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Academic platform

Instituto Stela develops systems in the fields of health, education, and the environment

brazA private, non-profit organization, dedicated to engineering and knowledge management which has already developed a number of innovative systems for government organizations, universities and companies. This is the profile of the Instituto Stela, in the city of Florianópolis, State of Santa Catarina. The institute was created by professionals from the Federal University of (UFSC). These professionals developed the Lattes Platform, a set of information systems on Brazilian researchers, data bases and portals focused on the management of science and technology. In 1997, the researchers from the Instituto Stela were the winning bidders of a contract with the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico/CNPq (the National Council for Technical and Scientific Development) for a research and development project which resulted in the Lattes Platform. An important step for winning this contract stemmed from the exposure achieved by the then Grupo Stela, created in 1995, when it met a demand from the Production Engineering Post-Graduate Program of UFSC, to build digital libraries and a system that allowed students to begin their master programs from a distance by attending courses via video conferences. The pioneering system of on-line course enrollment, launched in 1996, reverberated on a national level.

The Lattes Platform was launched on August 16, 1999, the first version of the Sistema CV-Lattes system having approximately 35 thousand curriculums, imported and adapted from earlier systems of the CNPq. CV-Lattes gathers together information on the scientific and academic accomplishments of researchers, students, professors, managers, technicians and science and technology professionals. “There has been an exponential growth in the number of curriculums that comprise the platform ever since then, and it is estimated that by the end of July the system will have stored 1 million curriculums,” says Vinícius Medina Kern, director of Research and Projects at Instituto Stela. “We developed a set of 138 products for the Lattes Platform. They were produced between 2002 and 2004, and include, for example, production statistics per field of knowledge, a dictionary of key words, and links to other scientific and technological data.”

The international repercussion of the Lattes Platform stemmed from the fact that it was adopted as the basic technology of the Rede ScienTI network, created in 2002, as a collaborative effort between CNPq, Grupo Stela, the Pan-American Health Organization/PAHO, and the Latin American and Caribbean Center of Information on Health Sciences/Bireme. At present, the participanting countries include Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal and Venezuela. “In addition to the better known systems, we have developed several recognition projects, such as the Lattes egression network, which allows any person connected to the Internet, based on defined parameters, to keep track of the professional achievements of former students”, says Kern.

Academic ties
Big projects such as the Lattes Platform and knowledge management projects motivated the researchers of the Grupo Stela to create a private non-profit research institute. The idea materialized in September 2002. Initially, the institute functioned concurrently with the group. In March 2005, the institute became entirely independent, when the researchers moved to their own facilities. However, the institute still maintains strong ties with the UFSC. “Our profile is academic. We have professors and post-graduate students and many of our members have enrolled in master’s and doctorate programs”, says Kern. Since last year, the Instituto Stela has also had a publishing company, created to publish theses, dissertations, scientific articles and books. The institute’s staff includes 60 people, among whom 7 have doctorate degrees and 15 have master’s degrees.

Stela’s international trajectory also resulted in the preparation of a system for Paho, based in Washington, USA. Paho represents the World Health Organization/WHO. The system finds and contacts professionals for the entity’s missions by means of the Localizador de Especialistas system, developed by researchers from the Instituto Stela. The Sinaes Portal, of the National Higher Education Evaluation System, is another project created by the research group. The portal contains data and statistics produced since 1991 by the Instituto Nacional de Estudos e Pesquisas Educacionais Anísio Teixeira/Inep National Institute for Research and Studies on Education. This data is constantly updated. Users can resort to the portal to get information on the number of courses and type of professional that has graduated in each city, state, region or in the entire country. It also allows the user to find an at a-distance graduate course, and to make comparative analyses of the quality of the existing courses.

“One of the main knowledge management systems developed for the first phase of the project was a teacher selection mechanism for the national higher education evaluator’s data base. This system is based on 43 objective criteria”, says Kern. “The portal allowed 9 thousand evaluators of higher education courses and approximately 4.500 evaluators of institutions – a total of approximately 12 thousand people – to be selected on the basis of objective criteria and on merit. Some of these evaluators evaluate both courses and institutions,” Kern points out. “Our competency goes beyond the  techniques of the construction of systems”, he adds. It also encompasses engineering fields and knowledge management, which allows organizations to use their expertise more efficiently.

Corporate demand
The institute also developed the Innovation Portal , an interactive platform for the exchange of data between companies, universities and science and technology institutes. The development of this platform had been contracted by the “Centro de Gestão e Estudos Estratégicos/CGEE” (the Strategic Studies and Management Center) at the Ministry of Science and Technology/MCT in 2005. “The objective was to create a space to promote a meeting of competencies in science and technology with demands from the corporate community to innovate products and processes”, says Kern. At present, the institute is working on a new development phase related to the expansion of the portal, which is now being managed by the Agência Brasileira de Desenvolvimento Industrial ABDI (the Brazilian Industrial Development Agency), as well as by the MCT and the CGEE. “At the beginning, we had a large number of experts and universities., but not that many companies. Now we are giving more space to institutions that support our innovation process, as for example the Serviço Brasileiro de Apoio às Micro e Pequenas Empresas/Sebrae, an entity that focuses on aid to small and medium sized businesses and other similar institutions”,  Kern adds.

Another recent project conceived by the Instituto Stela in partnership with the Ministry of the Environment is the electronic portal of the Sistema Brasileiro de Informações sobre Educação Ambiental/Sibea (the Brazilian Information System on Environmental Education ). The portal has a data base of 200 thousand pieces of information covering this field. “We sponsor a lot of networking with the various players  comprising a specific environment or theme to produce a platform with information systems and knowledge”, says Kern.