A brief history of CETRAD


The Centre for Transdisciplinary Development Studies

CETRAD is both an old and a new research centre. CETRAD may be considered old because its prehistory is intimately linked with that of his host department, the Department of Economics, Sociology and Management (DESG) (see below “Six key moments in DESG’s history”). CETRAD may be thought of as new because it was only on the 2nd of May 2002 that the Department’s Assembly approved the founding of its own Research Centre.

1. CETRAD’s Prehistory: research under the tutelage of ICETA.

As early as 1982, the Evaluation Unit of the Trás-os-Montes Integrated Rural Development Project was established in the then Department of Economics & Sociology (DES), and it was this initiative that allowed a wide range of socio-economic studies to be undertaken, thereby providing the decisive impulse that was to shape the future direction of DES’s research.

For many years, virtually all research at UTAD was conducted under the auspices of the JNICT/FCT-funded Institute for Agricultural and Agro-Food Technology (ICETA) and, as such, staff of the then Department of Economics & Sociology (DES) undertook their individual and project-based research under direct departmental supervision.

Among the key pieces of research produced in this period, it is worth mentioning the following projects: “Design Methods for Endogenous Regional Development”, funded by the Eurpean Union’s DG VI and coordinated by the University of Wageningen (1991-1995) for the purposes of which the DES assembled a large interdisciplinary group of researchers.

2. Recent History: the first phase (2002-2004)

The formal creation of a number of research centres in the university (among which the Centre for Transdisciplinary Development Research – CETRAD) made UTAD’s research umbrella organisation ICETA superfluous. In the first phase of its activities (2002-2004), researchers in the department (now re-named Economics, Sociology & Management) discussed the type of research centre that should be created, opted for a transdisciplinary focus and chose the Centre’s present name and acronym. CETRAD’s statutes were devised and its first Director, Artur Cristóvão, was elected. Three priority thematic areas for research were identified: (1) Economy, State & Policy; (2) Territory, Society & Development Resources; and (3) Firms, Finance and Organizational Dynamics, led respectively by João Rebelo, Manuela Ribeiro and Chris Gerry. The Centre acquired its current graphic image, thereafter used in all its correspondence, publicity, public events and other initiatives.

3. Recent History: an intermediate phase (2004-2006)

In December 2004, José Portela was elected Director of CETRAD and shortly afterwards appointed João Rebelo and Lívia Madureira as his two Assistant Directors. In addition to new research projects and studies being initiated, some minor revisions were made to the Centre’s internal regulations, a media library was created, the first steps were taken towards constructing CETRAD’s web page, the weekly internal electronic bulletin “Wednesday News” began, a training course on multivariate statistical techniques and SPSS took place, and the first four series of the Centre’s highly successful Permanent Research and Development Seminars or SPIDs) were held.

In the same period 2004-2006, CETRAD organised two large events: (1) The 6th European Symposium on Farming Systems Research and Development (4-8 April 2004); and (2) a conference on "Society and Forestry in Portugal” in partnership with the Portuguese Sociological Association (9-11 April 2006)

4. Recent History: an intermediate phase (2006-2009)

In mid 2006, José Portela was succeeded as Director by Lívia Madureira, who appointed her immediate predecessor and Mário Sérgio Teixeira as Assistant Directors.

CETRAD immediately began to plan its strategy for the new round of Research Centre evaluations and pluri-annual financing (2007-2010) organised by the FCT (the Portuguese Foundation for Science & Technology). Adjustments were made to its three thematic Research Areas, now designated as follows: (1) Globalisation, State & Policy; (2) Innovation, Markets & Organisations; and (3) Society, Territory & Resources, the Principal Researchers of which are currently Manuela Ribeiro, José Portela and Artur Cristóvão, respectively.

Conversations began with other Research Centres with which CETRAD had collaborated closely in the past, with a view to consolidating existing synergies and developing a common strategy for the future. To date, these discussions have not resulted in formal merger agreements; however, a number of protocols have been signed, and there is now greater clarity concerning the scientific and organisational parameters involved in developing a more institutionalised form of collaborative research in the development field, particularly among the public universities of the Portuguese Interior.

In May 2007, CETRAD’s Scientific Council elected Chris Gerry as the Scientific Coordinator of CETRAD’s candidature for FCT funding in the 2008-2011 period.

5. FCT evaluation and recognition: 2009-2014

In late 2008, CETRAD was informed by the FCT that its research performance in the period 2005-2007 had been assessed as "good", thereby providing the Centre for the first time with FCT pluriannual funding.

In February 2009, Chris Gerry was elected Director of CETRAD, and nominated Francisco Diniz and Alberto Baptista as his Deputy Directors. In 2013, Chris Gerry was re-elected and appointed Alberto Baptista and Ana Alexandra Marta-Costa as his Deputy Directors; their principal challenge was to prepare the Centre's 2015-2020 strategic project, which was submitted to the FCT for evaluation in December of that year.


6. FCT evaluation and recognition: 2015-2020

In June 2014, CETRAD's strategic project successfully passed the first stage of the evaluation process and in October CETRAD had the visit of the Panel Evaluation of FCT. In December of 2014, CETRAD was informed by the FCT that its evaluation for the period 2015-2020 has been assessed as “very good”, thereby providing the Centre with FCT pluriannual funding of 75.000 Euros by year.

In March 2017, Timothy Koehnen was elected Director of CETRAD, and nominated Ana Alexandra Marta-Costa and Manuel Luis Tibério as his Deputy Directors. Their principal challenge was to prepare the Centre's 2018-2022 strategic project to be submitted to the FCT for evaluation in the 2018.



1. The Department was created in 1976, with just 4 teachers, and remained more or less this size until the middle of the eighties. In the intervening 20 years or so, the staff complement has grown by a factor of 10, and currently has over 40 full time staff members, half of whom are women. In addition DESG has 14 mainly full-time “guest” lecturers, and about the same number of collaborators (each teaching a small number of courses). DESG is one of UTAD’s founding departments – characterised by its tradition of participative management, and the first department to introduce its own internal regulations.

2. In 1982, the first DESG staff-member to undertake postgraduate training (at the Institute of Social Studies, in the Hague) returned home with a Masters degree in Agricultural & Rural Development. In 1984, another DESG teacher gained the “Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching Aptitude & Research Capacity” (equivalent to a Masters) and, in 1986, the first DESG staff member to complete a doctorate received his degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA).

3. During its first 10 years of existence, postgraduate training of DESG’s teachers was undertaken on the basis of cooperation agreements between the then Polytechnic Institute of Vila Real (later to become the University Institute of Trás-os-Montes & Alto Douro, and subsequently the University of Trás-os-Montes & Alto Douro) and the Dutch state (through the NUFFIC programme), the Federal republic of Germany’s DAAD programme, and the AID and Fulbright programmes of the American government. Under these auspices, nearly all of the then teachers of the Department benefited from Masters, doctoral and other training provided in these countries.

4. Initially, teaching was restricted to the agriculturally-oriented courses that formed the mainstream of the courses offered by UTAD (Agronomy, Animal Science, Forestry, etc.) In 1983-84, teaching broadened substantially as a result of an agreement with the Faculty of Economics of the University of Porto (FEP) under which DESG provided the first 2 years of FEP’s 5 year degree in economics. This agreement terminated in 1996-97 with the creation of UTAD’s own degree scheme in economics. In 1988-89, the launching of a degree in Agrarian Management (transformed in 2000-01 into an undergraduate course in Management), further extended the Department’s teaching of economic, financial, sociological and managerial sciences.

5.In 1988, UTAD’s very first Master’s degree – in “Rural Extension & Development” – was conceived and taught by the Department of Economics and Sociology (DES) as it was then called. Funding for 4 years came from the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD). This 2-year course was repeated over three cycles, and subsequently remodelled as the Masters in “Tools & Techniques for Promoting Rural Development” which produced two further cohorts of graduates. Finally, the course was given twice on both sides of the Portuguese-Galician border as the “International Masters in Rural Development Management”, in a collaborative venture that brought together UTAD and both the Economics Faculty and IDEGA (the Galician Institute for Research & Development) of the University of Santiago de Compostela. The most recent postgraduate initiative provided by DESG has been the Masters in “Local Development: Territories, Society & Citizenship” which to date has been taught twice. Overall, these Masters degrees have involved 200 students from Portugal and abroad, and has produced 100 dissertations – an eloquent expression of DESG’s efforts and expertise in the sphere of development studies – focusing in particular on themes related to the dynamics of agrarian transformation, territorial reconfiguration and social change in the Interior North of Portugal. In the main, these analyses have embraced economic, social, policy-related and technological facets of development processes.

6. Since the beginning of the century, DESG has significantly widened its provision of postgraduate teaching: in 2000, the Masters degree in Management was initiated and has now become firmly established and includes an intensive-study version for students registered under UTAD's Luso-Brazilian Cooperation Agreement. In 2004, a Masters in the “Economics of Organisations” was started and, the following year, in cooperation with Vila Real’s Nursing School (now part of UTAD) first a Postgraduate Diploma and then, in 2006, a Masters degree in “Health Service Management” were launched. Also in 2006, Masters degrees in Tourism and in Entrepreneurship registered their first students. Having adjusted its courses in compliance with the EU's Bologna Process, the Department now boasts an impressive array of 1st, 2nd and 3rd Cycle courses. Since 2008, Bologna-style Doctoral programmes in management and economics were made available. In 2012, DESG launched its Masters degree in Social Work. At 2016 it open the doctoral programme in Development, Societies and Territory and, om 2018, in consortium with the University of Évora, the doctoral programme in Agribusiness and Sustainability.


Mission and Operational Objectives

CETRAD is a development-focused research centre, based in the social sciences, that forms an integral part of the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro (UTAD), Vila Real, Portugal. It was created on May 2nd 2002 by researchers from UTAD’s Department of Economics, Sociology & Management (DESG) and currently has 86 researchers with PhDs, drawn mainly from UTAD, complemented by a significant contingent of historians, archeologists and other specialists in heritage and tourism studies from the University Institute of Maia (ISMAI). CETRAD staff exhibit a wide diversity of initial disciplinary training and subsequent research specialisations, with sociology, social work, economics, management, applied agricultural sciences, history, archeology and anthropology predominating. It is this diversity that not only defines CETRAD’s originality, but also sustains inter- and multi-disciplinary research, and feeds into the evolution of trans-disciplinary methodologies that aim to identify solutions to key problems of territorial, socio-economic, cultural and organisational development, focusing primarily on less-favoured territories that are predominantly rural and have low population-densities.

The core objectives of CETRAD are: (1) to encourage the inter- and multi-disciplinary construction of coherent and innovative research methodologies, capable of contributing to the solution of key problems of socio-economic and cultural development, in organisations of all kinds, and in local, regional, national, trans-border and international contexts; (2) to promote advanced-level academic training in development studies, (3) to place the knowledge, creativity and skills generated by its projects at the disposal of the wider community; and (4) to promote stakeholder participation throughout the project cycle.

Statutes and Regulations

CETRAD' statutes - Official version - Official laws' journal (DR nº 67, 6st April, 2016) - only available in Portuguese

Operation and Financing Regulation of CETRAD-2016 - only available in Portuguese