OBSERVA was founded in 1996 by the Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa (ISCTE) and the Institute of Social Sciences (ICS) of the University of Lisbon, that kept it as a joint program until 2009. Since 2010, it is a permanent research program integrated in the Research Group “Environment, Territory and Society” of ICS-ULisboa.
The launching of the observatory was supported by the Portuguese Institute for Environmental Promotion (IPAMB) through a protocol that lasted until 1999 and allowed for funding from the II Community Support Framework of the European Union. Between 2002 and 2004, the observatory was supported by a protocol with the Portuguese Institute of the Environment (IA).
Two landmarks of the activity of OBSERVA during this period were the national surveys on environment and society – The Portuguese and the Environment (1999 and 2004). Besides these surveys, OBSERVA has promoted, for over a decade, a number of projects and publications, together with initiatives for public awareness of environmental issues.
OBSERVA currently develops outreach activities of the Research Group for Environment, Territory and Society on the following areas: