conditions governing the provision of future funding.
12. RECOMMENDATIONS

i) To continue the Centre under the umbrella of the subgroup “Linguistics, Literature and Translation”

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

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

iv) To reconsider the role of Minerva (rather than Caderno do CIEG which could remain a valuable local series) in relation to its national and international position, and to improve its qualitative structures e.g. peer reviewing. Also to consider co-operation/merger with other national journals, external publisher etc.

v) To continue the outreach activities to secondary schools

vi) To improve international publications

vii) To strengthen the formal relationship with national/regional institutions and international universities


13. SUPPORT/DISCONTINUATION OF RESEARCH LINES

The panel recommends discontinuation of the first research line, but recommends integrating it into the second research line, together with a new and more transparent administrative structure that is more dependent upon collective responsibility.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Contrastive and Interdisciplinary Studies in Portuguese and German Linguistics [RG-X-LIT-Centro-Coimbra-25-1934]
Deconstruction and (Re)construction of Traditional and/or Mythical Figures and Motives in the 20th German Literature [RG-X-LIT-Centro-Coimbra-25-2089]
History and Historiography in Germany and Portugal [RG-X-LIT-Centro-Coimbra-25-1884]
Linguistics, Literature and Translation [RG-LIT-Centro-Coimbra-25-1998]
Modern and Contemporary German-speaking Literature in Portuguese Translation [RG-X-LIT-Centro-Coimbra-25-1917]
Modern Portuguese Literature in German-speaking Translations [RG-X-LIT-Centro-Coimbra-25-2077]
Narrative Prose in German-speaking Countries from Poetic Realism to the end of the 20th century [RG-X-LIT-Centro-Coimbra-25-1809]
Studies on Reception and Intercultural Hermeneutics in the Portuguese-German and European Context [RG-LIT-Centro-Coimbra-25-2855]
Studies on Reception and Intercultural Hermeneutics in the Portuguese-German Context [RG-X-LIT-Centro-Coimbra-25-2086]
The idea of Europe in German-speaking Literature [RG-X-LIT-Centro-Coimbra-25-1896]