The CIAC is a research unit evaluated by the Foundation for Science and Technology, which emerged in 2008 as a result from the merge of two previously unfunded research centers: the Center for Research in Communication Sciences and Arts (University of Algarve) and the Research Centre for Theatre and Film (School of Theatre and Film, IPL).

It currently integrates researchers from the University of Algarve (host institution), the School of Theatre and Cinema (Lisbon Polytechnic Institute), the Higher Institute of Maia,  the Santarém Polytechnic Institute, the Superior Institute of Advanced Techonologies and the Open University.

The Research Centre for Arts and Communication  currently has three active poles, one at the Escola Superior de Teatro e Cinema (IPL), a second center at the Polytechnic Institute of Santarém, dedicated to digital literacy and social inclusion and, finally, a third pole at the Open University, associated with the PhD Program in Digital Media-Art.

This I&D Unit has developed innovative research in the fields of artistic studies (visual arts, cinema, theatre) and cultural studies, communication and, more recently, literary studies (digital archives, critical digital editions), connecting the creation of platforms and the forms of communication of scientific knowledge in the designated areas. Since its inception, it has maintained an interdisciplinary character. It aims at developing applied research and research networks in the arts (in their broadest sense) and communication, and at implementing laboratories of artistic creation in the areas of Theatre, Cinema and other arts, namely focusing on the Mediterranean region.

Since its foundation, it has promoted and actively participated in the artistic and cultural activities of Algarve (the location of its headquarters) through specific protocols of collaboration with Municipalities, Cultural Associations and with the Algarve Regional Direction of Culture: it is now a relevant stakeholder for the region. The research produced at the CIAC is disseminated by the surrounding community through multiple outreach activities, and discussed in various international networks.