Based on the characteristics of environmental sciences and the history of the PPGE, in 2019 the graduate commission held an extraordinary meeting called PPGE+10 to discuss the PPGE guidelines for the next 10 years. At this meeting, the lines of research and the regulations of the Program were reviewed. In this synthesis and planning exercise, the plural profile of the program was consolidated with the use of a wide range of approaches, studies of different levels of organization and ecological systems that, from a solid conceptual basis, related to relevant themes in our society and advancing knowledge construction. This profile and the new trends we identified led to the conceptualization of a new mission and vision for the program, which we once again highlight here in the PPGE-UFRJ Strategic Plan.
To train professionals in the field of Ecology with a strong scientific and ethical foundation, generating knowledge and developing skills that allow them to promote integration among academia, politics, and other sectors of society.
Reinforce our position as a reference institution in national and international ecological research, based on the professional placement of alumni from the program in accredited research institutions, governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, and companies that work with ecological issues, environmental policies, or solutions to environmental problems.
CAPES induction, including the strategic planning in its evaluation system, was perceived as an opportunity to expand the self-assessment and planning processes that were being carried out at the PPGE, but now in a more systematic, pervasive, and inclusive way with the involvement of the entire community in the program. Thus, the Strategic Plan proposed here also aims to transform the perception and encourage the participation of community members. It is expected that everyone - professors, students, post-docs, and laboratory and administrative staff - within the scope of their attributions and responsibilities, become actors in the construction of a favorable and stimulating environment to produce knowledge and train highly qualified professionals to deal with the environmental and social challenges of the present and the future.
In line with these important pillars, the PPGE-UFRJ structured its strategic plan based on the literature about the subject, various documents from CAPES and the Institutional Development Plan of UFRJ (PDI/UFRJ) concerning the quadrennium 2019-2023 (management of the Dean Denise Pires de Carvalho).
First steps: formation of the Strategic Planning WG and a first diagnosis
To structure the strategic plan, a working group (WG) on the PPGE's strategic planning was created, which comprises the following members: PPGE Coordination (Professors Daniela Rodrigues and André Tavares Corrêa Dias), Professors (Fabio Rubio Scarano, Carlos Eduardo Grelle, Marcus Vinícius Vieira, and Renato Crouzeilles), students (Beatriz Carneiro), post-docs (Victor Seixas and Nuria Pistón). This WG composition considered the following selection criteria: volunteering, experience in strategic planning and diversity.
The strategic planning WG carried out a first diagnostic action using the SWOT method, which is widely used for this purpose in different institutions such as companies, public agencies, universities, among others (for a review, see Helms & Nixon 2010). SWOT is an acronym of uncertain origin that represents, respectively, the terms strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (“FOFA” in Portuguese, for Fortalezas, Oportunidade, Fraquezas and Ameaças). The SWOT method helps managers to diagnose these four factors. This diagnosis, in turn, is one of the first steps to establish methods capable of helping these institutions to a strategic planning. Derived from this method is, for example, the TOWS method (Turning Opportunities and Weaknesses into Strengths) (see Trainer, 2004). This method is a potential ally for future steps related to strategic planning.
The SWOT was also a first action to raise awareness of the PPGE community. From an online questionnaire applied at the end of 2019, the community was informed about the preparation of the Strategic Plan and the new CAPES assessment guidelines and was invited to reflect in line with the SWOT method about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that characterize the PPGE. Some Professors responded by not only providing knowledge about the task, but also offering to help in the analysis of the information gathered by this questionnaire. Among the approximately 120 members of our community, we had 58 responses, that is, almost half of the total number. We believe that these numbers are because the PPGE-UFRJ community was not used to the practice of strategic planning in its culture. This framework will be modified based on more awareness-raising actions that will be implemented along with the self-assessment process. The complete result of the SWOT diagnosis was synthesized using aspects of the collective subject discourse method (Lefevre et al. 2009).
PPGE-UFRJ Strategic Plan
A strategic plan must reflect not only the means to achieve the institution's objectives. It must also be grounded in concepts and a worldview that expresses the institution's praxis and mission. In view of the Program's mission to train professionals in Ecology with skills that allow them to promote the integration between academia, politics and other sectors of society, the sustainability can be used as an integrating concept of the activities carried out at the PPGE- UFRJ. This is due to the importance of scientific knowledge generated in a wide variety of systems and levels of biological organization to support the management, sustainable use, and conservation of natural resources, as more specifically in the lines of research that encompass conservation and environmental management. In a broader institutional context, the importance of the sustainability theme is also verified in practice, as the Institutional Development Plan (PDI) of UFRJ has sustainability as one of its pillars, as well as the Internationalization Program (PrInt) of the university has sustainability as its central theme. The PPGE, in turn, is an active participant in PrInt with a project that examines synergies and trade-offs between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Sustainability currently has more than 300 definitions. Originally, it concerns actions, policies and practices carried out to ensure that future generations have access to the resources available today. This concept emerges today as a value to people, which promptly projected it to the status of science and politics (Scarano 2019). The global sustainability policy is expressed in the form of the SDGs, a set of 17 social, economic, and environmental goals to be achieved by the planetary society by 2030 (Sachs et al. 2020). The science of sustainability promotes the dialogue between the natural sciences (such as Ecology) and the social sciences, which over the last decade, has gained so much space at the PPGE, to the point that today the program is broadly aligned with the UFRJ's internationalization proposal by the means of sustainability. The attention to sustainability has promoted not only greater interdisciplinarity in the production of knowledge and training of graduate students, but also greater interdisciplinarity. The latter concerns the growing involvement of non-academic actors in projects and products of PPGE. Sustainability is, therefore, a unifying concept that permeates ecological sciences and other activities developed by the PPGE-UFRJ. It includes research in rural, forest and urban areas, of marine and continental environments, with studies containing a bias towards conservation, restoration, and sustainable use; and of systemic, orientational, and transformational scientific approaches (Jahn et al. 2012).
The timeframe of the SDGs – as well as the Paris Agreement on Climate, the goals to combat desertification, disaster, and biodiversity reduction – broadly coincides with the timeframe of this strategic plan: 2030. In this way, the alignment of the actions performed by the PPGE (training, research, extension, dissemination) with the SDGs can be used to assess our vision of reaffirming ourselves as a reference institution in national and international ecological research in the generation of knowledge and in the training of professionals who work in the development of policies or in solving environmental problems.
To structure the PPGE-UFRJ Strategic Plan, five dimensions of the program were identified. These are: i) Teaching-Learning, which covers the central focus of the PPGE/UFRJ mission, including the training of new highly qualified human resources; ii) Research Quality, reflecting the knowledge generation process; iii) Dissemination of knowledge, indicating different aspects of the insertion and impact of PPG in different sectors of society; iv) Human resources and infrastructure, which characterizes PPGE's human capital with infrastructure and management; and v) Internationalization, indicating the participation and projection of the PPGE with institutions outside the country.
Within these dimensions, we identified the weaknesses pointed out in the SWOT that need to be overcome to achieve the PPGE-UFRJ vision. We also strive to align with the objectives of the Institutional Development Plan (PDI) of UFRJ (of the Graduate Program) to identify possible synergies between our Strategic Plan and the PDI UFRJ (see Appendix I for objectives of the PDI UFRJ to graduate studies). From this process, we developed objectives for each of the dimensions of the PPGE, containing clear goals, with performance indicators, actions, and processes necessary to achieve these goals, deadlines, and the team responsible. This planning structure will make it possible to monitor the execution of these actions and the results obtained, thus allowing the evaluation of the program's quality, and establishing new goals and challenges.
It is important to note that some short-term goals of the Strategic Plan have already been partially or fully achieved, as this planning is part of a process that started in 2019. The medium and long-term goals will be tentatively achieved within the timeframe provided for each goal. For this purpose, the PPGE will have the WG on the active theme on a permanent basis.
Autoavaliação de Programas de Pós-Graduação. 2019. Relatório de Grupo de Trabalho. Ministério da Educação, Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES).
Barbosa, G.R. 2019. Avaliação multidimensional de programas de pós-graduação. Relatório Técnico DAV. Ministério da Educação, Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES).
Helms, M.M. & Nixon, J. 2010. Exploring SWOT analysis – where are we now? A review of academic research from the last decade. Journal of Strategy and Management, 3: 215-251.
Jahn T., Bergmann M., Keil F. 2012. Transdisciplinarity: between mainstreaming and marginalization. Ecological Economics, 79: 1-10.
Lefevre F., Lefevre A. M. C., Marques M.C.C. 2009. Discurso do sujeito coletivo, complexidade e auto-organização. Ciência & Saúde Coletiva, 14: 1193-1204.
Plano de Desenvolvimento Institucional (PDI) UFRJ. Comissão de elaboração do plano de desenvolvimento institucional da UFRJ 2019-2023. Portaria nº 11205, de 17 de outubro de 2019.
Sachs J., Schmidt-Traub G., Kroll C. et al. 2020. The Sustainable Development Goals and COVID-19. Sustainable Development Report 2020. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Scarano F.R. 2019. The emergence of sustainability. Pp. 51-71 in Emergence and Modularity in Life Sciences (Wegner, L., Lüttge, U., eds). Springer Nature, Cham, Switzerland.
Trainer, J. F. 2004. Models and tools for strategic planning. New Directions for Institutional Research, 123: 129-138.
The evaluation of graduate programs is essential to guarantee the quality of training of masters and doctorate students. In the most practical and immediate scope, the assessment must be able to respond to daily difficulties experienced by different actors in the graduate programs, enabling the redirection of actions and the implementation of new actions necessary to facilitate the teaching and learning process. More generally, the State with its institutions assume an evaluator role, and the evaluations’ results are used to compare institutions, supporting decisions on educational policies and resource allocation (Saul 2015). These two evaluation purposes, however, should not be understood separately, as one feeds, subsidizes, and induces the other.
The recent change in the philosophy of CAPES' assessment related to Graduate Programs in Brazil, which is directed to implement a self-assessment project, should be seen as an opportunity to strengthen and organize an internal institutional assessment process. Self-assessment should promote reflection on “who we are” and “who we want to be”, aiming to manage the present moment to reach the desired future. Such questions must also help us to form and consolidate the program's identity, having as a starting point the mission and vision of the program and the context of the institution. Thus, self-assessment aims to monitor and support the improvement of quality and institutional development, allowing a self-analysis, via the instruments used in data collection, for actions in curriculum and political-administrative reorganization.
The self-assessment prepared for the Graduate Program in Ecology at UFRJ (PPGE/UFRJ) is a participatory process. The main criticism to self-assessment processes is the fact that results are often not used in the decision-making process (Arruda et al. 2019). Despite the national belief that the evaluation by itself would lead to the use of its results to improve the institution (Serpa 2010, Saul 2015), the evaluation alone does not solve any problems. But it could indicate solutions, if it is inserted in the daily processes and activities of the institution (Worthen et al. 2004). In this way, its participatory nature, combined with awareness-raising actions, enhances both the adoption of the results and the aim of the evaluation to correct trajectories leading to the fulfillment of the program's mission.
The PPGE self-assessment process will take place across two domains: i) the domain of the Strategic Plan and ii) the domain of the community's perception about the program's performance. The evaluation of the objectives and goals stipulated in the PPGE's Strategic Plan will be carried out annually with the preparation of a synthesis report by the Planning and Self-Assessment Commission. In the scope of evaluation, the effectiveness of the actions proposed in the Strategic Plan will be also analyzed (meta-evaluation), allowing changes and adjustments in the proposals according to an adaptive management process. The evaluation of the community's perception of the program's performance will be carried out with annual questionnaires to Professors, post-docs, graduate students, and alumni. Those questionnaires (see details below) should reflect the PPGE community perception about activities related to the five dimensions identified in the Strategic Plan. The data collected about the two domains, as well as other direct instruments for evaluating the activities of the PPGE (e.g., teaching evaluations, mentoring committee forms) will be synthesized in an Annual Self-Assessment Report containing recommendations that will be forwarded to the CPG and discussed at the Annual Self-Assessment Seminar with our entire community. At the end of the evaluation cycle, the recommendations resulting from the discussions at the self-assessment seminar will be shared to the entire community.
The self-assessment process designed for the PPGE comprises five steps: 1) preparation, 2) implementation and procedures, 3) dissemination of results, 4) use of results and 5) meta-assessment. As we will see later, these stages do not necessarily represent a successive order of actions, as the self-assessment process is permanent, and some actions encompass different stages of the evaluation cycle.
The main objective of the self-assessment process is to promote PPGE self-knowledge through participatory instruments, aiming at improving the processes, practices and behaviors, in the five dimensions identified in the PPGE Strategic Plan: Teaching-Learning, Research Quality, Dissemination, Human Resources and Infrastructure, and Internationalization. More specifically, the PPGE self-assessment process aims to:
1. Develop assessment instruments aligned with the CAPES Assessment Form, the PPGE Strategic Plan, and the UFRJ Institutional Development Plan (PDI);
2. Evaluate the implementation of the PPGE Strategic Plan;
3. Subsidize the external evaluation process carried out by CAPES;
4. Make the academic community aware of the importance everyone’s involvement in the self-assessment process;
5. Propose, validate, and apply the self-assessment instruments;
6. Analyze the information collected;
7. Prepare annual reports of the self-assessment process;
8. Propose adjustments and new actions to the CPG after the results of the self-assessment and to debate it with the community;
9. Release and share the final report.
10. Subsidize the accreditation, re-accreditation, and de-accreditation processes.
For this last point, information from the Annual Activity Report will be used to guide the accreditation, re-accreditation, and de-accreditation processes, in part already implemented in the 2017-2020 quadrennium, which are based on the following criteria:
Accreditation/registration in the Program:
1) scientific production (minimum of three A2+ articles, as first author / author by correspondence, in the last three years);
2) proposal of a graduate level course that brings differential knowledge to the PPGE-UFRJ curriculum;
3) indication of a potential candidate in the next selection process (masters and/or doctorate).
1) getting involved in teaching (with a minimum of one course every 2 years);
2) mentoring (with a minimum of one active student, either Master or Doctorate);
3) getting involved in routine demands of the PPGE-UFRJ, such as developing questions for graduate admission exams, participating in various selection boards (Masters, Doctorate, post-docs/PNPDs, and when applicable, visiting professors, etc.) and others. It is also expected accessibility and collaboration to provide information whenever requested in order to solve any problems involving this person in question;
4) participation in monitoring committees;
5) scientific production (minimum of one A1-A2 article per year).
Single criterion: Failure to meet at least one of the re-accreditation criteria, in addition to not signaling changes / justifications regarding these criteria not met.
Disclosure of results of the self-assessment process
All the reports mentioned above, as well as the summary of the questionnaires, will be released by email and via the PPGE-UFRJ website to the entire community of the program. These same results will be announced and debated during the Self-Assessment Seminar, when there will be space for the community to give their opinion on the performance of the program and the self-assessment process. In addition to the Self-Assessment Seminar, meetings with more specific themes may be called throughout the year.
Using the results of the self-assessment process
Based on the Annual Self-Assessment Report and the discussions during the Annual Self-Assessment Seminar, recommendations for actions to overcome possible route deviations or to reach goals not yet achieved will be consolidated. These recommendations will be in the final version of the Annual Self-Assessment Report and will be addressed to those in charge of executing/adjusting said action (e.g., CPG, Teaching Committee, student representatives, etc.).
The meta-evaluation permeates the entire evaluation cycle. In the Annual Self-Assessment Reports and Self-Assessment Questionnaires, the assessment process itself will be a point to be examined. During the Self-Assessment Seminars, the procedures and instruments used in self-assessment will also be discussed so that they can be improved whenever possible. At the end of the quadrennium, in the Quadrennial Self-Assessment Report, special attention will be given to the meta-evaluation, verifying whether the evaluation cycles were in fact capable of generating improvements in the quality indicators of the activities performed by the program's community.
Arruda, J.A., Paschoal, T. & Demo, G. 2019. Uso dos resultados da autoavaliação institucional pelos gestores da Universidade de Brasília. Avaliação: Revista da Avaliação da Educação Superior, 24, 680-698.
Saul, A.M. 2015. Na contramão da lógica do controle em contextos de avaliação: por uma educação democrática e emancipatória. Educação e Pesquisa, 41, 1299-1311.
Serpa, S.M.H.C. 2010. Para que Avaliar? Identificando a tipologia, os propósitos e a utilização das avaliações de programas governamentais no Brasil. Dissertação (Mestrado em Administração) - Departamento de Administração, Universidade de Brasília, Brasília.
Worthen, B.R., Sanders, J.R. & Fitzpatrick, J.L. 2004. Avaliação de programas: concepções e práticas. Gente, São Paulo.