Advisory Commitee

2001: Evaluation exercise of the Portuguese State Laboratories

Minister José Mariano Gago
Minister of Science and Technology 
Lisbon, Portugal

7th March 2001

Dear Minister, 

The International Advisory Committee has the pleasure to submit to you its third follow-up report concerning the evaluation exercise of the Portuguese State Laboratories.

This report has been established after visits to all the organisations subjected to evaluation, 13 in total, and after discussions with their senior management. The IAC would like to underline the cooperative spirit experienced during these visits and wishes to express its thanks to all its interlocutors for the effective support received in the discharge of its task.

The report is structured into two parts, a first part with general considerations applicable to all, or at least most, of the State Laboratories, and a second part where specific considerations related to each organisation, are developed. 

The International Advisory Committee maintains its views, expressed in its initial report, that State Laboratories still constitute an important asset for an effective conduct of public policies in Portugal. It is, in the view of the Committee, the responsibility of the Government to provide the best possible environment for their efficient operation, leading to the provision of a public service meeting the challenges of the new Century. 

Yours Faithfully, 

J.P. Contzen / P. Benton / P.Papon / J.Rojo

Third Follow-up Report on the evaluation of Laboratórios do Estado

International Advisory Committee
(7th March 2001)


The International Advisory Committee (IAC) has already underlined in its July 1997 report that in all OECD countries, the role, functions and performance of the public research establishments had come under radical questioning and strong scrutiny since the 1960s

As far as Portugal is concerned, the IAC general evaluation, originated by the Council of Ministers’ Resolução 5/96 was the first comprehensive and pluri-institutional assessment of the Laboratórios do Estado (State Laboratories). This evaluation led to a series of recommendations that were endorsed by the Portuguese authorities and became the basis of Resolução 133/97 by the Council of Ministers.

The International Advisory Committee performed subsequently two follow-up exercises, noting the progress made in the reform of the State Laboratories but pointing also the delays in implementing some essential elements of Resolução 133/97. The three Decree-Laws 123/99, 124/99 and 125/99 have given a most welcomed impulse for the acceleration of the reform. This is widely recognised by the senior management of State Laboratories. Nevertheless, further efforts need to be made before reaching a full implementation of the measures that could guarantee the optimal usefulness of the State Laboratories

This third follow-up report is taking stock of the current situation. While underlining the positive elements of the reform and commending the efforts consented by individual State Laboratories, it insists on those aspects that still require further action not only from the Laboratories themselves but also from the relevant Ministries. The latter should act promptly in order to ensure the best environment for the operation of the Laboratories under their responsibility.

Portuguese State Laboratories in the 21st Century

Recent events such as the BSE crisis, the issue of depleted Uranium in the Balkans, the reduction of fish stocks within EU fishing zones, demonstrate the usefulness for the Portuguese Government to maintain, within its own structures, a pool of neutral, independent expertise, capable of reacting quickly to any pressing demand.

In this respect, a first recommendation from IAC in this report relates to the further improvement of the relevance of State Laboratories to public policy and socio-economic needs of Portugal. While maintaining a high standard of scientific and technological excellence, without which no useful output can ever be thought of, the lines of action of the State Laboratories should be essentially issue-driven.
This requires much more dialogue between the senior management of the Laboratories and those in the Ministries responsible for policy making. Ministries that have a direct responsibility on State Laboratories should be the first involved in this dialogue; they should clearly identify what they really wish that their Laboratories should do for them.
Other Ministries should also be involved; a notable case is the Ministry in charge of the Environment that should be an interested customer of several State Laboratories. Most burning environmental issues are at the interface between the responsibilities of various Ministries, e.g. environment and agriculture, environment and mining, environment and urban development.

Some State Laboratories can also contribute to the External Relations policy, notably in the support to tropical countries, in the implementation of international treaties e.g. technical work on the ban of chemical weapons or seismic work in application of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
The wish of IAC is that the Conselho de Orientação foreseen in the Decree Law 125/99 will constitute an effective tool for this kind of dialogue between the State Laboratory and the Ministries interested in its activities.

A second recommendation relates to the further insertion of the State Laboratories in the European Research Area, this is in no way contradictory to the first recommendation, it complements it usefully. This insertion could be implemented notably by using specialised infrastructures existing in the State Laboratories within European networks and by offering specific geographic areas, such as the Açores, as testbed for joint European R&D activities.

A third recommendation relates to the acceleration of improvements in knowledge transfer. State Laboratories should use their acquired knowledge for the benefit of socio-economic actors in Portugal. IAC considers that conditions for such transfer have improved in the last years. This is due to the combination of two factors: a greater willingness displayed by the State Laboratories to grant attention to external demand on the one hand, and the increase of research personnel, even if it is still rather modest, in the private sector that has stimulated the receptivity of the user community on the other end. An efficient knowledge transfer requires interested parties at both ends of the process.
This increased interest for such transfer, for innovation, which is not necessarily born to meet a marketing concern but rather in many cases a public service mission, should be reflected within the structure of the Laboratories in the shape of a specialised innovation unit, or at least of a person specifically responsible for innovation.
A particular aspect of such transfer could be promoted through a greater role of State Laboratories in education and training. State Laboratories should assist, not compete with, Universities in the higher education arena and could use their technological skills for specialised vocational training.

The requirement for an efficient operation of State Laboratories

The fulfilment of these recommendations should reinforce the usefulness of State Laboratories as a tool for the strengthening of Portugal in the Science and Technology fields.
IAC is well aware that some reforms that are proposed for the State Laboratories (particularly in regard to issue of personnel) are difficult to reconcile with the general rules of the Public Administration of Portugal. The particular requirements of research and development surely make for specific requirements of differentiation, and the need to support this differentiation process is hard to overemphasise.
This usefulness can be gravely hampered if several conditions affecting the functioning of State Laboratories are not met. They are examined in the next paragraphs.


The burden of bureaucracy weighing on the State Laboratories is still too heavy, aggravated in some cases through an excessive perception of such burden by State Laboratories’ managers and their implicit reluctance to exploit in depth the freedom to change
The Decree-Law 125/99 itself, the Lei Orgânica that it foresees should be used extensively to achieve the necessary degree of autonomy for a modern management of the State Laboratories. Decentralisation of responsibilities coupled with effective a posteriori control constitutes the basis for efficiency in the operation of the State Laboratories. Ministries directly responsible for State Laboratories as well as those Ministries responsible for public administration and finances, and the Court of Auditors should support this reform.
A clear unequivocal recognition of the status of State Laboratory is the initial step in this process. IAC recommends that the Council of Ministers consider the possibility to produce a law enunciating the list of research organisations that are recognised as State Laboratories and thus benefit from all the dispositions foreseen in the Decree Laws relating to State Laboratories.

All the State Laboratories visited, with the possible exception of IGMJM, consider that the three Decree Laws 123/99, 124/99, and 125/99 have had or will have a positive impact on a number of issues in the governance of the State Laboratories. The Lei Orgânica is one of the key elements of this legal set-up and IAC expresses its surprise when noting the slow pace of approval of the various Leis Orgânicas Only LNEC has an approved Law. Seven Laws are in the consultation phase, three are in the drafting stage and two are even at an earlier stage of the process.
IAC recommends that the process of approval of the Leis Orgânicas should be accelerated. It implies in some cases a renewed effort from those responsible of their preparation within State Laboratories, but in most cases the acceleration should come from the Ministries having to provide advice or approval. These Ministries should realise that it is in the interest of sound management that this process should be completed without delay.

Good governance implies the setting up of adequate advisory structures. The State Laboratories are gradually opening up to the outside world. Contacts with Portuguese Universities are increasing, although a much closer cooperation is certainly necessary, were only for the need to take full advantage of the infrastructures that are currently being develop, e.g, the Veterinary Laboratory in Porto. Links with R&D institutions in the rest of the European Union and at international level have been reinforced. There is still a need to consolidate this positive trend and IAC recommends a more extensive recourse to external advice in orienting and steering the State Laboratories. This could be achieved through a strong European and international participation in the advisory structure created by the Decree Law 125/99, the Unidade de Acompanhamento, as well as through less formal structures such as in the case of IPIMAR, the Meeting of Directors of EU Fisheries Research Organisations.

Financial Management

The rigidity of the financial system, its slow time of response, its lack of adaptability to the a new environment characterised by the diversification of the sources of funding, rather than the lack of money, are at the origin of the difficulties encountered by State Laboratories.
For 11 of the 13 organisations that IAC has evaluated (the 2 organisations not taken into account are DGPC and IGMJM), the Orçamento de Ciência e Tecnologia (Funcionamento and PIDDAC), has grown by 38% from 1997 to 2001, by 48% if one considers only the R&D part of this budget. This increase does not benefit equally to all State Laboratories; it ranges, in terms of total budget increase from -0.1% for IGM to 131% for LNIV.
Such disparities should not be criticised per se. There can be good reasons for different rates of financial growth of the State Laboratories. What should be recommended is the introduction of some type of mid-term financial planning, e.g. over three years, based on an explicit strategy for the various organisations. In such planning, a careful balance between operating funds and investment funds should be considered case by case. Too often, the funding is out of balance in this respect. For instance, for the budgetary year 2001, the ratio of PIDDAC over Funcionamento ranges from 0.80 for IPIMAR to 0.06 for IICT. Again, in this case, there can be a justification for such disparities, but care should be exercised for avoiding situations where relative abundance on the one hand is matched by scarcity on the other hand.

The more stringent difficulties are encountered in financial procedures, such as the lack of flexibility to adjust during the budgetary exercise, the income part of the budget according to new sources of income not planned ab initio, or the desire of some Ministries to maintain their own financial organisations, such as IGIF in the Health sector, in the financial circuit of the State Laboratories, introducing important delays in the management of funds.

New rules, notably through the Lei Orgânica, should ensure the financial autonomy of the State Laboratories and adopt procedures that facilitate the efficient management of external sources of income.

Another difficulty encountered by some State Laboratories should also be alleviated, i.e. the important delays in paying to these organisations the services that they have performed for various public services. It is the responsibility of the Ministries, of Governmental entities not to behave as bad debtors. Acting accordingly is putting in jeopardy the operation of the public services that they require themselves.

Human Resources Management

The questions of staffing constitute another thorny issue for the efficient management of State Laboratories. A certain number of reforms should be introduced. They should clearly appear as an effort to organise services capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st Century, and of competing with the private sector while retaining their public specificity.

Reforms should target in priority the following issues:

  • Ensure to those responsible for operating State Laboratories, more flexibility in the allocation of human resources, more autonomy in determining staff organigrammes, more authority in establishing hierarchical relations within the Laboratories
  • Favour the most efficient use of the available human resources for the most valuable tasks by subcontracting routine tasks in the support and service areas. Combat in the same spirit the critical shortage in most State Laboratories of technical specialists that constitutes a serious concern for the efficiency of the Laboratories’ operation
  • Establish measures that render the career in State Laboratories more attractive, in order to compete for talents with other sectors of economic activities
  • Facilitate the recourse to external funding (which does not result in the creation of new permanent positions) for incorporating new researchers on the basis of temporary contracts that bring fresh ideas and provide the required programmatic flexibility. Maintain in this relation the positive role-played by FCT- in the hiring of fellows, which is judged very positively by the State Laboratories
  • Use existing international, European and national schemes for facilitating exchanges of scientists with outside research structures.
  • Finally, tackle the most pressing issue of ageing of staff in all State Laboratories. Extensive, not piecemeal, measures are required and among them the introduction of an early retirement scheme should be considered. Such scheme would allow the adjustment of competencies ’profiles and the influx of young researchers and technicians. Beyond the gain in efficiency, the gain would be also financial in the medium-term.

In Conclusion

The International Advisory Committee remains convinced of the usefulness of the State Laboratories in the overall Portuguese R&D system. Many steps have already been achieved in the direction of the best possible efficiency in their operation, To complete this progression, efforts remain to be made essentially in two areas: on the one hand, a clearer relation user/provider between the relevant Ministries and the State Laboratories and on the other hand the wilful introduction of modern management methods for their operation.



Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries

The Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries is the only one to supervise as many as four State Laboratories. As a matter of fact, the DGPC is not, so far, a State Laboratory, even if it was evaluated by an IEG on the specific request by the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries himself.

These four Laboratories are very different in terms of their income/expenditure structure: the ratio between capital investment (PIDDAC) and operational funds (Orçamento de Funcionamento) are ranging in the last four years from less than 10% for INIA to more than 50%(even more than 100% in 1999) for LNIV and IPIMAR. Such disparity should be re-examined and a better balance achieved between the various laboratories in the allocation of investment funds by the Ministry

Direcção-Geral de Protecção das Culturas DGPC

The new Director is as determined as the previous one to struggle with the problem of the recognition as a Laboratório do Estado. This should allow a better institutionalisation of DGPC S&T activities aimed at the development of the agricultural services, such as control, qualification and training.

IAC recognises the efforts made in implementing its recommendations i.e. reorganising R&D departments, increasing synergies and concentrating activities, rationalising scientific areas, and reorienting towards new concepts of sustainable agriculture. In terms of institutional arrangements, the Scientific Council has been established and the Organic Law is under discussion.

As many other State Laboratories, the DGPC is suffering from lack of personnel due to freezing and to the stagnation of budget. An effort has been made in this last area. Currently, the responsible Ministry supports 45% of the budget, and 55% are coming from projects.

An important new role of DGPC comes through the realization of the Pesticides Laboratory (residues), which is waiting for the accreditation within the EU system. Thanks to many efforts, Integrated Pest Management is under implementation.

There are strategic topics affecting the policy of the Ministry in which a coordinated S&T effort is called for. As an example, the urgent issue of GMOs should be tackled in a coherent way. DGPC should bring its contribution to this issue, not only on problems concerning their identification, but also on the study of their effects (genes’ flows, genes’ bank, effects on culture, etc.).

In spite of its small size, DGPC appears to be a valuable component in support of the agricultural policy of Portugal. In order to ensure an efficient insertion in some of the current European and international research efforts, DGPC should be encouraged to reinforce its participation in projects conducted in this frame.


The previous IAC report stated that INIA was in a state of decline and its situation could "be resolved in one of three ways: (i) closure of the Institute and reallocation of the researchers; (ii) maintenance of the present situation of decline; (iii) revitalisation".

The present visit has clearly shown that the third option has been chosen and that the revival of INIA is under way. This is, however, a long and demanding process that requires from its Ministry continuous help, along with the exigency of ever increasing quality.

The scientific areas have been reduced from 38 to 12, and R&D activities have been focused on the actual needs of the Portuguese agriculture. INIA is involved in the establishment of transfer of technology centres in the field of irrigation, citrus and rice, and is working with the Agency for Innovation.

Links with universities have been reinforced and the new AGRO programme has increased the relevance of research activities. The number of scientific publications has increased, but the quality of research can still be improved. Reinforcing international cooperation (including exchange of scientists with foreign institutions) may be of much benefit to ensure the required up-grading of scientific output.

A new Scientific Council has been established; the Organic Law is in preparation and INIA has benefited from the Law on Bolseiros. The role of scholarships paid by FCT has been positive, allowing young people to come to INIA for three years. As other State Laboratories, INIA is suffering from a shortage of personnel and, as mentioned earlier, from a lack of capital investment, both should be remedied.

In programmatic terms, IAC recommends closer co-ordination with the Ministry of Environment for the necessary development of an Environment Integrated Management of agriculture practices.


Following an IAC recommendation, IPIMAR is adopting a new system approach for S&T and operational activities. In particular, IAC appreciates the emphasis that will be put on socio-economic, interdisciplinary and environmental studies.

A strategic plan 2000-2006 has been prepared, displaying no radical changes in terms of R&D lines of activities, but reinforcing some areas and reinforcing more particularly links between different areas of research.

New research infrastructures such as research vessels or the Laboratory Complex in Olhão will contribute to such reinforcement, being basically interdisciplinary by nature.

A particular emphasis will be put on the effects of climate change on fishery resources, and on the long-term issue of genetically modified species in aquaculture. The latter will require additional competencies in genetics that are not currently developed at IPIMAR; links with Universities should contribute to the fulfilment of the requirement.

IPIMAR fulfils its role of supporting the policy-makers, notably in contributing from a scientific point of view to the formulation of the Portuguese position in EU circles. A constant flow of information to the responsible Ministry is ensured. The same applies to the support of industry: the relations with the private fishery sector as well as with involved NGO’s are good. In terms of links with other State Laboratories, the relations with IH are effective.

In terms of outstanding recommendations, the issue of sharing research vessels with other countries, as recommended by IAC, must still be considered.

The efforts to increase the co-operation at European level are facilitated by the work on common research objectives performed by the Meeting of "Directors of EU Fisheries Research Organisations". IPIMAR active role in this initiative should be commended.

The reforms introduced by the three 1999 Decree-Laws have been considered useful notably with regard to the researchers’ career.

IPIMAR welcomes the support received through the FCT projects in terms of financing and facilitating the introduction of scientists. As for other State Laboratories, staffing is a

particular important issue due to ageing of current staff and to the difficulty of replacing people going into retirement. The lack of administrative and financial autonomy is damaging, particularly when considering the delay in disposing effectively of the funds coming from projects.


R&D activities in the area of veterinary sciences is important for any country, and the actual problems of BSE are testifying of the importance of veterinary research activities.

In this respect, LNIV has a double function of performing R&D work as well as executing diagnostic and routine tasks, which are important but should not detract attention from research activities.

The role of the FCT and of the EU in supporting R&D projects is essential, and co-operation with the universities is fundamental for maintaining the S&T impetus.

IAC expresses its preoccupation at the apparent over-sizing of some infrastructures, which, through the financial burden that they will generate, could be detrimental to the efficiency of the scientific work.

The new facility near Porto is impressive, but probably oversized for the time being, even taking into account the present University R&D activities in that area. For avoiding an inefficient utilisation of this significant investment, a substantial increase in available manpower should be required. One may cast some doubt on the feasibility of such move in view of the weakness of the Orçamento de Funcionamento of the Laboratory.

In view of the strained budget, and of the need of maximising the funding devoted to research and development operation, it should be ensured that the transfer of the Lisbon premises to Oeiras should not bring for LNIV an additional consumption of financial resources in building investments during the next few years.

In spite of the welcomed effects of the three Decree-Laws, difficult problems remain in staffing and financing areas. As in other State Laboratories, there is an urgent need for hiring new people. The lack of credits hampers such hiring. LNIV is a typical case where an early retirement scheme could contribute in re-establishing the right age and competencies structure. The status of State Laboratory, that enables some financial autonomy, should be more clearly recognised. The new Organic Law, currently in the hands of the responsible Ministry, should contribute to alleviate some of these management problems.

Ministry of Defence


IH has a quite well defined mission in the development of operational products such as the production and maintenance of nautical charts, the support to navy operations (search and rescue, marine pollution, etc.), the performance of rapid environmental assessment, of environmental monitoring, of ocean and survey engineering.

These operational tasks are supported by vigorous R&D activities and the quality of research appears to be excellent.

Contrary to the impressions gathered at the time of the preparation of the previous IAC report, the current views of the IAC members are that the IH military status is not an obstacle for scientific work and for acting vigorously in the exclusively civilian field. On the contrary, the military status even brings some advantages in terms of autonomy, acquisition of infrastructure and staffing. No unfair competition with civilian government or private establishments has been detected.

The co-operation with other State Laboratories such as IPIMAR and IM is quite good and there are also active links with university research centres. A lot of good scientific work could be done through co-operation, notably in the Azores islands. Further networking with academic laboratories in Portugal and in Europe should reinforce this trend.

The IH wishes to promptly operate its second new oceanographic vessel, a recent Portuguese acquisition that should concentrate on physical oceanography, geology and geophysics. An advisory committee, which has not yet been able to meet, should urgently assess the modalities for such operations. Conditions for ship time application by academic or other laboratories could be envisaged, also under the umbrella of FCT projects.

Ministry of Economy


Since the publication of the previous IAC report, the IGM has commissioned a benchmarking exercise performed by the former Director of the British Geological Survey, and this report has provided an independent appraisal of the IGM position in Europe and outlined its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This has contributed to the steering of IGM

The basic mission of IGM is to provide a good knowledge of the geological situation of Portugal, having in mind the aspects of mineral resources, environment, and land planning.

Geosciences constitute the core of Lisbon operations, while engineering aspects are more concentrated in the Porto operations. IAC has been impressed by the dynamism of the Porto Delegation in terms of addressing issues directly related to industry. Its positive attitude towards attracting customers and servicing the community should be stressed.

Furthermore, the IGM facility in Porto is a focal point for university centres missing such type of infrastructure. It is a good example of the double role of a State Laboratory of promoting technological innovation in industry, as well as of opening its specialised facilities to the academic world.

The IAC considers that the work of IGM should be more integrated in the policy formulation and implementation of various Ministries. Links with the Ministry of Environment, which could cover, among others, important environmental protection aspects, should be reinforced.

So far, the Ministry of Economy has compensated, through its own budget, the decline in royalties coming from industry. Revenues from projects and sales currently represent only 15 % of total income. IAC considers that a realistic target should be to increase this last figure to 25 % or more. The issue of the under-pricing of services to the outside should be tackled.

As in other State Laboratories, the issue of personnel is an important one. Legal obstacles to the recruitment of people with intermediate qualifications (technicians) lead to a loss of productivity for the highly qualified personnel. This issue should be addressed urgently.


The previous evaluation report on INETI has concluded that "Portugal does need a very different INETI from the one that has been evaluated". The new President of INETI speaks about a "changed and reborn INETI" after raising the question "Does Portugal needs an INETI?" Such statements by the Management Board and the presentation made to IAC by the various Departments Directors clearly indicate an intention to change and IAC has noted encouraging progress in the work accomplished.

The question remains nevertheless to orient INETI activities towards the effective needs of the Portuguese public and private sectors. A much clearer expression of the demand from these two sectors is required in order to match such economic or societal demand with the S&T offer from INETI.

Research and Technological Development in direct support to industry constitute an element of the much-needed Portuguese innovation process. INETI should work actively in this field, using its multidisciplinary competencies, if and when required by industry itself. Industry should be in a position to choose between the organisations dealing with technological innovation. This part of INETI activities should be essentially demand driven

Further examples of interesting avenues for future activities could be given, such as:

  • R&D in the biotechnologies applied to the food industry offers prospects for useful activities, provided adequate competencies are available. The current core of competencies needs to be reinforced, either internally or through collaboration with Universities and other State Laboratories, notably INIA, in this specific area.
  • Environmental technologies will be an essential component of the reconciliation of the objectives of economic competitiveness and preservation of the environment. Initial results from the activities of the Centre for Business Sustainable Development (INETI/CENDES) indicate that this could be a promising area of development for INETI. More interdisciplinary cooperation within INETI should be beneficial to this initiative.
  • Defence related issues have been included in the scope of INETI activities. With the reinforcement of the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union, INETI should support from a S&T point of view, Portugal’s involvement in the CFSP. Non-proliferation issues such as the destruction of chemical weapons, the monitoring of the implementation of relevant treaties and conventions, require scientific expertise that INETI might contribute.
  • Normative R&D in support of the formulation and implementation of norms and standards. Activities at national, European and international levels require a strong S&T backing. A creative role of Portugal in this area constitutes an element of its economic competitiveness; ONS.INETI is a good start in this direction.
  • Vocational training, conducted in close synergy with industry associations such as AIP, could be an area where INETI could play a useful role in reinforcing technical skills in Portugal. Distance learning should be used in this respect, but this would require the acquisition of capabilities that are currently lacking at INETI.

Although there are good indications of improvements, much remains to be done to solve the old problem of very limited coordination among the different Departments of the Institution. Continuous support from the responsible Ministry for this demanding task will be needed.

Financial resources are not a particular issue for INETI, but in terms of human resources, INETI would greatly benefit, as other State Laboratories, of early retirement measures, that could rejuvenate and update its staff structure.

Ministry of Health

Instituto de Genética Médica Jacinto de Magalhães IGM/JM

IGM/JM has been evaluated following the procedure applied to State Laboratories but unlike these Laboratories, the R&D component of the Institute activities is very small. It is essentially an Institute of public assistance with limited training and research activities (concentrated in only one department). For the moment being, for example, Decree-Laws 123/99 and 124/99 only apply to one researcher and one fellow. IGM/JM feels that Decree-Law 125/99 has little relevance to its situation being too much "university-oriented". The drafting process of the Organic Law has been postponed, as the current management considers that this task should be left to the new Director, who should succeed to the current one in the early part of the year. If the need of having IGM/JM as a State Laboratory is supported, strong changes in policy and procedures are needed.

Nevertheless, IGM/JM plays a very useful role in activities that can hardly be described as corresponding to a State Laboratory, e.g., the area of genetic counselling to future parents, of prenatal diagnosis for congenital diseases, of detection of malformation in newly born babies. The Institute believes that while the more difficult cases in cytogenetics should be left to the Institute itself, the routine screening activities should be contracted out to hospitals. This should enable the execution of more interesting tasks by IGM/JM such as the development of a Laboratory for genetic epidemiology, which currently lacks people and money. The initiative taken to promote telemedicine, i.e. interacting remotely with Diagnostic Centres far away in the country, falls also in this category. The study of genetic diseases constitutes the main stream of the R&D activities. IGM/JM holds its own consultation services and provides support to hospitals. A new balance between assistance, routine analysis and R&D would have to be established if, as indicated above, IGM/JM is to be transformed into a real State Laboratory. Alternatively, IGM/JM’s role in assistance tasks might be strengthened and the required R&D activities be developed in other Laboratories.

In any case, more contacts should be established with INSA in order to avoid wasteful duplications, and cooperation with European institutions should be reinforced.

The financial resources represent a serious problem. Delays of payment by the Ministry of Health and other public administrations create big problems for a sound management of the Institute, and are putting IGM/JM at disadvantage, compared with the private sector.


IAC has noted with satisfaction the substantial improvement of the situation of INSA. The leadership of the new Director and the orientation given by the Minister of Health of turning INSA into a strong biomedical institute have positively oriented the activities of the Institute. The staff seems much more motivated than it was in the past.

The areas of work -- communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, environment related health problems, food related health problems, epidemiology and bio statistics – correspond to important social issues and validate the public service role of INSA.

R&D combined with epidemiological surveillance, training, laboratory accreditation, and services such as diagnosis and/or consultancy constitute the base for the implementation of its mission.

As in other State Laboratories, one important issue is the balance between R&D and routine work. The contribution of the FCT to the R&D activities is appreciated.

Links with universities essentially based on personal relations should be extended, not only in Portugal, but also in Europe.

Several problems remain, requiring urgent attention of the responsible authorities.

The situation of the Porto Delegation, which was explicitly mentioned in the previous IAC report, has not yet received a positive solution. On the contrary, it is deteriorating and could lead to closure. The same consideration applies to the Animal House, where financing is lacking and could also lead to closure. Even if the capital investment (PIDDAC) has somewhat increased in the last years, the Ministry of Health should consider the issue of providing a reinforcement of the investment funding which is in 2001 only 16% of the Funcionamento.

The problem of financial flows is very severe. The Ministry is paying back INSA generally twelve months after delivery of its services. Following the example of Higher Education research institutes, INSA is the first State Laboratory to envisage the creation of a Private Non Profit institution (an Association called PROINSA) to deal with the financial issues of external funding.

One initiative that IAC supports is the installation of a "National Observatory of Health", which could collect, and made available to the authorities and to the general public, information on health determinants in Portugal. It requires the reinforcement of the informatics infrastructure within the frame of the Health Informatics Network RIS.

Ministry of Social Infrastructure


The previous IAC report had outlined the essential role of LNEC in Portugal, and its potential of being a centre of excellence in civil engineering in Europe. LNEC has been the first State Laboratory to prepare and adopt a new Lei Orgânica, and has submitted to the responsible Ministry complementary documents on internal structure, financial administration and staff/personnel. LNEC has thus demonstrated its desire to promptly exploit the impulse given by Decree-Laws 123, 124 and 125 of 1999.

However, the IAC feels that LNEC should implement a more aggressive policy for securing contract work and should not hesitate in adopting a more entrepreneurial attitude in the conduct of its activities. The public service role of LNEC, notably in support of major public works should not be diminished but the unique competencies and facilities available at LNEC should be more widely available to Industry and to the Civil Society, and opened to European partnership.

While in its previous report, the Committee recommended that public service work should not be completely overshadowed by contract work, the IAC emphasizes once again that it did not endorse the IEG recommendation to put a financial ceiling to the share of contract work funding. LNEC future growth should be based on an open, balanced search for the two sources of funding.

LNEC faces the same problems as other State Laboratories, but encounters some more specific difficulties, that should be tackled, notably:

  • The problem of attracting young creative people and maintaining them within the Laboratory, the sponsorship of the Industry should help in this respect.
  • The problem of encouraging people displaying outstanding performance through a bonus scheme. A greater degree of autonomy of the Laboratory should enable the implementation of such scheme.

Ministry of Science and Technology


In the previous IAC report, IICT was considered as an ageing institution in need of readjustment to meet new challenges. IAC also noted that IICT required a comprehensive reform. This reform is underway, but it needs further focusing. The implementation of the three Decree-Laws and the adoption of the Organic Law, which has been submitted to the MCT, should contribute to the acceleration of this reform.

IAC has been favourably impressed by the Centro de Investigação das Ferrugens do Cafeeiro, which has a clearly international bearing, and by the work of the Arquivo Ultramarino, whose efforts in applying up to date information technologies should be recognised.

The IAC recommends focusing further reform activities on the following issues:

  • Identifying the supporting role of IICT for other Ministries than MCT, notably for those Ministries dealing with developing countries.
  • Identifying the future users of IICT work among tropical countries.
  • Involving all beneficiaries of the IICT activities in the scientific work of the Institute.
  • Establishing accordingly a new scheme for the financing of the IICT. In spite of recent efforts for improving the budget of IICT, this budget is still far below the level attained in the mid 90s; and the reduction in external income is a preoccupying factor. This leads to an absence of renewal of equipment that constitutes an obstacle to efficient work.
  • Reducing the dispersion of the Institute, which is currently distributed into 23 research centres (in different buildings and often flats) and concentrating it in function of the needs, of the priorities of the beneficiaries of IICT activities. Some areas of scientific work are currently clearly sub-critical, and should either be supported or terminated or transferred to other national or international bodies.


As recorded in the earlier IAC report, the role of IM in support of Government policies is well defined and IM is fulfilling its role with much dedication.

The recent attribution to IM by Eumetsat of the Land Use Satellite Application Facility (SAF) opens new opportunities for IM to play a role in the European and international scenes. In this respect, the links with Africa should be actively considered, enabling IM to contribute to the solution of urgent problems in developing countries.

Beyond such work oriented towards land use, ocean observation is important. Work on pollution with IH is also important. IAC welcomes the fact that seismology is coming back within the IM. The monitoring and modelling of seismic phenomena should be an avenue to be pursued actively in strong cooperation with universities, with IH and international bodies.

The Decree-Laws are considered to be a step forward, but they do not take enough into account the specificity of IM operations e.g. the problem of people working in shifts or the position of meteorological observers, who do not respond, by nature, to the research profile. IAC recommends that the specificity of IM and its unique role in fulfilling Portuguese international obligations should be recognised.

IM is unique in the importance of its operational services and in the diversity of its clients, prime users being outside the responsible Ministry. IAC recommends that a clear income policy for IM should be discussed with all the actors involved, notably those who will sit in the Conselho de Orientação. The services that IM provides to several Ministries should be adequately and equitably rewarded.

The biggest problem for IM relates to staffing. If some posts for new staff, or simply for replacing departing staff, are not forthcoming, the possibility for IM to maintain its national and international obligations will be put in jeopardy. The lack of investment through PIDDAC for renewing equipment, notably for telematics equipment is also preoccupying.


The main issue for ITN is to establish clear orientations for its future activities, to outline a strategic vision of its future mission. The tool is there: ITN expertise and competencies are widely recognised in several fields, specialised scientific equipment, including the research reactor, but also beyond this reactor, the Ion Beam Laboratory and the Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometer, constitute an asset complementing specialised human resources. However, the purpose of such a good tool should be more clearly formulated. Activities appear too dispersed; focusing and coherence should be urgently introduced.

The IAC recommends that, while keeping a science push component in its activities, in order to maintain scientific excellence, the lines of action of the Laboratory on the whole should be more demand driven. Early identification of users of the research performed is essential. Reinforcement of links with Universities, beyond the use of the reactor for education and training, is desirable, as well as a stronger insertion in European S&T networks. Among demand driven activities, the following could be identified:

  • Support provided as a public service in the field of Radiology Protection, Environmental Radioactivity and Nuclear Safety, which clearly relate to the nuclear mission of ITN should be kept at the best possible level.
  • Use of nuclear techniques such as ion implantation, irridiation, molecular marking should be considered for specific research activities in environmental sciences, in life sciences, in materials sciences, the unifying factor behind these activities being the recourse to these nuclear techniques.
  • Scientific activities aimed at developing new analytical methods, at validating reference measurements should also contribute to valorise ITN competencies and facilities.

ITN could be more involved also in the medical field by operating specialised facilities such as the proposed medical cyclotron, but a careful analysis of the potential demand for health care in Portugal should be conducted before proceeding with such project.

The internal conflicts between persons inside ITN impact on the efficient functioning of the Institute and delay the application of the necessary reforms. The adoption of the Lei Orgânica should contribute to clarify some of the pending issues; its adoption should be accelerated.