Portuguese research re-evaluated

By . Published on 25 August 2014 in:
August 2014, News, , , , ,

To grant 322 scientific proposals for the next 5 years, the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation [FCT] worked together with the European Science Foundation [ESF] for the first time. The distribution of funding raises questions concerning the future of some active physics groups.

The FCT, which is the primary funding body in Portugal, conducted an evaluation of research units across the country in all science fields and announced the first results this summer: 22% of the Portuguese units evaluated were graded as poor or fair and will receive no funding for the next 5 years.

Portuguese research re-evaluated

Catarina Amorim, journalist and former scientist at the Oxford University, warned about what will possibly happen in her article in the blog “Science 2.0“. The 1,904 concerned researchers may possibly lose their positions and whole research units will disappear.

Another 25% of the scientific projects evaluated will received €40,000 annually as they were graded “good”. In physics, many worrying cases can be seen. For example, the Centre of Physics at the Universities of Minho and Oporto will see its funding from FCT decrease by 90%.

Since the total amount of funds available for allocation was similar to the previous year, the criticism is focused on the evaluation that determines the grade of each institution. The measurable results and the FCT evaluation seem to diverge at some point.

The scientists from the Centre for Nuclear Physics and the Centre of Physics and Technological Research published in average more papers than other researchers in Portugal and are also more cited. Nevertheless they will have to manage their activities with a €40,000 annual grant from 2015 to 2020.

The FCT responded to the complaints. The funding agency reaffirmed the confidence in the assessment process especially in the ESF contribution, which “reinforces integrity and high international standards of this evaluation”.

The national budget for research does not appear to be cut, but it seems that priorities have been shifted. Thus other fields of research, including physics and social sciences, will probably suffer of strong restrictions in their activities.

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