Interview with Fernanda Peris, Brazilian PhD researcher at the Open University of Catalonia, (UOC), Spain

Categories: Meet the researchers

About Fernanda Peris

Fernanda Peris is a Brazilian PhD student at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) focused on communication and media, with a full-time grant offered by the Doctoral School of UOC.


Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What is your research about?

My name is Fernanda Pires de Sá. I am from São Paulo, Brazil. My background is in social communications with a specialisation in film production. I’ve been living in Barcelona for the past four years. Here, I did an MBA at the Autonomous at University of Barcelona (UAB), a Master’s Degree in Social Communications at Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), and I am currently developing my PhD research at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC).

For my PhD research, I’ve been using a mixed method approach (qualitativequantitative) for data collection and analysis with Brazilian users of social media sites and instant messaging applications.

In order to facilitate the data collection and immersion in the social-cultural context, I was a visiting researcher at University of Sao Paulo (USP) for a couple of months in 2015.

My study is focused on understanding the practices of television co-viewing in the connected context. Television consumption habits are changing and have expanded in recent years. We are progressively using connected technologies and platforms, multiple screen devices, and social media sites for developing different types of viewing activities. I believe that studying the changes and expansions in these practices is fundamental at the moment to understanding the shifts in viewing habits concerning time, space and platforms. In particular, since these shifts are touching the whole audiovisual and marketing industries.

Where are you working at the moment? What kind of grant do you have at the moment?

I am currently working at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) as a member of the Mediaccions: Digital Culture research group and as a PhD candidate in the programme of Information and Knowledge Society. I have a full-time grant position offered by the Doctoral School of UOC.

What kind of paperwork did you need to do in order to get the grant and be able to work in Spain? Where did you find all the info you needed?

Every year, the doctoral school of UOC opens a call for grants around December-January.I highly recommend checking the requirements on the website when applying, as the requirements can change according to the year of the call. Concerning paperwork, the research activity is one of the less complicated for applying for the working visa. Therefore, I recommend getting informed about the requirements and procedure directly on the Spanish embassy and consulate websites, also because these requirements can vary depending on the year and according to each person’s situation.

How long have you been working in Spain? What made you decide to come to Spain?

I’ve been living and working here for the past four years. I can’t say that there is just one reason that made me decide to come to Spain; rather, there are many. I believe the fact that I knew Spanish before coming contributed a lot to this decision. Nonetheless, the possibility of getting immersed in another culture and learning another language (in Barcelona people also speak Catalan) were the main motivations for coming to Spain.

What are your impressions about the Spanish R&D system? What do you think the Brazilian and the Spanish systems could learn from each other?

It is very complicated to talk about an entire system, when my experience is limited to a couple of institutions and mainly to my actual field of study (new media and digital culture). Nevertheless, I had the impression that both R&D systems from Brazil and Spain have many similarities and have a lot to improve.

Both countries lack good integration at the moment of engaging business industries in research. This dialogue is necessary for improving the economy and facing the economical and political crisis that both countries are experiencing. It is no surprise that other countries that are ahead in knowledge concerning technology and innovation invest heavily in R&D, and have a good dialogue between universities and industries.

It doesn’t mean that we should ignore social sciences and humanities. Without a social consciousness and understanding of the entire society and industry, this integration becomes even harder. We should prompt less technological phobia, and promote more interdisciplinary knowledge from basic to higher education and from the younger to the elder generations. Therefore, being less techno-deterministic is also fundamental for implementing such improvements and contributing to a better welfare state. Additionally, industrial doctorate programmes that are relatively new in both countries are something that should be expanded. Hence, I believe that research and innovation should be part of the mainstream socio-economical agenda of both countries.

On the one hand, despite the fact that Brazil has been cutting investments in R&D because of the economical and political crisis, a good example that Spain could take from Brazil is the Brazilian mobility programme called Science without Borders. This is a large-scale programme from the Brazilian government that supports students and researchers to gain human resources training in renowned institutions abroad and promotes their return to the country. Thus, prompting the internationalisation of universities and research centers in Brazil by making feasible the establishment of international partnerships without losing its human-force to other countries.

On the other hand, Brazil and the other member states of Mercosur could gain inspiration from projects like Horizon 2020 (which Spain is also part of), since it places social challenges as some of its priorities related to research and innovation. These are related to a citizen’s wellbeing, bio-economy (food, agriculture and other safe and clean resources), green and integrated transportation, security to society by protecting the freedom and security of Europe and its citizens.

How do you like Spain outside of work?

The life quality in Spain is great and generally safer when compared to Brazil. The Mediterranean food and landscape are excellent!

In Barcelona, in particular, the weather is good during the whole year and the city is appropriate for developing a lot of interesting social-cultural activities as well as sports. I enjoy attending neighborhood festivals, interesting events such as music festivals, workshops and conferences that are organised constantly in the city. I think this is the best part of living here - there is always an attractive event to attend.

Additionally, in Spain, as well as in Europe, there are people from different parts of the world, which contributes to a very intercultural experience and knowledge exchange.

What would you recommend to a Brazilian who is thinking about coming to work in Spain?

First, I would recommend studying Spanish but to also have in mind that, depending on the region you come, people also speak other languages inside institutions and on the streets (like Galician, Basque and Catalan that are also official languages of Spain).

Second, English is very important for developing research, not just here but everywhere.

Third, I suggest to search and to apply for grants and research positions offered by both governments (Brazilian and Spanish), by research centers, universities and by the European Union.

Fourth, I recommend before coming, getting well informed by the Spanish embassy and consulate about documentation and visa procedures, so as to avoid unnecessary trouble.

Finally, I suggest to those who want to move to any foreign country to legalise all documents in the Brazilian Ministry of International Relations as well as at the corresponding embassy or consulate before leaving Brazil.