I have been receiving several international inquiries about the status of the FCT assessment of Portuguese science. Now is official: not only half of the Portuguese units condemned to death in the first round have presented appeals, but also a large number of those which entered in the second round have also protested. The article of Nicolau Ferreira published in "Público" offers a good update on the disastrous "evaluation" of the Portuguese science units.
"Only 1 of the 50 centers that appealed, in the preliminary hearing of the second stage of the assessment of research units, had a positive response. The Institute of Nanostructures, Nanomodelling and Nanofabrication (I3N) of the University of Minho had its annual funds increased by 232,000 euros (from 1,684 to 1.916 million euros), as announced on Thursday (May, 12) by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT). The assessment impacts the funding of the units between 2015 and 2020.
This preliminary hearing only concerns the amount of funding awarded to each unit and not the assessment results. In all, 123 units have made a claim after the results of assessment in December 2014.
The appeals by this 50 centers were only regarding "administrative matters". They are “called “preliminary hearing” and only are referred to the amount of funding provided by FCT. Other requests, still unanswered, are of "scientific matters" - refers to the assessment itself - or are both"scientific" and "administrative". These cases are still being analyzed by the evaluation panels and the results will not be known until May.
Since last Thursday, the units that have completed preliminary hearing or that have not made requests, have available the terms of acceptance of the contract, which will allow the beginning of financing. For the other, "terms of provisional acceptance will be made available," explains the Ministry for Science and Education.
Units not be happy with the FCT response can present, after May, a complaint that will be reviewed by independent panels. These panels "are being finalized with the participation of the Council of Rectors of Portuguese Universities (CRUP)," the statement said.
There were 322 research units that have applied to the evaluation process done in two stages by the European Science Foundation (ESF), hired by FCT. In the first phase there was no facility visits - a group of evaluators reviewed the nominations by examining documents. Units classified as “Good”, “Fair” or “Poor” didn't proceed to the second phase, which gave access to greater funding.
The first-phase results were announced in late June. About half of the units have not passed to the second round. Units that had “Fair” and “Poor” are not eligible for any funding. The ones classified has “Good” receive only the annual core funding, between 5000 and 40,000 euros. Criticism of the evaluation process was immediate after the release of the first stage results and has escalated when it was known (in early July) that the contract between the FCT and the ESF was stated that only half of the units could pass to the second phase.
Between September and November, 178 units were visited by the assessment panels. In the final result, which also had quotas for the highest grades, 11 units were classified as “Exceptional” (and became eligible for a EUR 13 million total funding), 52 had “Excellent” (dividing 34 million), had 104 “Very Good” (dividing 23 million) 90 had “Good” (and divide one million euros), 33 had “Fair” and 32 had “Poor” (no funding). I3N, the only center that saw its funding rise as a result of the second stage preliminary hearing, had “Exceptional” (the hearing didn't affected the classification, only the amount of funding).
There are 52 units classified as “Good” that may apply to the Strategic Restructuring Fund, of 6.7 million euros, awarded before the mid-term review in 2017."
Nicolau Ferreira / Público