Strategic Planning of The PPG-Bionorte

As an associative program that includes faculty from nine states and with participation from more than 25 federal, state, and private institutions, the planning of the PPG-BIONORTE is a monumental challenge. Nevertheless, learning from the experience gained throughout our existence, as well as from the mistakes made in the past, today we are much stronger and more mature to move forward towards the growth and consolidation of the program as a locally and nationally recognized entity in the training of qualified human resources in biodiversity and biotechnology, as well as in the production of relevant scientific knowledge and innovative technological products. Considering, however, the asymmetries in the area of biotechnology that still exist between the North Region and the other regions of Brazil, the PPG-BIONORTE (despite trying to be a protagonist at the national and international level) continues with a strong regional insertion because we have an interest in minimizing these differences. Regarding the internationalization of the program, our goal is to always seek new partnerships, with the aim of improving the students' education and giving them the opportunity to grow in their networks. With this we hope that our graduates will enter in the competitive job market in an outstanding condition, due to their differential formation.

Articulation of the Strategic Planning with the IDP (Institutional Development Plan) of the participating institutions

Not only does the large number of participating institutions make it difficult to articulate the strategic planning of the PPG-BIONORTE with the IDP of these institutions, but also the rotation of the location of the Program's General Coordination, a premise established in the constitution of the APCN (Analysis of New Course Proposals), brings an additional element of difficulty to this task. Thus, the General Coordination was based in the State of Amazonas (UFAM) since the foundation of the program (2012) until 2017, moving to the State of Maranhão (UEMA) in the period from 2018 to 2021. In the next interstice it will move to the state of Pará (UFPA), from 2022 to 2025.

Considering this scenario, the program's strategic planning intends to contemplate the various participating institutions but is centered on the alignment with the IDP of the current General Coordination's host institution (UEMA), but is already seeking the transition to the IDP of the next host institution, UFPA.

Specifically in relation to the IDP of the Maranhão State University, the current host of the General Coordination of the BIONORTE, we are articulated with several aspects of the Research and Post-Graduation Policy, such as: Total Quality Program of Post-Graduation Programs (PROQUALIT); Regulation of the criteria for accreditation and discrediting of the permanent faculty; internationalization of the PPG, encouraging the participation of researchers and students in international research networks; stimulating the exchange to improve the existing research groups, as well as stimulating the creation of new groups. This is no different, as a rule, from the IDPs of the other institutions that are included in our PPG.

Among the strategic guidelines pointed out in UEMA's IDP, for example, regarding the increase in the number of teachers with doctorates, the PPG-BIONORTE is not only articulated with the expectation of collaborating with the achievement of this goal for UEMA, but also for all the other institutions that make up the PPG. Other guidelines pointed out by UEMA's IDP, such as promoting the social and economic development of the region; supporting regional demands; stimulating cooperative relationships with public and private, national and international institutions, are no different from the IDP of the future general office of PPG-BIONORTE, the Federal University of Pará (UFPA). At UFPA there is even a Pro-Rectorship of International Relations (PROINTER), instituted with the aim of promoting cooperation between UFPA and the various international educational institutions. Research and graduate studies at UFPA are seen as dimensions of a single process, in which continuous education and the production of knowledge are involved.

These two examples show that despite the challenges inherent to a networked graduate program, PPG-BIONORTE fits perfectly into the IDPs of all the partner institutions, since one of its main goals remains to improve the qualification of the staff of the Science and Technology Institutions (STI) in the Legal Amazon Region.

Specific actions for the alignment of the Strategic Planning with the institution's IDP in the short, medium and long term

Aiming to achieve the demands presented in the IDP of UEMA and UFPA, besides the other participating institutions, we established the following goals:

  1. Creation of a special selection process call for proposals for the training of professors and technical-administrative staff of the participating institutions.
    • Target: 1 selection call in each state every 3 years;
  2. Increase the number of projects carried out with the participation of more than one institution in the BIONORTE network or outside.
    • Target: 15% increase by 2023; 30% increase by 2025;
  3. Increase communication with the regional society to identify regional demands.
    • Target: establish workshop, with business roundtable, linked to the Brazilian Congress of Biodiversity and Biotechnology, promoted by the PPG-BIONORTE every two years, with the next one in 2022;
  4. Increase the impact of the bibliographic and technical-scientific productions of the program's faculty/students.
    • Target 1: increase the proportion of publications evaluated in extract "A" of the new Qualis by 20% by 2024;
    • Target 2: decrease the proportion of publications evaluated in "B" extracts in relation to the total production by 30% by 2024;
    • Target 3: increase the number of patents filed by students and faculty, in addition to stimulating the creation of startups.
  5. Increase the scoring criteria by production for faculty accreditation.
    • Target: from 500 points to 800 points in the previous quadrennium until 2024;
  6. Increase the scoring criteria by production for faculty reaccreditation.
    • Target: from 300 points to 500 points in the previous quadrennium until 2023 and from 500 points to 700 points in the previous quadrennium until 2025;
  7. Increase the number of international relationships of program faculty.
    • Target: more than 25% of faculty with international relationships by 2023 and more than 35% of faculty by 2025.

Future management actions and procedures

  1. Aiming at improving the integration between the institutions participating in the PPG-BIONORTE: we decided to encourage the participation of faculty and students in the Brazilian Congress of Biotechnology, holding the meeting of the General Collegiate followed by the congress. In addition, in the years intercalated with the congress of the Brazilian Society of Biotechnology, we will hold our Congress of Biodiversity and Biotechnology with our Workshop of Integration STI/Companies with the participation of all its components, with presentation and discussion of scientific papers and lectures and eventually mini-courses, giving continuity to this indispensable tool. In June 2022 the II Brazilian Congress on Biodiversity and Biotechnology in the Amazon will be held in Belém-PA, where we intend to gather the largest possible number of professors, students and graduates of the PPG-BIONORTE, as well as researchers in the area not connected to the program, managers of participating institutions and governmental agencies for research promotion, and businessmen from the biotechnology sector, estimating the involvement of more than 1000 participants. In the event we intend to include two specific sessions: one to stimulate the proposal of integrated research projects between the faculty members of the different STIs and the second with the presence of members of the Business Sector (agribusiness, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry, among others), aiming to stimulate the generation of bioproducts and biotechnology. We believe that these meetings will motivate students and teachers to look for more integration among themselves, with the productive sector, and with society. Additionally, Normative Instruction 05, May 2019, was created in order to establish stricter criteria for the accreditation and re-accreditation of faculty members, as well as for the granting of orientation slots for faculty members, and was reformulated in May 2020 to introduce a provision that strengthens the integrated participation among faculty members from different states and institutions in the PPG-BIONORTE (https://bionorte.org.br/sisac/files/portal/p1/F318023223664.pdf).
  2. In order to encourage the participation of faculty members in disciplines and to reduce disparities among professors (some professors did not teach disciplines regularly, while others taught intensively): the opening of vacancies for orientation in the selection processes is conditioned to the participation of professors in disciplines, including in the text of the Normative Instruction 05 (https://bionorte.org.br/sisac/files/portal/p1/F318023223664.pdf) the requirement that the professor must offer at least one discipline every two years to be able to offer an orientation position. Additionally, the same instruction establishes productivity criteria to limit the maximum number of orientations of each professor;
  3. To increase the production with participation of students and qualified production: As a way to improve the qualification of the academic productions of students, in November 2019 the minimum requirement of publication of a scientific article level B4 to level B3 in the area of Biotechnology was raised as a requirement for the defense of the Thesis. As of the New Qualis, this requirement became two articles evaluated in the B1 or higher extract, or a Patent and an article at least B1 (Normative Instruction No. 04, revised in May 2020; https://bionorte.org.br/sisac/files/portal/p7/F922425218868.pdf). In parallel, the General Coordination is working on the creation of devices to subsidize the costs of editing, translation and publication of articles, such as stimulating all FAPs in the North Region to launch calls for proposals like PAPAC and Artigo (FAPEAM and FAPEMA programs dedicated to the translation and publication of articles in well qualified journals). In order to obtain a greater participation of students in scientific and technological production, some measures are being adopted with the general collegiate, including changes in the internal regulations and in some Regulatory Instructions, such as
    • In addition to the increased level and quantity of publications/technological products to mark the thesis defense mentioned in the previous paragraph, the students will also be required to present a production to be able to schedule the defense of the Qualification Exam, which must occur by the end of the 6th period of enrollment, and must present an accepted/published article or a patent application deposit (Normative Instruction no. 01, revised in May 2020; https://bionorte.org.br/sisac/files/portal/p7/F838013860554.pdf);
    • Organization of seminars, courses and discussions on intellectual property, patents and entrepreneurship, aiming to expand the development of technological products and consequent filing of patents;
    • Establish the annual award "Quality in Research in Biodiversity and Biotechnology", with different categories (Scientific Article, Thesis and Technological Product), aiming to recognize the efforts towards scientific, technological and innovation development. In addition, it is expected to provide the qualitative and quantitative expansion of production with the involvement of students, particularly honoring those that have the potential to generate relevant impact for the country;
    • Seek to establish a partnership with the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI), aiming to disseminate and strengthen the culture of intellectual property among professors and students linked to the institutions of the PPG-BIONORTE. The first step will consist of regularly offering a General Distance Course on Intellectual Property (DL 101P BR), from the INPI/OMPI, as a complementary activity. The next step will consist of actions with visits to the Research Support Foundations to expose the importance of the Program, its potential impacts for regional development, as well as the existing demands in terms of research support directed to the area. The goal is to influence the launching of incentive calls for technological innovation, as FAPEAM and FAPEMA already do, precisely through the induction via the state coordinations;
    • Increase the stimulus for the creation of startups, by graduates, strengthening the innovative entrepreneurship among PPG's students and faculty.
  4. To increase the impact of the productions: in addition to raising the production requirement for scheduling the Qualification Exam and Thesis defenses, the faculty and students will be encouraged to choose journals with a higher impact index for publication, as well as the Coordination will constantly evaluate the production of permanent and collaborating faculty, aiming to maintain the quality of the program's advisors and, at the same time, the students being trained by the PPG-BIONORTE;
  5. To increase student participation in internationalization initiatives: We will seek to increase our quotas for sandwich internships abroad to provide our students with the opportunity for international exchange, as well as in specific international cooperation programs, including inducing the participation of foreign researchers in funding agencies. Additionally, the Scientific Writing course will be offered annually, entirely in English, by a native or fluent professor, using the strategy of distance learning, with international cooperation, aiming to reach the largest possible number of students. The proposal is that the students also participate with presentations in this language. This is expected to induce an increase in scientific production and a greater exposure of students to the language. Another course that has already been offered in 2019, and will continue to be offered every two years in English, is Ethnobiodiversity, in partnership with the University of Maryland (USA).
  6. Seeking to improve the quality and timing of thesis defense: all state coordinations are conducting a more thorough follow-up of their students, and it was implemented in the program's regulations the inclusion of mandatory activities "Thesis Seminars in Progress I and II", to be held at the end of the first and second year of the students' enrollment, and which are regulated by Normative Instruction 09, of October 2020 (https://bionorte.org.br/sisac/files/portal/p1/F385615933745.pdf);
  7. Aiming to improve and update the program's website (Portal BIONORTE): relevant information will be included, together with the offer of translated versions of the pages into English and Spanish. Although there is already a section "Bionorte in Numbers" in the program's website (https://www.bionorte.org.br/bionorte/ppg-numeros.html), where we can find all the data referring to the bibliographic and technical production of the teachers and students, the complete list of scientific and technical publications of the program will also be included in the homepage, as well as the collection of defended thesis. In parallel, we have implemented the PPG's promotion in digital media, such as social networks, prioritizing LinkedIn which is a social network with a professional focus. On average, publications about the PPG have seven thousand views. We expect this number to double by 2023 and triple by 2025.
  8. To consolidate the self-evaluation system and the continuous improvement plan: electronic forms of evaluation of the PPG-BIONORTE were created, aimed at the different actors (faculty, students, technical-administrative staff and partner institutions), which will enable to guide decision making and the mitigation of occasional and administrative problems. It is believed that the faculty will be able to identify their strengths and weaknesses and outline actions to improve their weaknesses within the scope of the program;
  9. Aiming to integrate the strategic planning of PPG-BIONORTE based on the institutional demands (IDP): a specific commission will be created for this purpose, which will begin its work by evaluating any inconsistencies between the strategic planning of BIONORTE and the IDPs of the certifying institutions and, in a second moment, of the other participating institutions;
  10. Conclude the articulation in the participating STIs so that the PPG is included in their institutional strategic planning (IDPs), as well as in their Research and Post-Graduation Chambers: as already occurs in the Amazonas State University, Maranhão State University, Federal University of Maranhão, Federal University of Acre, Federal University of Pará, Federal University of Tocantins, Federal University of Roraima;
  11. To increase entrepreneurship initiatives: the participation in the subject "Bio-business and Regulatory Framework in Biotechnology" is mandatory, and the participation of students in the subject "Entrepreneurship" is encouraged, aiming at the creation of startups, for example. We also plan to strengthen our partnership with Sebrae, which began with the first biodiversity and biotechnology congress in the Amazon, and to establish partnerships with the Biominas Foundation, one of the main incubation and business acceleration systems in Brazil, so that our students and faculty can take their courses at a more affordable cost;
  12. To increase the number of students approved in the selection processes: the General Coordination created in November 2020, the Selection Process Evaluation Committee, consisting of 5 former State Coordinators, as well as members participating in the selection process 2020 and the General Coordinator, which should assess the inconsistencies of the last selection process and the reasons that resulted in the failure of about 50% of the candidates enrolled. As a preliminary result, it is already known that this reduction would be natural, since the goal of qualifying the regional workforce for the biotechnology area has been achieved. Thus, the strategy to maintain the level of demand is to improve the dissemination of the program, improving its capillarity at a national and international level. To this end, several actions have been taken. Among them: modernization of the program's website; biannual organization of the Brazilian Congress on Biodiversity and Biotechnology in the Amazon (seeking to internationalize it), promote, together with the participating STIs, full adherence to the Group of International Cooperation of Brazilian Universities (GCUB - Coimbra Group), and adopt the Program of Alliances for Education and Training (PAEC), of the Organization of American States (OAS), which is dedicated to promoting the reception of graduate students from associated countries. Currently the STIs of the PPG-BIONORTE, which are part of the Coimbra Group are: UEA, UFAM, UFT, UFAC, UFRR, UFOPA, UFAP, UFMA, UEMA).
  13. To further decrease the proportion of collaborating professors: to guarantee that the program keeps the majority of its professors on the permanent staff, some actions have been taken: a- New credentials are only accepted if the candidate reaches the minimum score necessary to be considered a permanent professor; b- In order for the professor to remain in the program he/she also needs to maintain a minimum score; c- Limitation of the number of orienting students. Permanent faculty members are entitled to a larger number of oriented students. d- Encouragement of publications among permanent and collaborating faculty members (hoping that the number of publications of collaborating faculty members will increase and they will join the ranks of permanent faculty members).
  14. Aiming at the regular updating of the disciplines and creation of new disciplines focused on the national and local demands in biotechnology: a committee will be established to identify these demands and reevaluate the list of subjects currently offered.
    1. This Strategic Planning will be re-evaluated based on the data obtained in the self-assessment every two years.

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