O "Investigador do Mês" apenas está disponível na versão inglesa.

Elisabete Figueiredo

Assistant Professor

Department of Political, Social and Territorial Sciences & GOVCOPP

Universidade de Aveiro

Campus Universitário de Santiago

 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal

Tel: + 351 234 372492 (ext. 24310)

Email: elisa@ua.pt

1.    What are your personal perspectives as a researcher at the University of Aveiro?
My first commitment as a member of the academic staff of the University of Aveiro and, particularly, as a member of the Department of Social, Political and Territorial Sciences, is trying to improve the role, contributions and relevance of Social Sciences. First of all, as a teacher, which I consider my main role at the University, and also as a researcher, through the development of, and contribution to, research projects of high quality and social value. In fact I cannot foresee my teaching activities disconnected from my research activities. They are both relevant and they are, necessarily, interconnected.

My expectations and personal goals regarding research are to develop high quality research in the area of Rural Studies (including public policies concerning rural development; rural tourism impacts; social representations of rurality and rural development) and also in the field of Environmental Sociology (particularly in the area of social perceptions of risk and of natural resources). These two fields constitute my main research interests since I was a student at ISCTE and, although not many researchers are currently working on these topics at the University of Aveiro, I always found the ground to explore and to grow as a social scientist within this University. Both areas of research, given their multidimensionality and complexity, often imply cooperation with other researchers, from different departments of the University of Aveiro. I often cooperate with researchers from the Department of Environment and Planning, from the Department of Economics, Management and Industrial Engineering and also from the Department of Communication and Art.

As a researcher and teacher, my goal is to promote a better liaison between the diverse Social Sciences and also between them and the so-called natural sciences. In the same sense, my perspectives are to continue the cooperation with external institutions and with foreign partners and research groups, not only to develop my personal knowledge and skills as a rural and environmental sociologist, but also to contribute to foster knowledge within those areas and to create opportunities to access national and European funds to pursuit those goals.

During last years as a researcher in GOVCOPP I have been working on the topics of tourism and consumption of rural areas. This work was rewarded by FCT in 2012 through the funding of the project «Rural Matters – meanings of the rural in Portugal: between social representations, consumptions and development strategies» (PTDC/CS-GEO/117967/2010), which I am currently coordinating with plenty of enthusiasm. This is a topic that always interested me: to unveil the social meanings of the rural in Portugal and to contribute to inform public policies regarding rural development and the future of rural territories. At the same time, the coordination of this project gives me the opportunity to foster the interest of students on rural matters as well as to contribute to form young researchers in this field.

Although we are living nowadays under difficult conditions in Portugal, in social and economic terms, which compromise the availability of funds for science, I hope that I (and all the teachers and researchers at the University of Aveiro as well as in other Portuguese Universities) can continue to do research and to teach in reasonable conditions. At the same time, I hope that we all are able to give our best contribution, as citizens and as members of the Academy, to critically reflect on the current state of the country and to find solutions to solve all the massive and increasing social problems Portugal is facing.

2.    In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges in your area of research?
As a social scientist (and I believe I will be the first ‘researcher of the month’ from the Social Sciences) I have to stress, first of all, the little relevance Social Sciences (and Rural Studies, in particular) possess within the University of Aveiro and the risk that, under the current economic situation of the country, their role will even be reduced in the near future. Therefore, one of the biggest challenges in my area of research is, together with my colleagues from this area of knowledge, to contribute, through teaching and research, to foster the role and the importance of Social Sciences as fundamental sciences to the critical understanding of the complexity and  multiplicity of phenomena (including ‘natural’ phenomena) which characterize contemporary societies.

As a rural sociologist, one of the biggest challenges is to be able to understand the place of rural areas and of rurality in the national identity, trying at the same time to understand the functions these areas and attributes are able to ‘offer’ to the society as a whole. Rural areas in Portugal, as in the majority of the southern and eastern European countries, faced a number of changes that contributed to create territorial, social and economic unbalances which are far from being completely understood and, perhaps more relevant, are far from being addressed and solved. So, one of the biggest challenges in my area of research is to unveil the opportunities for rural development, taking into account rural diversity and the different social meanings and values of rurality. Another (related) challenge is to contribute to enhance public policies and strategies regarding rural development and the new interactions between urban and rural territories in order to contribute to minimize the persistent territorial unbalances and inequalities.

3.    Where are the strengths of the UA in your opinion?
The University of Aveiro has several strengths, in my opinion, many of them deriving from the fact that this is a new University. First of all the University’s horizontal organization and all the easier interactions and cooperation it allows between people (researchers, teachers, students and non academic staff) with diverse capabilities and backgrounds. The internal organization of the University of Aveiro also allows the rapid solution of the problems of all types (pedagogical, financial, human resources). Also the way the campus (to me one of the best and more beautiful campus in Portugal and in Europe) is organized permits easier contacts between people and fosters cooperation.

4.    Could you give one idea to improve research in the UA?
My first idea when I think in improving research in the University of Aveiro is the reduction of the precarious nature of the contracts of many people that are, actually, the main responsible for the quality of the research developed. In fact, many researchers in the research units and laboratories do not possess a permanent or at least a long-term contract with the institution. So, I would suggest a better inclusion of research fellows (especially PhD and Post-doctoral) within the institutional framework, therefore given them the opportunity to take (a more active) part in the decisions and in the design of the institution’s environment to which they are contributing significantly.

Additionally, I would like to suggest that the University of Aveiro creates a translation office that could help researchers in the editing of their papers and research reports and proposals. Many institutions nowadays possess this type of services, which prove to be very helpful in a context of increasing internationalization and of the need to publish in different languages, particularly in English.

última atualização a 12-12-2013
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