To create knowledge and understanding for human, organizational and societal problems, bringing together digital and information technologies in new design methods and solutions.
ISTAR aims to become a reference research unit in the application of digital and computing approaches to problems of individuals, organizations and society. ISTAR values quality in research, multidisciplinary work, and innovation in the design of solutions, explanations and models for real life problems. ISTAR stimulates flexibility in its structure, diversity and cross-fertilization of scientific and technological ideas.
ISTAR is concerned with the analysis, design, and construction of human–based systems, focusing, in its creation, on the design of digital living spaces, on the design and construction of information systems and software, and on complexity studies and computational modeling as understanding tools.
An innovative, open and responsible research organization, concerned with the design of new answers and solutions to modern questions and problems.
This SWOT analysis reflects the fact that ISTAR is proposed as a new unit.
(S1) Multidisciplinary Environment
ISTAR is designed to bring together a core of integrated researchers from the Computing, Architecture and Mathematics disciplines, to associate additional researchers from those and eventually other disciplines. The ISCTE-IUL space provides access to potential contributions, which are aligned with the ISTAR vision.
(S2) Cohesion of the Group
The creation of a new unit has allowed to build an apriori common view, which has to be consolidated, and to initiate a process of common understanding and participated design of the organizational principles and mechanisms of the research unit.
(S3) Focus on a few core areas
ISTAR, while recognizing the value of multidisciplinary research, focuses on a few core areas, digital living spaces, information systems, software engineering and complexity & computational modelling.
(S4) Favorable academic environment
ISCTE-IUL is committed to the development and improvement of its research units (see Institutional commitment above) and provides an ecosystem of opportunities for technology transfer, advanced training and extension to society that facilitates the sustainability of a research unit. ISCTE-IUL has a high level of financial resiliency, when compared with other institutions in Portugal.
(W1) Unbalance in Research Productivity
As ISTAR appears as a new unit, essentially gathering faculty from ISCTE-IUL, Technology and Architecture School (ISTA) and its departments, the scientific production of its individual members is still too unbalanced and efforts must be made to mitigate that situation (examples will include coaching recent PhDs, provide incentives for more productive members and regular monitoring of each member scientific throughput in order to identify possible bottlenecks).
(W2) Weak traditions of collaboration
The tradition of research work in the environment where most of the researchers comes from is individual and non-collaborative. The multidisciplinary perspective that ISTAR promotes should overcome this background. The vertical notion of “research groups” has to be complemented with horizontal mechanisms of association.
(W3) No stable framework for resource management
ISTAR still lacks mature and tested mechanisms for resource allocation and management (e.g. space or funding). One of the more urgent needs is the design and implementation of this framework that is a critical tool to assure the comfort and well-being of active and enthusiastic researchers.
(W4) Weak image and reputation
As ISTAR is a new unit, and ISCTE-IUL is (not always but) often seen as Management or Social Sciences competence center, but not as a Technology oriented institution, its image and reputation in this domain is weak.
(O1) A fresh start
In ISTAR we bring together the collective experience of a large number of senior research members, who have experienced different forms of organization in several research units (ADETTI, BRU, CIES, CITI, LASIGE). This diversity of perspectives provides an opportunity for a better initial design.
(O2) Alignment with ISCTE-IUL strategies
ISTAR has the opportunity to profit from the alignment with ISCTE-IUL own strategic directions, namely the focus on a high volume of post-graduate degrees, and the focus on internationalization, both in the teaching and research domains.
(O3) Alignment with EU priorities
By design and by construction, ISTAR looks for a significant match with a number of the priorities of the EU Programme. Horizon 2020. ISTAR sees itself projected both in the disciplinary lines or in the societal challenges.
(O4) Sinergy with the School of Technologies and Architecture
ISTAR is designed and proposed to consolidate a research capacity that benefits the ISCTE-IUL School of Technologies and Architecture, a pillar of the Institute’s scientific map that is also being strengthened. The advantages of the mutual reinforcement must be exploited (e.g. in Phd programs, internationalization, etc.)
(T1) Limited financial resources
The continuing crisis situation in the HE and scientific institutions reduces the funding availability to levels that constrain investment and growth (capacity to execute projects, hire young researchers, etc.). This is a serious threat to a unit that is taking its first steps and alternatives have to be sought to eliminate it.
(T2) Burocratic planning and centralized decisions on academic issues
The lack of resources of the HE system justifies rationalization efforts but also leads to centralized decisions on scientific specialization, which may lead to constraints in research related activities (e.g. the capacity to operate and fund doctoral programs in some technological domains). The multidisciplinary perspectives are a differentiation factor to avoid this threat.
(T3) Lack of competitiveness of the academic environment
ISTAR in itself, ISCTE-IUL as the host institution, and Portugal as a whole, may suffer further competitiveness degradations in their ability to attract researchers, nationally and internationally. New sources of research capacity and new ways to stimulate and compensate research competiveness have to be designed.
(T4) Bad Management Practices
The resource distribution principles, the performance appraisal methods and criteria, and the rewarding and recognition mechanisms have to be designed and implemented with participation of all ISTAR researchers and as soon as the unit starts to operate.
Based on this SWOT Analysis, we proceed in the strategic definition with the help of a simple tool, called OVAR – Objectives, Variables of Action and Responsibility (to be added soon)