Interview with Carlos Veiga

Carlos Veiga is an Assistant Professor with Aggregation at the Department of Sociology of the University of Minho, where he also obtained his PhD in Sociology in 2004. He teaches the subjects of Methods and Techniques of Social Research, Sociology of Solidarity and Social Exclusion, Statistics and Data Analysis in Sociology, Sociology of Organizations and Sociology of Disability and Rehabilitation. The CECS researcher focuses his work in the field of disability and rehabilitation organisations of people with disabilities.

In an interview, Carlos Veiga spoke about his academic path, the recent election to the Iberoamerican Association of Sociology of Organizations and Communication (AISOC) and the current state of research in Portugal.


How were your first steps in academic life?

I started my academic career in the academic year 1985/86 when I entered the Sociology degree at the University of Évora, which I would finish in March 1991. In the meantime, I started teaching at the University of Minho as a trainee assistant at the then Sociology and Anthropology Department of the ICS, whose director at that time was Professor Luís Polanah. I was assigned, if I remember well, the curricular units of Introduction to Sociology for the degrees in Psychology and International Relations – Economic and Political and Mathematics and Statistics for the Social Sciences of the degree in International Relations – Social and Political, which I shared with Professor Ioannis Baganha, both professors unfortunately already deceased.

In the meantime I was already admitted to the Master’s Degree course in Deepened Sociology and Portuguese Reality at the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences of the New University of Lisbon, which I finished in October 1994, with the presentation and defence of a thesis, oriented by Professor Joaquim Nazareth, about the CERCI, then designated as Cooperatives of Education and Rehabilitation of Disabled Children, thesis that was published by the National Secretariat for Rehabilitation, nowadays the National Institute for Rehabilitation. Therefore, this thesis had disability organisations as its object of study. It was not, by the way, my first work in this area, because my graduation dissertation had already been published, with the title “Comparative Study of Organisations for Disabled People in the District of Portalegre”, in whose capital city I then worked and lived and where my children were born, giving continuity to the Alentejo origins of my family, both on the paternal and maternal side. This dissertation was oriented by Professor Joaquim Quitério. Many people think that the source of my motivation was based on personal or intimate matters, namely close family members with disabilities. Such an assumption does not correspond to the truth. What happened, in fact, was the realization of a small group work in the scope of the curricular unit of Sociology of the Family, taught at the time by Professor Maria das Mercês Covas, which took me to the CERCI of Portalegre to collect information about the families of the users in order to use it in that work. Although I had friends who worked in that CERCI and I knew some parents of children and young people who attended, it was from that small job that I became involved in disability studies. It was a coincidence that turned into passion, even today. Professionals and leaders of disability organisations who believed in the value of my work and opened and continue to open doors for me to continue my involvement in the field of disability also contributed a lot to this. As a consequence of the continuity of my academic career, in 2004 I ended up presenting and defending my PhD thesis in Sociology at the University of Minho, under the supervision of Professor Moisés Martins, entitled “As Regras e as Práticas. Organizational factors and transformations in the vocational rehabilitation policy for people with disabilities”, also published in book form by the already mentioned National Secretariat for Rehabilitation.


You were recently elected to the Iberoamerican Association of Sociology of Organizations and Communication. What are the objectives of this association and how does your participation in this association relate to your work?

In fact, I was elected as member of the Ibero-American Association for the Sociology of Organizations, integrated in a management team with colleagues from several Latin American countries and Spain, whose president is Professor Maria Victória Sanagustin from the University of Zaragoza. In general terms, this association, of whose direction the late Professor Manuel da Silva e Costa, who was also its president, was for many years, and of which I am associated since 1994 or 1995, year in which I participated in the organization of the 1st Seminar that took place here at the University of Minho (later on a 2nd Seminar took place at the University of Minho, in 2005). AISOC’s mission is to provide contacts and personal and professional interactions between social scientists of the Iberoamerican space on issues related to “Participation, Self-Management and Communication in Organizations”. Its objective will be to promote, develop and divulge scientific activities, mainly through the exchange between Iberian and Latin American researchers. Practically every year AISOC organizes its International Seminar in one of the countries of which its members are part or in the country where the Congress of the International Sociological Association takes place. As, essentially, my interests as a researcher and supervisor of master’s and doctoral theses are focused, to a large extent, on the action of disability organisations, I see my presence in AISOC as natural.


You are part of the team at the Communication and Society Research Centre (CECS). How do you see the current situation of research in our country?

I confess that I do not have a completely formed notion of the general situation of research in Portugal. Although in a diffuse way, it seems to me, from what I read and hear, that scientific research rotates at various speeds, with the social sciences moving more slowly, particularly when compared to what is happening with the medical, biomedical, technological and space sciences, which have many more resources and visibility than the other sciences. This is nothing new. Despite recent advances, the chronic underdevelopment of the social sciences persists. There are, however, some things that worry and even irritate me, of which I retain three, to avoid being exhaustive. First of all, the devaluation of the Portuguese language as a “noble” language for the dissemination of scientific knowledge to the detriment of the English language, not only because of the devaluation in itself, but also because the centres do not have their own professional resources so that researchers can have their texts translated or revised in a way that reflects their content with scientific rigour, especially if originally written in their mother tongue. I also see with apprehension the strategy that is leading the evaluators, and consequently the researchers themselves, to overvalue the publications in indexed international journals and to despise the publication in national journals or even books or book chapters, for example. Objectively, internationalizing science is something very positive, because it is true that we live in a global world, increasingly global, where humanity is one, despite cultural and linguistic differences. However, in my opinion, the internationalization of science is an increasingly opaque space in terms of identifying the effective value and impact of scientific publications, despite the multiplicity of existing channels and means of communication. I have serious doubts that much of the internationalisation that is being made of scientific knowledge is synonymous with quality and benefits everyone equally, starting with researchers and ending with the people of the planet. Finally, I would like to mention the training and inclusion of young researchers in research activities, which I think are not being properly taken care of in order to increase and renew human resources in the scientific field. Despite the most recent advances at this level, through the increase in hiring of young researchers and the growth in the number of doctoral and post-doctoral programmes, the support for the establishment and creation of a lasting feeling of belonging of these young researchers is based more on precariousness than on continuity. This is particularly evident in the case of grant holders allocated to projects that are also precarious and not to scientific development programmes of permanent scope, something that places them in a situation of frustrating and demotivating instability, given the resulting limitations. And, of course, without forgetting the suffocation of the delirious bureaucracy that suffocates the presentation and management of projects, which also tends to turn them into a rocky adventure or as I usually say, into a tormented path with no end in sight.


Are you involved in/coordinating any scientific projects?

Yes. At the moment, I am only involved in a scientific project that I also coordinate, called Inclusão Profissional e Qualidade de Vida (Professional Inclusion and Quality of Life), which also includes the participation of Dr. Luísa Fernandes, researcher at the CECS. A longitudinal study, in a partnership between Humanitas – Portuguese Federation for Mental Disability and CECS, a project financed by the National Institute for Rehabilitation. The work of collecting information took place in various parts of the country and, at this moment, we are preparing the book where the conclusions of the project will be presented. But I am also still finishing my participation in an international project on school violence and bullying coordinated centrally by Professor José Leon Crochik of the University of São Paulo (Brazil) and which brought together researchers from about 30 universities, including Brazilian, Argentinean, Mexican and Spanish, besides us, and I coordinated a small team in Portugal, which included Dr Luísa Fernandes, Dr Fernanda Pinto and Maria Quinteiro, also linked to the CECS as researchers.


Do you welcome the possibility of participating in an interdisciplinary scientific work in the framework of other study areas of the CECS?

Yes, I think that should be the strategy to follow in the future, as a matter of fact it should be already being followed. Which does not mean that there are not some experiences of this type. But I believe that they result more from individual will than from a collective will or planning. In other words, I believe that the CECS should organise itself internally and seek the appropriate external partnerships for this strategy, joining the efforts of its researchers around major current themes that require, in their understanding, explanation and application, different perspectives, but aligned towards common scientific and socially relevant objectives. This involves the creation of interdisciplinary teams of researchers, which not only allow for the pooling of human resources specialised in certain scientific domains, but also allow for a more efficient and effective use of resources and, very relevantly, gain status to obtain resources in research funding sources that require the formation of robust teams with proven track records in comprehensive and relevant projects, both nationally and internationally.


How can a Social Sciences researcher contribute positively to society?

In my understanding, fundamentally by producing, disseminating and updating serious, rigorous and socially valuable scientific knowledge, namely by participating in the various forums that allow them to express and prove the value of this knowledge. In other words, showing that the knowledge generated by the social sciences can and should be made available for social, economic and environmental development. This is the best way to fight for this knowledge to contribute to the well-being and quality of life of all humanity and the global environment. It should also contribute so that its knowledge is shared in the form of free and open access. Therefore, it should not be commercialised or subject to editorial, political, ideological or financial agendas, or governed by mere scientific fads in vogue. I am not a supporter of the scientist activist, but I am not opposed to social scientists embracing great social causes, obviously taking care to avoid contaminating science with their professed ideals.

[Posted: 07-05-2021]