Question (Q) – What is the aim of the project SHARE-Portugal?
Alice Delerue Matos (ADM) – The SHARE – Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe – is a multidisciplinary project that covers 27 European countries and Israel. It provides and analyses data on health, socio-economic status and social and family networks of more than 120,000 individuals aged 50 and over (more than 300,000 interviews).
The multi-disciplinary approach of this project delivers a global perspective of the aging process. In addition, rigorous procedures and practices are used in the project’s design and implementation. This ensures the harmonization of the results achieved in the several participating countries, regarding the characteristics and living conditions of individuals and the impact of public policies on the quality of life of the population aged 50 and over. This knowledge enables policy makers to adjust their decisions to the needs of this population group, who is highly relevant nowadays and of growing importance in Europe.
The scientific significance of SHARE also lies in the fact that it is a longitudinal project that captures the dynamic character of the aging process. Therefore, it is possible to perceive the changes individuals go through as they grow older. For this purpose, SHARE addresses, every two years, at home, people who constitute a representative sample of individuals aged 50 and over, in each participating country.
In Portugal, the scientific coordination of the project belongs to me, at the Communication and Society Research Center (CECS) of the University of Minho and to Prof. Pedro Pita Barros at the Nova School of Business and Economics.
At the European level, SHARE is coordinated by Prof. Axel Börsch-Supan at the Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA), Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy .
Q – What is the project funding and what is the validity period?
ADM – Portugal has participated in SHARE since 2010 and was funded in 2010-2011 by the European Commission and the High Commissioner for Health. With financial support from the Lisbon City Council and the Aging Institute, an oversample was surveyed in the city of Lisbon, in 2011. From 2014 to 2017, SHARE-Portugal was funded by the FCT- Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia [Foundation for Science and Technology] and the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian [Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation].
At present, the SHARE-Portugal is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in the framework of the competition for Research Infrastructure Projects included in the National Roadmap for Research Infrastructures of Strategic Interest and by FCT through national funds (PIDDAC), AAC Nº 01/SAICT/2016, application nº 022209 – DATALAB. The project is also funded by European funds from H2020 – SHARE-DEV3 sub-contract (Grant Agreement nº 676536). The current financing of the SHARE-Portugal project, which covers the period from 2018 to 2020, is over €1,100,00.
Q – What is the importance of this project within the framework of the research?
ADM – SHARE is one of the main pillars of European Research Area. In 2006, it was selected as one of the projects to be implemented in the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). It is also a key element of the European Research Area (ERA) in the field of Social Sciences. Due to its importance at European level, in March 2011, SHARE was given a new legal status as the first European Research Infrastructure Consortium (SHARE-ERIC).
In Portugal, SHARE project is part of the National Roadmap for Research Infrastructures of Strategic Interest.
The project allows the study of aging in Europe and in each of the participating countries in a dynamic, comparative and multidisciplinary perspective, which is very uncommon in research projects.
The project is harmonized with the U.S. Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) and has become a role model for several aging surveys worldwide. In fact, SHARE team members have collaborated in the implementation of similar projects in other countries around the world, such as P. R. of China, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Thailand, India and South Africa.
Q – What aspects would you like to highlight in this funding?
ADM – The funding we currently have allows the collection of information on waves 7 and 8 of the project, in Portugal. Wave 7 is unique because it focuses on interviewee’s life histories allowing us to evaluate how the conditions of existence during childhood and youth influence life at a more advanced age and how social policies are related to the living conditions of individuals. Information on the use of time and the savings made by individuals will be collected for the first time in wave 8. This wave will also allow us to have new objective health indicators, particularly regarding cognitive function.
The funding obtained to pursue the project in Portugal also allows the panel of interviewees to be expanded, creating conditions for the study of subpopulations and less frequent phenomena that require much larger samples.
Finally, the funding provides SHARE with a team of researchers capable of ensuring the treatment and in-depth analysis of information on the aging process and the living conditions of the Portuguese aged 50 and over. The studies that are going to be developed by this team are crucial for the definition of public policies based on scientific knowledge and adjusted to the reality of the country.
The creation of this team also aims to advise national researchers that wish to use SHARE data in their research. It should be noted that SHARE allows free access by the scientific community to the micro data the project collects.
P – In terms of employability (scholarships and related), what does this project predict?
ADM – In addition to the scientific coordinators of SHARE-Portugal, who are not remunerated by the project, the national team comprises an Executive Manager (postdoctoral), a postdoctoral research fellow, three fellows with a master’s degree and a fellow with a graduation. It also plans to strengthen the team with one more postdoctoral fellow and two fellows with the master’s degree.
Available funding also allows us to hire supervisors and interviewers to collect information, until 2020.
Q – What is the balance of SHARE’s journey?
ADM – SHARE has almost 7500 registered users and more than 2000 publications since its beginning in 2004. Only last year, over 2.5 scientific papers were published per week!
Despite the small size of the Portuguese scientific community, compared to other European countries and Portugal’s relatively recent participation in the project, the country already has more than 100 registered users who are the authors of half a hundred scientific publications based on SHARE data, in the area of Social Sciences and Epidemiology. Thanks to this project, aging in Portugal is also the target of studies by researchers from all over the world.
In the short/medium term, the SHARE-Portugal team aims to broaden the themes of scientific research on the population aged 50 and over and carry out longitudinal studies to identify the causes of social phenomena, which is only possible with the participation of the country in several waves of the project. It also aims to deepen Portugal’s comparative analysis with other European countries that participate in SHARE, but also with countries that have similar projects, especially in Brazil.
Another priority for the SHARE national team is disseminating information and the project results to the scientific community and to national policy makers, so they can adapt social policies to the needs of the population aged 50 and over.
Interview conducted by Vítor de Sousa and answered by writing.