Faculty Development Scheme (FDS) - Project Abstract

Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/H01/17
Project Title: Developing and Validating a Parent-Focused Intervention to Enhance the Executive Function Skills of Young Chinese Children from Low-Income Families
Principal Investigator: Dr CHAN Chi-keung (Shue Yan)

Executive functioning (EF) refers to a broad set of cognitive processes that enable individuals to regulate and organise their thoughts or actions to meet adaptive goals (Diamond & Lee, 2011). EF skills grow rapidly in the preschool years and play a vital role in early childhood neurocognitive development and early school success (Masten et al.; 2012; Zelazo, Carlson, & Kesek, 2008). Previous studies conducted in Western societies have found a socioeconomic disparity in children’s EF performance (Fitzpatrick et al., 2014; Rochette & Bernier, 2014). Recently, the preliminary results of our previous FDS-funded research project showed a socioeconomic disparity in two core EF skills - working memory, cognitive flexibility, and overall EF among young Chinese children in Hong Kong (Chan et. al., 2016). To reduce this socioeconomic gap in EF development, this proposed research aims to develop a parent-based EF-focused intervention to build supportive parenting that enhances the EF skills of young Chinese children from low-income families in Hong Kong as well as to investigate the effectiveness and the fidelity of implementation of this parent-based EF-focused intervention.

Although a few school-based EF-focused curricula have been shown to improve the EF skills of low-income and disadvantaged children in Western countries, it may not be feasible for local kindergartens serving economically disadvantaged children to embed these schoolwide EF-focused interventions into their existing curricula. Also, these school-based interventions may not be culturally tailored to the psychoeducational needs of children from low-income families in Hong Kong. Another concern is that the effect of these school-based interventions may not have lasting impact without positive influences from the home environment to reinforce the EF skills. Recent research has shown that supportive parenting is positively associated with children’s EF development at home (Blair & Raver, 2012; Herbers et al., 2014; Lengua et al., 2013). However, Chinese parents from low-income families have lower scores on supportive parenting practices (Chan et al., 2016). Thus, it is important to develop an intensive and tailored parent-based EF-focused intervention programme to educate and to empower Chinese parents from low-income families in applying supportive parenting practices at their home-setting that can enhance the EF development of their young children.

There will be two key components of this parent-focused intervention: 1) four 2-hour weekly parent educational sessions about children’s EF development and supportive parenting practices along with the teaching of tangible EF-specific daily activities for parents to practice at home and 2) three 20-minute monthly individual parent review sessions to discuss their daily EF-boosting practice, to address their concerns, and to further build their efficacy and competence in supportive parenting. The proposed study will have four phases: The first phase (12 months) will focus on designing and developing a parent-based EF-focused intervention for parents and young children from low-income families. In the second phase (8 months), a small-scale pilot randomised wait-list control study to try out the procedures and materials of implementing this intervention will be conducted. For this pilot study, 40 Chinese parents and their children aged 4 to 6 years from two local kindergartens will be recruited. In the third phase (12 months), about 128 mother-child dyads will be recruited from eight local kindergartens and randomly assigned to either the experimental group or the wait-list control group. Self-report measure and two 15-minute observation of child-play interaction will be used to evaluate supporting parenting practice. In addition, a battery of EF measures administered to children will be collected at the beginning, the 4th month, and the 8th month for both groups. Semi-structured interviews with parents and child will also be conducted after the 4-month intervention to understand their feedback to the programme. The final phase (4 months) will focus on investigating the effectiveness and fidelity of this newly developed parent-based EF-focused intervention using both quantitative and qualitative data analyses.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E02/17
Project Title: Study of a low energy input-high water recovery wastewater treatment technology by forward osmosis (FO) using a novel FO draw solution synthesized with hydrophilic and magnetic nanoparticles (MNP)
Principal Investigator: Dr CHAN Cho-yin (THEi)

Due to extensive industrial activities and rapid expansion of human population, more environmental issues with high public attention have been raised. Among different concerns, water pollution control and conservation of freshwater resources are urgently needed for scientists and engineers to tackle. In order to achieve the objectives of sustainable growth and development, long term planning and practical guidelines for better usage of water are essential. For example, the policy of in-plant water management and control as well as modifications of existing production processes are implemented to reduce unnecessary amount of water consumption. On the other hand, the concept of zero liquid waste discharge is also encouraged to maximize the water recovery from either untreated or partially treated wastewater streams so that more water can be collected for reuses. Furthermore, extraction of potable water from seawater desalination nowadays becomes more popular and can be adopted in a large scale application because of the improved membrane technology. Reversed osmosis (RO) and forward osmosis (FO) both are advanced technologies by using sophisticated membranes with specific operational designs for separating water from dissolved solutes. RO has been developed for few decades, in principle, water is passing through a semi-permeable membrane under a high pressure pumping system. By comparing with distillation process conducted in the past, the energy saved by using RO for same amount of water recovery is significant. Recently, FO is proposed as an alternative option for the advanced treatment of water and wastewater by integrating in a hybrid FO/RO system resulted in significant reduction of total energy use. The working mechanism of FO is simple, it proceeds spontaneously where sufficient osmotic pressure difference exerted across the semi-permeable membrane, then the water molecules would be easily transported from a low osmotic pressure side (called as feed solution i.e. wastewater or seawater) to a high osmotic pressure side (called as draw solution which is artificially prepared in high salinity) until both solutions osmotic pressures are equilibrium reached. By comparing with the RO process, since there is no requirement of high pressure pumping of water, the energy use in FO process can be reduced. In addition, other advantages of FO process including higher salt rejection and longer membrane lifespan which offer a great potential for the wastewater treatment. For example, promising results achieved with high water recovery have been reported by using FO for treatment of those highly polluted wastewater containing high salts and toxic heavy metals. Besides, apart from new materials design and development of the semi-permeable membrane, the overall FO performances have been influenced significantly with different types of draw solution used in the process. Therefore, in this study, a novel magnetic nanoparticles (MNP); i.e. magnetite (Fe3O4) with specific nanoparticles size and high water solubility will be synthesized. The regeneration of such MNP draw solution designed for continuous process will be facilitated by using an external magnetic field, as a result, it is more effective and energy efficient than other types of FO draw solutions commonly used for the water recovery process. The operational parameters of the FO process i.e. hydraulic water flux rate, osmotic pressure gradients, pH and temperatures will be investigated. Finally, application of this synthesized MNP used in FO process will be explored by testing with different types of industrial wastewaters found in Hong Kong such as landfill leachate, azo dyes textile effluent, lubricating oils and food processing wastes to conduct wastewater treatment with the approach of low energy use-high water recovery for water reuse purposes.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/B01/17
Project Title: Modelling Country Attractive Factors that affect Hong Kong’s Textiles and Clothing Trade Potential with One Belt One Road Countries
Principal Investigator: Dr CHAN Eve Man-hin (THEi)

The One Belt One Road (hereafter OBOR) initiative is a development strategy launched by China in 2015, with the aim to increase economic co-operation among countries along the belt (Silk Road Economic Belt) and road (21st Century Maritime Silk Road) that connect Asia, Europe and Africa. The anticipated gains for Hong Kong from taking part in this initiative are substantial, including for those involved with the infrastructures, as well as the banking and private business sectors. Among those who stand to gain from the OBOR initiative (which is worth noting for manufacturers in developing their business) are the newly emerging low-cost production bases in the developing countries along the OBOR, which provide significant opportunities for some of the Hong Kong companies to invest in trade-led manufacturing in the low-wage, and labor-intensive sectors, i.e. the textiles and clothing (T&C) industries.

The main objective of this research project is twofold. First, it develops an OBOR Index of Country Attractiveness (OBORICA) for Hong Kong to improve the coordination process among the T&C sectors and establish Hong Kong as a “super-connector”, to link the OBOR countries. Based on the proposed OBORICA, clusters of OBOR countries for T&C products will be identified to determine which markets should have priority for production processes. Specific measures are identified so that T & C companies in Hong Kong can establish and facilitate technological upgrades and transformation to potential production facilities in OBOR countries. This would contribute to the sustainable development of T&C companies in Hong Kong in an ever-changing and dynamic globalized market.

Second, the project provides an analysis of the effect of various cost components on T&C trade among OBOR countries. These costs are divided into two main groups, production costs and export supply chain costs, which are developed and divided into groups based on T&C supply chain mapping exercise. With the analysis result, recommendations are provided to help Hong Kong T&C companies to improve their export chain efficiency and competitiveness.

The gravity trade model will be extended to analyze the development of T&C trade patterns among the OBOR countries. Until recently, this model has been mainly applied to aggregated data with cross-sectional or time-series data estimation techniques to analyze trading statistics. Here, the conventional gravity trade model is applied to T&C trade and extended to cover other factors not considered in previous studies on the same products, such as production costs, export supply chain costs, technologies, demographical factors, and those related to business-related environment and policies including qualitative variables (as dummy variables). The model will be subjected to a panel data analysis to investigate the fixed effects over time for each scenario, thus exploring the changes and increasing the manipulation of the data quality and quantity which would otherwise not be possible with the use of cross sectional or time series estimation alone. The model will be utilized to investigate the impacts of OBORICA, country-specific social and political determinants as well as economic indicators that affect the T&C trade flow between Hong Kong and the OBOR countries.

The empirical analysis will help to identify the extent that the determinants contribute to T&C trade at the global level. With the development of a database on global trade in the T&C industry, it is then possible to develop a specific gravity trade model of Hong Kong and the OBOR countries to investigate the trade potential between them for sustainable business development. Additionally, this research will also add valuable knowledge to increase current understanding of the factors that affect and enhance the T&C industries in Hong Kong.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/H15/17
Project Title: Perceptions of brand co-appearance in product placement: An information-processing approach to examining brand and consumer factors
Principal Investigator: Dr CHAN Fong-yee (HSMC)

Given the increasingly competitive nature of market environments, the integration of brands and products into media content, known as product placement, has become an important source of revenue for Hong Kong television program services. The growing trend of integrating more than one brand into a scene, a phenomenon we may term “brand co-appearance,” pulls its relative effectiveness and ethicality into question. The literature on product placement seldom covers this topic, and systematic research has yet to examine the factors that determine its effectiveness. The proposed project will explore this brand co-appearance by drawing relevant theories from psychology, communication and marketing with the aim of further advancing current theories. The research will initially be conducted in a controlled laboratory setting and then extended to a more realistic environment with a wider national sample of consumers to validate the conceptual framework. The findings would have practical implications to advertisers, communication practitioners and policy makers.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B15/17
Project Title: Expanding the Boundaries of Electronic Word-of-Mouth Research: A Research Program on Designing Influential Online Review Forums
Principal Investigator: Dr CHAN Haksin (HSMC)

Online product reviews are a vital part of today’s information ecosystem that significantly impacts both consumer welfare and business performance. On a theoretical level, however, the electronic word-of-mouth (e-WOM) literature clearly lags behind the many new developments in practice. This research addresses major knowledge gaps by hypothesizing and empirically demonstrating why and how the booming trends of future-oriented and imagery-laden e-WOM can be effectively managed through strategic forum designs. The overall aim is to expand the theoretical scope of e-WOM communication and to inform the budding practice of multimedia content management.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/M02/17
Project Title: A mechanistic study on the combination uses of doxorubicin with Salvia Miltiorriza Bunge (Danshen) in treating drug-resistant hepatocellular carcinoma in vitro and in vivo
Principal Investigator: Dr CHAN Shun-wan (THEi)

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is responsible for a large proportion of cancer deaths in the world. China has one of the highest population of patients with liver cancer (every year with 350,000 new cases) which accounts for ~50% of the global liver cancer diagnosed, and liver cancer is one of the top killers in the Southeast China, including Hong Kong and Guangdong province. HCC classically arises and grows in asymptomatic fashion, making most HCC cases are only diagnosed in an advanced stage. When life expectancy falls to 4 to 6 months on average, chemotherapy is the only recommended treatment. For the non-specific cytotoxic effects of most anticancer drugs, they may cause toxicities and side effects that result in treatment withdrawal. Therefore, improving treatment with less toxicity is an essential component of cancer therapy. Another serious obstacles for HCC chemotherapy is to deliver anti-cancer agents specifically into target tumors. However, over-expression of cellular transporters and development of compressed blood vessels inside the tumor make chemotherapeutic agents hard to reach therapeutic concentration intracellularly. Salvia miltiorrhiza Bunge (Danshen) is a traditional Chinese medicinal herb that has been used for thousands of years to treat cardiovascular diseases, hepatitis and cancers. In present, over 40 tanshinone compounds have been isolated and identified from this herb. Compounds found it have been shown to have effects on anti-cancer, decreasing P-glycoprotein (P-gp) expression and vasodilation. It has been showed that combination drug therapy utilizes more than one medication but each agent is given at a dose much lower than the normal therapeutic dose (i.e., minimal side effects are anticipated) resulting in synergistic therapeutic outcomes. Considering the multiple effects of Danshen, we hypothesize that a combination drug therapy using doxorubicin and Danshen extract could be an effective therapeutic strategy for drug-resistant HCC. Thus, the primary goal of the proposed study is to evaluate the synergistic effect of using doxorubicin in combination with Danshen extract in treating drug-resistant hepatocellular carcinoma in vitro and in vivo. Additionally, the hepatic and systemic mechanistic pathways of this combination drug therapy will be investigated. To achieve these, the proposed study will be developed with four objectives: (1) to investigate the in vitro cytotoxic effects of doxorubicin with or without Danshen extract and their underlying mechanisms; (2) to evaluate the effectiveness of the combination uses of doxorubicin with Danshen extract on drug-resistant HCC in nude mice; (3) to use metabolomics approach for the comparison of serum metabolic changes in normal nude mice, nude mice with xenograft and nude mice with xenograft treated with doxorubicin in combination with Danshen extract; and (4) to investigate whether the anti-tumor effect of using doxorubicin in combination with Danshen extract is via the expressions of sodium-hydrogen exchanger isoform-1 (NHE-1), P-gp and multidrug resistance (MDR)-associated protein 1 (MRP-1) as well as the potential systemic pathways identified by metabolomics study.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/H05/17
Project Title: Examining Chuci through the Newly Excavated Bamboo Manuscripts and the Development of Related Electronic Databases
Principal Investigator: Dr CHEN Hung-to (HSMC)

Stimulated by the excavation of many ancient texts, the study of early China yields much attention in the twentieth century. Scholars proposed a “dual evidence approach” with which they juxtapose the excavated text with the transmitted ones. Some promising results were obtained through applying this methodology. Yet in the study of The Songs of the South [Chuci], scholars are more inclined to the study of various editions of the received text, and there are comparatively less scholars working on the combination of archaeology and texts. Hence, there are still a lot of potentials in adopting such methodology onto the study of Chuci.

Chuci is one of the most important literary collections attributed mainly to Qu Yuan. It is often listed as the first text among all literary works in traditional bibliographies and exerts crucial influences in Chinese literary history. Chuci is deeply influenced by the culture and customs of the Chu area. Through the study of this text and its cultural context, it can enhance our understanding of linguistics, history, the Chu culture and its religion. This can provide us with new insights on the formation and development of Chinese culture. Although Chuci has already been transmitted for more than two thousand years, scholars have constantly been debating about the accuracy of the text itself. These debates arise due to the following reasons: (1) there are a considerable amount of variants and misprints in different versions of the text, and thus later readers find it difficult to understand the work thoroughly; (2) there are various disputes over the authorship of the text and the date of composition; (3) Chuci is deeply influenced by the cultural context, yet the culture represented in the text differs from our common understanding of the cultural traditions of the south.

Numerous excavated texts are published recently and most of these materials have never been studied by previous scholars. According to the experts working on the excavated materials, we learned that the excavated texts related to Chuci includes the Chu bamboo strips excavated from Baoshan, Wangshan, Guodian and the Han bamboo strips discovered in Fuyang. At the same time, the Shuihudi Qin bamboo texts, as well as the silk manuscripts found in Mawangdui and in Zidanku (both located in Changsha) are all directly associated with Chuci. The recent publication of the bamboo strips collected by the Shanghai Museum, Peking University and the Tsinghua University also adds new resources to the research of Chuci. If the recent research of these excavated materials can be incorporated to the study of transmitted texts, not only could we solve a lot of problems concerning the interpretation of Chuci, this could also further enhance our understanding of the Chu culture.

This research aims at analyzing the text of Chuci and the culture of Chu in light of the newly excavated bamboo strips and silk manuscripts. The purpose of this research comprises of the following five aspects: (1) recover the original text of Chuci; (2) provide an accurate interpretation of the text by reevaluating previous scholarship and use Chuci to decipher the characters appeared in the excavated texts; (3) compare the text in Chuci with the excavated materials and reconstruct the culture of Chu people through a study of their rituals, astrology, geography, architecture, clothing and utensils ; (4) develop two databases, namely “the Excavated Texts and the Revision of Chuci Database” and “the Bibliography for the Study of Chuci and Excavated Texts.”

The scope of this research stretches across multiple disciplines, which include literature, philology, textual and cultural studies. In terms of methodology, it shall make use of evidence derived from philology, phonology and semasiology. Not only will the results of this research contribute to the study of the mythology, aesthetics and folklore of Chu, it will also enhance our appreciation of Chinese literature and culture. Moreover, it will provide insights for teachers and students in the field, and prompt further attention to the disciplines in question.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B03/17
Project Title: Corporate tax avoidance of newly public companies and its economic consequences on firm performance
Principal Investigator: Dr CHEN Wei (HSMC)

Despite well-documented evidence of managerial rent extraction through corporate tax avoidance (rent extraction theory), recent studies find that the tax savings generated from tax avoidance offer firms the opportunity to invest in value creating projects (value creation theory). Given the mixed evidence, this study extends the literature to newly public companies by investigating whether they engage in aggressive tax avoidance during the process of initial public offering (IPO) and whether tax avoidance influences future operating performance and firm value. The IPO setting is particularly interesting as it provides us with a unique opportunity to explore the ‘evolution’ of tax avoidance when private firms become public. Relying on the literature showing that firms with aggressive financial reporting are likely to engage in aggressive tax reporting, we argue that IPO firms have stronger incentives to engage in aggressive tax avoidance. Our empirical examination is important because ex-ante there is no clear prediction on the economic consequences of tax avoidance of newly public companies on shareholders.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/H17/17
Project Title: Agenda-building in IPOs - Exploring the relationship between public relations efforts and financial news coverage
Principal Investigator: Dr CHEUNG Meily Mei-fung (HSMC)

In 2016, Hong Kong was ranked as the world’s largest IPO market in terms of the number of IPOs and total funds raised. By playing the role of information intermediaries between business corporations and the public, the financial news media serve as important channels for individual investors to obtain accurate and reliable financial information in making their investment decisions on IPOs. Yet, previous studies have proposed that corporations which play the roles of advertisers, dominant sources, suppliers of information subsidies and news consumers can induce a critical influence on news agendas through their strategic PR efforts. Such practices are harmful to the investor market in the long term. For the highly important Hong Kong IPO market in particular, it is essential that a comprehensive investigation be conducted into the transfer of financial information between the information sources and the intermediaries in the investment market.

By adopting agenda-building theory, concepts of information subsidies and journalistic routines, this project aims to examine the influence of PR efforts and materials on the construction of financial news agendas by conducting a comprehensive content analysis of information subsidies and news reports on IPOs. It will identify message themes and develop machine learning algorithms that can analyse large amounts of textual data. In addition, the project will examine the source-journalist ‘tug of war’ between financial PR practitioners and journalists in the context of IPOs in Hong Kong. The investigators will interview PR practitioners and journalists to identify the underlying factors that contribute to the source-journalist interplay in order to provide practical insights into the process of financial PR campaigning and news reporting.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS24/H06/17
Project Title: In Another’s Shoes: The Role of Perspective Taking in the Development of Ethical Creatives
Principal Investigator: Prof CHIU Warren Chi-kwan (PolyU SPEED)

Ethical thinking and creative thinking are two important abilities that higher education institutions worldwide seek to promote as learning outcomes for their students (Bierly et al., 2008). However, recent studies have questioned whether ethics and creativity can be cultivated simultaneously (e.g., Gino & Wiltermuth, 2014; Gino & Margolis, 2011). Central to this issue is certain opposing forces that are behind the two learning outcomes.

Decades of research has found that creative people tend to be unconventional, individualistic and egoistic, whereas less creative people are more likely to be honest, conservative and submissive (e.g., Gough, 1979; Oldham & Cummings, 1996; Zhou & Oldham, 2001, George & Zhou, 2001; Shin & Zhou, 2003). Creativity relies on the encouragement to bend or even go beyond rules and boundaries, whereas ethics emphasizes the importance of boundaries and constraints. While paradigm modification and radical thinking can be good for creativity, such rule-breaking ways of thinking may potentially prime or prompt individuals to do things which are not completely honest or ethical. Conversely, it can be difficult to think out of the box if rule-based compliance is over-emphasized. In what way and to what extent are these two highly sought after qualities at odds? What can educators do to enable students to foster both ethical and creative thinking and behavior?

We contend that the relationship between ethics and creativity is complex. One concept that has often been linked to both ethics and creativity is perspective taking. For example, past research found that individuals who were better at noticing and attending to their immediate context were found to be more creative (Baas, Nevicka, & Velden, 2014) and individuals who were considered less cognizant of others were also more likely to act unethically (Piff et al., 2012). Hence, perspective taking may be an indispensable process common and essential to both creative and ethical outcomes.

While perspective taking has been linked to creativity and ethics separately, neither conceptual nor empirical research has been conducted to examine how and why perspective taking may enable individuals to be creative and ethical at the same time. So it would be too quick to consider the non-complementarity nature of creativity and ethics without also taking into account the possible intervening impact of perspective taking. This is unfortunate considering our design of the undergraduate curriculum may fail to optimize learning outcomes of students.

In this project, we propose a series of studies to unpack the complex relationships among creativity, ethics, and perspective taking. Drawing on research in the areas of creativity, ethics, and perspective taking, we argue that creativity and ethics are negatively related in general. However, such discouraging relationship needs not to be the case once we also consider the moderating effects of perspective taking. We will explore different means through which perspective taking can be encouraged through our studies.

With the findings of the abovementioned studies, we will then propose ways to improve the current undergraduate curriculum, starting by the development of a subject that incorporates ethics, creativity, and more importantly, perspective taking in a holistic manner. We propose that such a subject holds the key to the effective development of ethical creatives, who will provide sustainable and innovative solutions to the world’s problems.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/B10/17
Project Title: Quantifying the impact of limit order book transparency on trading profitability
Principal Investigator: Dr CHOI Ping-man (OUHK)

Limit order books (LOBs) enable a centralized, order-driven trading mechanism which has been widely adopted in global securities markets. The degree of LOB transparency greatly affects market efficiency and is one of the most studied topics in financial market design. Various levels of pre-trade and post-trade information on the LOB provide investors with different trading insights and thus regulators are concerned with what degree of transparency it is best suited for the stock market. Previous studies on the impact of market transparency on trading profitability were relatively scarce. In this project, we propose utilizing a reinforcement learning (RL) framework to measure trading profitability to examine how the transparency of LOBs affects the performance of algorithmic trading strategies. It may provide some empirical evidence for whether transparent or anonymous LOBs are more beneficial to the overall market quality.

Technological trading strategies such as algorithmic trading (AT) and high frequency trading (HFT) have become widespread in recent years and it is reported that the majority of stock orders and transactions are currently executed by computers in major stock markets such as the United States and Japan. Technological trading not only improves market liquidity but also increases market volatility. To safeguard market integrity, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange introduced a volatility control mechanism in 2016. As AT and HFT traders can take immediate action according to the disclosed information, they may be able to gain an advantage that further affects market efficiency and performance. It is therefore desirable to explore to what extent investors’ returns will be affected by the level of LOB transparency.

This research proposes an RL framework to measure the impact of LOB transparency on the profitability of stock trading. We will analyze and utilize the Hong Kong stock market’s transparent LOB, which offers market information for a subscription fee. In particular, the broker identity, and modified and cancelled orders will be incorporated into the RL model to facilitate the prediction of stock price movements. This study will thus provide new perspectives for assessing the impact of the transparency policy of LOB in stock markets. It will also enhance our understanding of the efficiency of AT in transparent markets.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/M01/17
Project Title: Study of probiotic approach to reduce food process-induced toxicants using an in vitro digestion model
Principal Investigator: Dr CHOI Siu-mei (THEi)

Human exposure to various kinds of food contaminants or toxins and their potential health effects are having increasing concern nowadays. Different approaches have been developed in order to reduce the content of the toxins formed in the food products. In this proposal, the biological approach is designed to detoxify two process-induced contaminants, ethyl carbamate and acrylamide. Ethyl carbamate and acrylamide are selected based on its potential carcinogenic activity, classified as “probably carcinogenic to human” (Group 2A), and their widespread distribution in our diet. The potential application of probiotic bacteria to reduce the levels of these two toxins and thus the health risk from ingestion of processed foods known to be contaminated with relative high level will be studied.

The main objective of this study is to investigate whether two probiotic bacteria strains (lactobacillus and bifidobacterium) can influence the fraction of process-induced toxins that are released from the specific food matrix in the gastrointestinal tract and then become available for intestinal absorption via in vitro digestion model. We aim (1) to investigate the efficacy of probiotics in reducing concentrations of ethyl carbamate or acrylamide in selected food samples; (2) to evaluate the bioaccessibility of ethyl carbamate and acrylamide with and without the addition of the selected probiotic strains using an in vitro digestion model under simulated gastrointestinal digestion conditions; (3) to evaluate the risk assessment of ethyl carbamate and acrylamide before and after probiotic treatments of the ethyl carbamate-contaminated alcoholic drinks and fermented bread or acrylamide-contaminated potato chips and other snack type biscuits.

In vitro gastrointestinal digestion model, the ability of probiotic bacteria to reduce the content of ethyl carbamate or acrylamide using in vitro digestion model with different food matrices will be assessed. Selected probiotic bacteria will be added to the specific food model and the content of ethyl carbamate or acrylamide with or without probiotic after simulated digestion will be analyzed using solid-phase extraction and liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS).

The data obtained will show the internal exposure and availability of the toxins. The possible results of the bioaccessibility of ethyl carbamate or acrylamide may indicate whether selected probiotic may have toxin-reducing ability. This can give useful information in making food choice in a single meal in order to control or reduce the amount of ethyl carbamate or acrylamide that can be absorbed in the intestine. This bioaccessibility data also provide valuable information as a good basis for further study on the toxico-kinetic and toxico-dynamic mechanism from long-term dietary intake as well as toxicological risk assessment to human.

Findings from this study will contribute to the further development of strategies to detoxify toxic substances contaminated in the food using specific strains of probiotics. Reducing amount of these toxic chemicals available for intestinal absorption may demonstrate the potential protective effect of probiotics against these potential carcinogens or mutagens commonly found in diet.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/H04/17
Project Title: ‘One Belt, One River’: Maritime and Inland River Trade in Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces (1897–1926)
Principal Investigator: Dr CHOI Sze-hang (Shue Yan)

This proposed project will address the conflict and cooperation between two aspects of private Chinese maritime trade on the coasts and inland rivers of Guangdong and Guangxi provinces: customs clearance and the registration of steamships under the treaty port and modern maritime customs systems; and vague regulations and flexible business models for Chinese junks and steam launches under the triple maritime zones (foreign colonies, treaty ports and non-treaty ports) and dual maritime customs system (foreign customs, native customs and likin administration).

The proposed project will investigate the trade routes and business models of Chinese junks and steam launches across the porous Hong Kong–China border and the network of treaty and non-treaty ports on the Pearl River, and their significance to maritime trade and the efforts of Chinese players to defend domestic trade by including the Chinese local governments and private Chinese traders in the late Qing and early Republican periods.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/P01/17
Project Title: Fuzzy Bit-plane-dependence Multi-domain Region Competition: Mathematical Modelling and Applications
Principal Investigator: Dr CHOY Siu-kai (HSMC)

Image segmentation is a critical problem in computer vision for a wide variety of applications. Among the existing approaches, partial differential equations and variational methods have been extensively studied in the literature. Although most variational approaches use boundary and region information to segment natural and textural images with remarkable success, we note that most of the existing methods only consider simple information/features extracted from a particular image domain (e.g., grey level features in the spatial domain) to characterise image regions. However, such information/features are not informative enough to segment complex images. In the proposed project, we will investigate a robust and effective variational segmentation algorithm to remedy the aforementioned difficulties for a wide range of applications. In particular, we will study a mathematical optimisation framework that integrates the bit-plane-dependence probability models, which are used to characterise local region information extracted from various image domains, with the fuzzy region competition for image segmentation. We will also study the mathematical theory for the segmentation algorithm. The proposed segmentation method will be assessed by extensive and comparative experiments using complex natural and textural images.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/P05/17
Project Title: Statistical disclosure control of confidential data using vine copulas with applications to finance and healthcare management
Principal Investigator: Dr CHU Man-ying (HSMC)

Protecting confidential information is an important topic in social science, medical and business research. For example, it is of great research value to release partial official data from government agencies, patient records in healthcare units and customer data and business transactions in the commercial world, while protecting data privacy. A common statistical disclosure control approach is based on data masking or perturbative methods, which use statistical methods to randomly change confidential data before they are released. The utility and risk are major subjects for consideration when studying perturbative methods.

While traditional perturbation methods are generally able to preserve the linear relationships in confidential data, they often miss the nonlinear patterns. In the proposed study, we will develop a vine copula statistical disclosure control approach. We will derive security risk measures for the new approach. One major aim is to enhance the data utility by preserving the nonlinear structure in confidential and non-confidential data while controlling the risk of disclosure. We will also explore applications to finance and healthcare management. We expect the findings from this study to provide insights into data privacy issues in the social sciences, medicine and business studies.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS13/E01/17
Project Title: Automatic stimulus and synchronous pupil-iris-head tracking for intelligent assessment of strabismus: principle, algorithm and system
Principal Investigator: Dr FU Hong (Chu Hai)

Strabismus is a common ophthalmic disease which could cause serious consequences in vision, especially for children. Timely quantitative evaluation of strabismus are essential, in order to get suitable treatment of strabismus. Current clinical assessment of strabismus is mainly in a way of “stimulus generation + response evaluation”, wherein both the stimulus generation and the response evaluation are conducted manually. This limits the effect and efficiency of strabismus assessment.

In this proposal, we are planning to have an extensive study of automatic stimulus and synchronous pupil-iris-head tracking for intelligent evaluation of strabismus, wherein both the stimulus generation and response evaluation are fully automated and synchronized. With the proposed system, the subject just needs to sit and watch the object shown in the screen, and then the check goes automatically and a report is generated automatically which contains the presence, type, angle, motility of strabismus and accurate head posture with detailed eye movement and head movement data. To achieve this, four essential issues will be addressed in this project: (i) automatic stimulus generation; (ii) synchronous pupil-iris-head tracking system algorithms; (iii) pupil and iris localization in measurement of strabismus deviation; and (iv) intelligent assessment of strabismus.

Success of the proposed work will bring about significant change in clinical strabismus assessment with a fully automated, objective and easy to operate system. Such system will benefit subjects who cannot communicate verbally or with intellectual disability. It will also enhance public healthcare service in both strabismus screening and accurate assessment. In addition, the proposed pupil-iris-head eye tracking system and algorithms will be an important contribution to the biometric technology and its application in healthcare.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/H06/17
Project Title: Construction and validation of Chinese scale measuring statistics anxiety of university students
Principal Investigator: Dr FU Wai (Shue Yan)

Statistics is a core course in the majority of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes (with the exception of those in the humanities), as well as a prerequisite for many courses involving research methods and data analysis. Therefore, students who lack a solid background in mathematics and statistics are likely to encounter significant obstacles. Students often feel apprehensive about statistics examinations. Many students who excel in other areas exhibit poor performance in statistics examinations, reducing their overall grade point average (GPA) and adversely affecting their learning progress and prospects.

Current measures of statistics anxiety (e.g., the Statistics Anxiety Rating Scale [Cruise & Wilkins, 1980], the Statistics Anxiety Scale [Pretorius & Norman, 1992] and the Statistics Anxiety Inventory [Zeidner, 1991]) are limited by a tendency to overemphasise general attitudes towards statistics without adequately considering the anxiety-related symptoms triggered by statistics. In addition, these measures tend to neglect respondents’ sense of personal control over events and belief in fate and luck (often collectively categorised under the psychological construct of illusion of control; Langer, 1978), which are common within Chinese populations.

The proposed study will aim to construct and validate a measure of statistics anxiety that is appropriate for use with Chinese university students. The first stage will involve generating item banks from the qualitative findings of interviews with statistics educators and university students. The second stage will involve item analysis and modification. In the third stage, criterion validity will be established for measures of statistics anxiety, illusion of control and various anxiety disorders. The fourth stage will involve confirmatory factor analysis to verify the structure of the scale.

The findings of the proposed study will be immensely helpful for statistics educators, university students and counsellors seeking to resolve the problem of statistics anxiety. In addition, the scale generated from the study will have considerable potential for use in future research on statistics anxiety in local populations.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/H07/17
Project Title: Re-imagining Old-time Brand Business in Present-day Guangzhou, China: A Relational Work Perspective
Principal Investigator: Dr GAO Chong (Shue Yan)

The proposed project aims to explore community involvement of old-time brand (laozihao) businesses in Guangzhou today. It is believed that community involvement and commitment may help to build up and maintain a win-win relationship between some locally run laozihao businesses and the local community. Some laozihao businesses can be run as a particular economic form that makes but does not maximise profits and meanwhile many community needs can be met. As such, some laozihao businesses may have great potential to be re-imagined as a kind of socially useful business and accepted as one part of local economy of the people and for the people.

The case study of laozihao businesses in Guangzhou will investigate how the local community plays its role in the rise and fall of different types of laozihao business. It is assumed that community involvement may be shown in two key aspects. The first is the way business operators (or their representatives) of laozihao businesses (either private entrepreneurs or top managers of state-run enterprises) keep the established spirit and community commitment of the old-time brand in mind while trying to engage with current community life, interacting with the ordinary residents of Guangzhou and meeting their daily needs. The other side of community involvement is closely related to how the local residents conceive of the social and cultural significance of laozihao businesses in their everyday lives, evaluate the efforts of the business operators and make positive response to them. In this regard, the collaborative community involvement to be achieved between the laozihao business and the current local residents will be the key to understanding the nature of today’s laozihao, so it deserves more detailed studies.

Drawing on a newly built relational work approach in economic sociology, the proposed project will focus on the ongoing interactions and negotiations (relational processes) between operating laozihao businesses and the local community. In this way, the proposed project will shift the focus of laoziaho research away from economics-led studies toward sociological concerns: how old-time brand business is played out appropriately (in a somewhat disinterested way) in relation to reactions from the local community. This new research agenda may bring significant impact to studies of old-time brand businesses in China and beyond in terms of its theoretical contribution, its empirical and policy implications.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/H03/17
Project Title: Co-speech Gestures Across First and Second Languages in Hong Kong: Cantonese and English
Principal Investigator: Dr GROSE Donovan Richard (HSMC)

The goal of this project is to analyze and compare how native Cantonese speakers use gestures when they are using their first language (Cantonese) and when they are using a second language (English). Gestures are important for effective communication, but they may be used differently with first and second languages. Second language co-speech gestures remain relatively understudied, especially at the tertiary/university level. Students with high English proficiency may use gestures in much the same ways with both Cantonese and English. In contrast, students with lower English are expected to use gestures for different purposes, to compensate for lexical gaps, to help repair mistakes and to signal their level of comprehension. A better understanding of how students use co-speech gestures with English at the tertiary level, with its high cognitive and social demands may help to design more effective second language teaching and learning strategies.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/P03/17
Project Title: A Bayesian Semiparametric Approach to the Endogeneity Problem
Principal Investigator: Dr HO Man-wai (HSMC)

In statistics, econometrics, marketing, epidemiology and many other disciplines, a common challenge faced by practitioners is how to account for endogeneity. When cause and effect relationship between variables (e.g., sales and price in a marketing problem) is of interest, the endogeneity problem often arises because data in these disciplines are obtained in non-experimental settings. When the data are not obtained in well-designed experimental settings, endogeneity can arise due to various reasons including, for example, omitted variables, measurement error, autoregression with autocorrelated errors, simultaneous causality and many other technical reasons. Consider a problem in the business world, of interest is the sales of a product. The relationship between sales and the product price is of prime importance. Firms or store managers set the price of a product based on market information (e.g., competition, coupon availability, word-of-mouth) or product characteristics. Some of this unobserved information does affect consumer behavior as well, and, in turn, the sales. As a consequence, some unobserved information affects both the sales and the price, the endogeneity problem arises. Failure in accounting for this kind of information in our analysis can result in unreliable and flawed conclusions and interpretations for the relationship. Unfortunately, sometimes especially in real-world problems, it is just impossible for us to avoid endogeneity. Therefore, the issue of how to tackle the endogeneity problem is vital to the society.

In the proposed project, we will introduce a mathematical model which helps to account for the endogeneity problem in an analysis of the relationship of two variables of interest. Applications of the method are valid in various areas or disciplines so long as the data being analyzed pose the endogeneity problem. We will demonstrate the practicality of the methodology to solve a real-world problem subject to availability of some real data of relevance.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/H03/17
Project Title: A Research on the Four Masterworks of the Ming Novel under the Perspective of Literary Philosophy: Subversion and Reconstruction of Values
Principal Investigator: Dr HSU King-chiu (Caritas)

The Four Masterworks of the Ming Novel (四大奇書, abbr. the Four Masterworks): “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” (“三國演義”), “Outlaws of the Marsh” (“水滸傳”), “Journey to the West” (“西遊記”), “Golden Lotus” (“金瓶梅”) were favourably praised as “Qi Shu” (奇書) for their “uniqueness”. The academia is not on the same page regarding the standard of their “uniqueness”, but as a whole the uniqueness is constructed by the common basis of the form (rhetoric) and the content (philosophical thought). In this regard, our project is planned to focus on the Four Masterworks’ content (philosophical thought) to elucidate their uniqueness and complexity which were unattended from previous studies. From a broader perspective, there is a relationship of mutual influence, development and construction between literature and philosophy, rather than literature is interpreted as reflecting the society, culture and thought. Therefore, this study will focus on the variation, breakthrough and construction of the philosophical thoughts being embodied in the Four Masterworks. Our study will further explore its continued development and influence on the philosophy of the Qing Dynasty.

In the past, the study on the philosophical thought of the Four Masterworks always emphasized the guidance or exhortation of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, such as the concept of loyalty and righteousness (忠義), sunyata and rupa(色/空), transcendental and secular (出世/入世) as well as “Universal peace must be preceded by national harmony; national harmony, by familial solidarity; and familial solidarity, by personal integrity” (修身齊家治國平天下). In the other words, most of the studies in the past have been to reflect the traditional norms and values (“theory of reflection”) to conscribe the Four Masterworks - even in the form of “irony” or “sense of humor”. However, by scrutiny of the texts, we will find that the author(s) attempted to challenge the traditional values in order to subvert the tradition, anti-society and even anti-fate as a main axis through the works of the characters, the plot and the theme. It is not difficult to find the author(s) of the Four Masterworks to try to explore and construct values that are distinct from traditional ideas and values.

Although the main theme of the Four Masterworks are different from each other and discussed with the predecessors, we believe that the Four Masterworks could be penetrated by an axis, that is, anti-tradition. The content of anti-tradition is the “exploration of human desire and its moral signification” (“Satisfaction of human desire”), and this theme also continued and resulted in a great impact on philosophy and literature of the Qing Dynasty. Therefore, this study will employ this axis as a starting point to launch an in-depth and specific analysis of the following questions:
1. The relationship between the development of philosophy of the Ming Dynasty and the rise of the Four Masterworks.
2. The exploration of human desire and its moral signification by analysis of characters, plot and theme of the Four Masterworks.
3. The novel commentators’ comments on philosophy of the Four Masterworks in the period of late-Ming Dynasty.
4. The Influence on development of philosophy (Confucianism) in Qing Dynasty.

This proposal would gather, collate and analyze relevant texts such as original texts, commentaries and related research materials. The research results would be published in the form of papers and participated in academic conferences to exchange point of views with scholars. Finally, various papers would be published in a book to share the research achievements.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/H10/17
Project Title: Study of Daren (1970-1973) and Dacheng (1973-1995) and a Discourse on Post-War Hong Kong Culture
Principal Investigator: Dr HUNG Chi-kum (OUHK)

This project will focus on two magazines in Hong Kong, Daren (《大人》,1970-1973) and Dacheng (《大成》,1973-1995), as its objects of study. Dacheng came down in lineage from Daren and the two should be treated as successive generations of the same publication that was in press for 25 years with a total of 304 issues. They were edited by an eminent Shanghai litterateur Shen Weichuang (沈葦窗) and thus were similar in style and content. Contributors of the magazines were conspicuous and came from diverse professional backgrounds including literature, military, and politics. The list of contributors is long. They include, to name a few, famous painters Chang Dai-chien (張大千) and Lin Feng-mien (林風眠); Peking opera actress Meng Linghui (孟令輝), also known as Meng Xiaodong (孟小冬); art critic Zhu Pu (朱樸), also known as Zhu Xingzhai (朱省齋); litterateurs Jin Xiongbai (金雄白), also known as Zhu Zijia (朱子家), Gao Zhenbai (高貞白), also known as Gao Boyu (高伯雨) or Lin Xi (林熙), Chen Cunren (陳存仁), Li Huang (李璜), Zuo Shunsheng (左舜生), and Liang Shih-chiu (梁實秋); and lyricist and writer Chan Dip-yi (陳蝶衣). Their anecdotes from first-hand experience provide valuable primary sources for modern and contemporary Chinese Studies and Hong Kong Studies, as well as contributing to the areas of Chinese literature, history, and culture.

This project will approach the topic by studying newspapers and periodicals (報刊研究), a well-established methodology used in Chinese Studies. The idea is to make use of valuable resources found mainly in Chinese newspapers and magazines to study different aspects of the arts and humanities, similar to a more recent branch of study known as Periodical Studies. The findings will be analyzed from both textual and contextual perspectives, using Daren and Dacheng as a database of published articles for a thematic study of post-war Hong Kong cultural history. This project will also attempt to outline the personal history and social network of the chief editor, Shen Weichuang, in order to investigate the role and significance of the editor and his publications in the context of Chinese periodicals. Furthermore, this project will situate Daren and Dacheng in a broad historical background and, through comparison of the two magazines with other periodicals on culture and history, trace the relationship between Japanese-occupied Shanghai and post-war Hong Kong. The findings of this project will be presented or published to enrich the discourse on post-war Hong Kong literature and culture. This project will also generate an index of Daren and Dacheng to be made available online free of charge to scholars and readers worldwide.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/H09/17
Project Title: The Politics of Gateway: Checkpoint, Brokerage, and Negotiated Crossing
Principal Investigator: Dr HUNG Eva Po-wah (HSMC)

Contemporary global political economy is characterized not only by the well-documented activities of transnational trade and migration. Vast shadow networks of people and organizations also shuffle goods, money and human labor across the globe every day. These activities are variably described as shadow, underground, informal, black, grey, or illicit. Although there is no shortage of studies about the nature of informality, the precise mechanisms governing such trans-border exchanges have been sparsely documented. In particular, checkpoint as a state institution regulating trans-boundary movements and enforcing border control and permeability is remarkably missing in existing literature on both border studies and informal exchanges. We surmise that checkpoints are the point of power negotiation among state and non-state actors in the maintenance and modification of borders as an institution of inclusion/exclusion and selective permeability. As such, checkpoints should play an indispensable role in trans-border exchanges.

This project is intended to be exploratory and comparative in nature. It seeks to compare four border regions of China neighboring Russia, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Hong Kong and Macau. By examining the commonalities and peculiarities of the institutional setup and regulatory mechanism of the border checkpoint of the said regions and by focusing on the strategic interactions and negotiations between state and non-state actors, the larger purpose is to unravel how checkpoint politics impact on the brokering practices and coordination in trans-border informal exchanges. Intensive fieldwork observations and interviews with state and non-state actors in border-crossing in the four border regions will be undertaken. Extensive documentary research on background information and official policies relating to border trade and border activities will also be conducted. Empirically the study shall contribute to a better understanding of the actual workings of checkpoint control. The findings shall offer insights for further development in border studies. Theoretically the study shall add the checkpoint as a site of contentious and subversive politics challenging the application of state power.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/H04/17
Project Title: In search of literary publicness: A study of post-70s Hong Kong writers
Principal Investigator: Dr KWOK Sze-wing (HSMC)

This research project will be the first comprehensive study of post-70s Hong Kong writers from the perspective of sociology of literature. This research will investigate how post-70s writers interact with Hong Kong literary scene and Hong Kong society. By probing into the complicated relationship between literature, media and society, this study will provide new understanding of the identity, literary ethics and worldview of post-70s Hong Kong writers. This research will also analyze how post-70s writers participate in the formation of public sphere in post-97 Hong Kong. The special focus on the importance of new media will illustrate the study of literature in the internet era and informational society.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/P04/17
Project Title: Supervised Dimensionality Reduction with Unsupervised Learning: Theory and Applications
Principal Investigator: Dr LAM Benson Shu-yan (HSMC)

Supervised learning problems infer functions from labelled training data. Learning lower dimensional subspaces in supervised learning problems is important in applications such as human action recognition, face recognition and object recognition. Dimensionality reduction is performed to remove noise from the data and simplify data analysis. Linear Discriminant Analysis (LDA) and its variants have been shown to be suitable for handling data structures in linear, quadratic and highly non-linear forms. However, conventional LDA formulations suffer from two major limitations. Firstly, they use arithmetic means to represent the class centroids of the input data. However, the arithmetic mean has been shown to not effectively represent these data, especially with data that contains heavy noise and outliers. Secondly, it is difficult to show statistically that the learnt projection vectors are effective in the presence of heavy noise and outliers. Hence, conventional LDA fails to determine the most representative features from the input data.

In the proposed project, we aim to develop a new class of dimensionality reduction techniques for labelled data that can overcome the major limitations of conventional LDA techniques. The core idea is to formulate the dimensionality reduction problem as a set of clustering problems. The novelty of the proposed approach is that unsupervised clustering problems can effectively learn the subspace of the supervised learning problem. Locating effective centroids has been well-studied in clustering research. Furthermore, well-developed theories can be used to analyse the sensitivities of these methods in the presence of heavy noise and outliers. If successful, the proposed study will significantly increase the performance of dimensionality reduction for labelled data using clustering, which will fundamentally improve the way in which useful information can be extracted in many real-world applications.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS23/H02/17
Project Title: Reimagining Chinese Celebrities in the Cosmopolitical Order: Humanitarianism, Social Media, Fan Identification
Principal Investigator: Dr LAU Waisim (HKBU SCE)

The past two decades witness the heightened visibility of Chinese celebrities engaging in advocacy of global issues such as democracy, health, and environmental conservation and they are as extensively engaging as their North American counterparts (Jeffreys 2015). Actor and actresses like Jet Li, Gong Li, Zhou Xun, Yao Chen, Li Bingbing, and pianist Lang Lang serve as goodwill ambassadors for various UN programs (Zhang 2017, 42). Basketball player Yao Ming, in 2008, launched a foundation under his name, under the sponsorship of the international Giving Back Fund to help the wellness and welfare of the children in the PRC and the USA. Chinese-Hong Kong martial arts actor Jackie Chan has become internationally well-known since 1990s for his active and wide-ranging philanthropy. Both Yao and Chan appear in Forbes’ inaugural list of the PRC’s top 100 power-ranking celebrities in 2004 (Jeffreys and Edwards 2010, 2). These famed figures’ charitable involvement enhances their cosmopolitan appeal, transcending narrow strictures of provincial or national status of celebrities. It is also agreeably regarded as manifestation of the nation’s soft power and strategies of China’s public diplomacy (Zhang 2017, 41), bridging China to the world.

The rise of media technology further changes the geopolitical imaginary of China and universalizes the Chinese celebrities’ civic personae. The newly liberalized media that allow ordinary users to post and share news and opinions in an instantaneous and seamless fashion aggrandize the democratization of celebrity status. Twitter, Weibo and Facebook becomes the vital locus for entertainers to garner public attention to certain causes, raise fund, and challenge the policy makers (Tsaliki, Frangonikolopoulos, Huliaras 2011, 9). As the emergent mechanism for advocacy, these media conduits create an open, diversified, and participatory space to fortify the global reach and force of the celebrities’ mobilization. All these instances exemplify the potential connections between the ethno-national imaginary and the global humanitarianism, calling for new understanding of Chinese celebrity mechanism. Yet an accurate understanding depends upon careful examination of the phenomenon.

Accordingly this project aims at examining the persona construction and negotiation of the Chinese-yet-global celebrities-philanthropists in social media. In what ways do the Web narratives shape the persona of the celebrities? To what extent do the narratives mediate and intervene in the reception of the pop culture icons? How do the celebrities’ mobilization and their online presence entail the relationship between China and the West? These questions need to be responded with the help of a careful research plan focusing on the survey of celebrity advocacy and the “unofficial” account of the entertainers’ publicity.

Critical interest of celebrity humanitarianism has been dominated by the North-American or European-oriented entertainment figures (e.g. Bono, Angelina Jolie, Madonna), billionaires (e.g. Bill Gates, George Soros), and activist NGOs (e.g. Save Darfur, Médecins Sans Frontières). They are engaged in alleviating the problems such as Third World debt, poverty, famine, global warming, epidemics, and AIDS. While myriad scholars cast the critical limelight the subjects in the West, the research effort devoted to Chinese celebrities is in paucity. Some of the early attempts in the field include analyses of actors Jet Li and Pu Cunxin and singer-political figure Peng Liyun and the ways they mobilize humanitarian concerns such as health and AIDS as well as disaster relief (Hood 2015; Jeffreys 2016; Lau 2016). These attempts are worth-continuing by scrutinizing the celebrity humanitarianism in a more comprehensive, meticulous, and up-to-date manner.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E14/17
Project Title: Study on the use of high percentage reclaimed asphalt pavement materials in road construction in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Dr LEUNG Gordon Lai-ming (THEi)

Shortage of land for waste disposal has long been a problem in Hong Kong. Recently, the landfill site has projected an alarm signal due to the increasing amount of waste. It exerts a large pressure on the limited land supply and serious impacts on the overall environment. According to the government’s view, the remaining land suitable for landfill for dumping waste is becoming scarce. Hence minimization of waste from all possible local sources is no doubt a way forward. Under the category of construction & demolition (C & D) waste, one of the biggest sources is no doubt the asphaltic materials being generated from daily rehabilitation works of highway pavements.

In Hong Kong, the idea and research on the usage of reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) materials in road construction go back to early 2000s. However, after a decade of effort, only very low percentages of the materials could be adopted in real practice. In this study, two main areas will be investigated. The first area to be explored would be the mechanical performances of bituminous materials with high percentages (up to 60%) RAP, the other one is how the age of the RAP may affect the performances of the bituminous materials, and the results of these will finally leading to the overall design of the road pavements by utilizing a full range of RAP contents.

The findings from these two study areas are considered to be able to grant important academic merits to this research area and the successful application of the research outcomes could also largely help to alleviate the disposal problem in this field of construction process, release space of dumping site, conserve natural materials (less virgin bitumen and aggregate needed) and reduce cost of road construction and maintenance.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/H02/17
Project Title: Shaping and Being Shaped by Multiple Cultural Fields: An Analysis of Newspaper Coverage of Eileen Chang in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan
Principal Investigator: Dr LEUNG Rebecca Mo-ling (OUHK)

Following the publication of her first novel in 1943, Eileen Chang (張愛玲, 1920-1995) went on to become an active member in the cultural fields of Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Even after her death in 1995, she still exerted a profound impact on literature today. In many of her works, Eileen Chang illustrated how she perceived Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Shanghai. Her perception obviously shaped the ways she portrayed the three places, which resulted in the rise of their diverse images in her writing. On the other hand, after Eileen Chang published her first novel, she and her subsequent works continued to be shaped by the cultural fields of the three places. Between 1943 and 2016, an enormous amount of reports concerning Eileen Chang appeared in newspapers, magazines, and websites. A wide range of topics were discussed, including the author and her writing, her interaction with other intellectuals and scholars, her movies and film promotion, etc. These reports provide a wealth of data that could shed light on the structure of different cultural fields. For example, the reports showed how Eileen Chang and her writing interacted with different members in the cultural fields such as publishers, editors of newspapers and magazines, scholars, readers, etc. Further analysis could be conducted in relation to nationality and gender. In this context, this study aims to examine how the ‘imagination’ process of Eileen Chang was affected by multiple cultural fields in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Through analyzing the newspaper reports published in the three places, the effects will be examined in the following four time periods: 1943-July 1952, August 1952-1969, 1970-1989, and 1990-present. In addition to exploring how Eileen Chang shaped the images of the three places, this study will focus also on how the three places in turn shaped Eileen Chang during different periods of time. Emphasis will be placed on analyzing the interplay between the structure of multiple cultural fields and Eileen Chang herself. Also, we will discuss how various forces in the cultural fields ‘shadowed’ and ‘imagined’ Eileen Chang.

The significance of this proposed study lies in its provision of a new direction for research about Eileen Chang. Most studies in the past focused primarily on analyzing the texts written by Eileen Chang and the impact of her works. This study, however, will be the first to examine ‘how Eileen Chang shaped the three places on the two shores’ and ‘how the three places on the two shores in turn shaped Eileen Chan’. Through comparing the cultural fields of the three places on the two shores, we will be able to demonstrate how Hong Kong played unique roles in shaping Eileen Chang.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B05/17
Project Title: The psychological and moral mechanism of counterfeit consumption in the culture mixing context
Principal Investigator: Dr LI Dongmei (HSMC)

Globalization has increased instances of as “culture mixing”, defined as the co-existence of local and foreign cultural elements. Culture mixing occurs in various domains, including mixing of ethnic/national cultures, and religious beliefs (Hao, Li, Peng, Peng, & Torelli, 2016). Some examples of culture mixing are Ping-on Macaroon and Starbucks’ store in the Forbidden City. Nowadays, people frequently encounter culture-mixing experiences in their daily life. Globalization has also led to a steadily growing counterfeit market. The global trade in counterfeits is estimated at over $600 billion annually (World Customs Organization, 2014). However, counterfeit consumption is growing annually, as there is increasing consumer demand. An average of 46% of the global population knowingly consumes counterfeit products (International Chamber of Commerce, 2007). Thus, understanding the mechanism of counterfeit consumption from the consumer perspectives is crucial, particularly in culturally mixed environments, which are already common in consumers’ daily lives.

However, few studies have examined the underlying process of counterfeit consumption in culture-mixing contexts. To fill this gap, the proposed research aims to identify situational and individual factors that explain and predict variations in consumers’ responses to counterfeit consumption in the global environment.

Building on recent culture mixing research (Hao et al., 2016) and moral foundation theory (Haidt, 2007), we identify three mechanisms that can influence counterfeit consumption patterns in the context of culture mixing: the impeding process, the fostering process, and the moral process. First, in the impeding process, we propose that culture-mixing experience increases resistance to counterfeit consumption of symbolic local brands. This is when local consumers worry that the low-quality and bad reputation of counterfeits may damage the integrity of genuine iconic brands that symbolize the local culture. This is because evoked cultural threat by culture-mixing experience will motivate people to protect the cultural icons through rejecting counterfeits. This effect is particularly strong when: (a) the counterfeits are produced by foreign companies and (b) people have strong identification with their culture.

Second, in the fostering process, culture-mixing experience will increase the acceptance of counterfeits of symbolic local brands if people believe that the prevalence of counterfeits can bolster outgroup members’ evaluation of the ingroup culture (e.g., increased interest in the genuine local brands) and raise awareness of one’s home culture globally.

Third, in the moral process, we propose that culture-mixing experience will increase the relevance of the moral foundations of sanctity/loyalty as the basis of moral judgment of counterfeit consumptions. Moreover, these effects are more pronounced in Asian versus Western cultures.

These hypotheses will be tested in a series of 10 laboratory studies carried out over a period of 24 months. The project will use an innovative research paradigm to investigate people’s diverse responses (i.e., acceptance, resistance, and moral judgment) toward counterfeit consumption in a globalized and culturally mixed marketplace.

This research will have significant managerial implications for global companies and policy implications for governmental regulation of the counterfeit markets. Finally, given the increasing public demand for a moral marketplace, our research will inform policies on how to further strengthen the ‘clean’ image of Hong Kong. This project will also enhance local students’ awareness of moral issues in the global context, and give them the opportunity to participate in an important research area and receive training on scientific research practice. The findings of this project will provide useful material for courses on global marketing and business ethics, and will enhance students’ abilities to tackle moral problems in international business.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/E01/17
Project Title: Willingness to share construction safety knowledge via Web 2.0, mobile apps and IoT
Principal Investigator: Dr LI Rita Yi-man (Shue Yan)

A lack of appropriate safety knowledge has been identified as a major factor leading to poor safety performance on sites. Various types of mobile apps, Internet of Things (IoT) and Web 2.0 for sharing construction safety knowledge have been proposed by academics, but if they are to be effective, practitioners must be willing and possess the tools to use them. In this research, we will aim to: 1. study the current applications and factors that affect the willingness to share construction safety knowledge via mobile apps, Web 2.0 and IoT; 2. investigate the interrelations between willingness and actual knowledge sharing via mobile apps, IoT and Web 2.0 and construction incidents; and 3. construct algorithms to predict construction practitioners’ willingness to share construction safety knowledge via mobile apps, IoT and Web 2.0.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/M01/17
Project Title: A systematic examination of the neural correlates of subjective time perception with fMRI and tDCS
Principal Investigator: Dr LI Wang-on (Shue Yan)

The ability to measure the passage of time is a crucial survival skill. However, it is well known that the subjective experience of time is not the same as its true duration. Factors influencing the subjective experience of time include physical stimuli and an individual’s cognitive and emotional states. Most people either overestimate or underestimate time. Thus, an individual’s normal timing system is easily affected by surrounding factors, yet it is highly important for daily life. Consequently, researchers are very interested in the mechanisms of human perceptions of time.

The attentional gate model is the most common conceptual framework in studies of subjective time perception. It has three major components: a pacemaker that periodically generates mental ticks, a gate switch monitor that counts these ticks and an accumulator that accrues the counts. The accumulator works closely with memory to affect decisions about the passage of time and relevant behaviour. This conceptual framework provides the basis for hypotheses regarding how various factors affect subjective time perception. Although its utility has been well established, the attentional gate model has been criticised for its lack of neurophysiological support; few studies have attempted to systematically identify its components and their neural correlates. Recent studies of animals provide support for the alternative striatal beat frequency theory (SBF), which explains the neural correlates of subjective time perception in terms of dopaminergic connections between brain regions.

This proposed study will examine two potential neural correlates of subjective time perception to test hypotheses formulated based on the attentional gate model. Previous studies have established that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is associated with working memory tasks and that there is a correlation between activity in the cerebellum and the timing of tasks. An fMRI study will first be conducted to confirm that these two cortical regions are activated during the execution of a time bisection task. It is hypothesised that if these areas are the neural correlates of the attentional gate model, perturbing the neural activities within these areas may change subjective time perception. To perturb neural activities in a noninvasive way, this proposed study will use transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). If the two areas (DLPFC and cerebellum) are indeed the anatomical loci of subjective time perception, then perturbing their activities will influence subjective time experience. Otherwise, the stimulation will not influence the participant’s subjective time experience or will only result in a non-specific influence related to the tingling sensation caused by the tDCS.

The participants will complete two tasks, a time bisection task to measure subjective time experience and an attention network task (ANT) to provide an alternative behavioural measurement. The attentional gate model is a conceptual framework for understanding attention and working memory. If tDCS perturbation influences time perception in the manner predicted by the attentional gate model, then a corresponding influence will be detectable in attention-related tasks, as these are both components of the model. ANT will provide performance measurements of alerting, orienting and executive control. We expect that tDCS perturbation will lead to ANT results that align with changes in the perceived duration.

In summary, the proposed study will explore the possibility of causally manipulating subjective time experience using tDCS perturbation. We will first use an fMRI study to confirm that our selected cortical areas are activated during a time bisection task. Specific hypotheses will be drawn based on the attentional gate model. In addition to a time bisection task, ANT will be administered to provide an alternative measurement of performance related to the attentional gate model. The findings will offer novel evidence for the physiological basis of time perception, will test the attentional gate model and will provide a framework for future studies in the field.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B09/17
Project Title: Crafting for better or worse? An empirical investigation on different foci of employee job crafting behaviors
Principal Investigator: Dr LIAO YI (HSMC)

Organizations are continuously striving for ways to motivate employees’ initiatives that benefit workplace functioning. In the process, job crafting has been receiving increasing attention from management researchers and practitioners. Job crafting refers to employees’ voluntary behaviors in changing the task, relational or cognitive elements of their jobs (Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001). To enhance favorable job experiences and fulfill personal needs, employees craft their jobs by making decisions about how much to engage in tasks, how frequently to communicate with colleagues, or what professional image they wish to build. Effective crafting behaviors not only have positive implications for employee themselves, but also for organizations and other stakeholders. One oversight in the literature however, is that previous studies have largely focused on just one type of consequence from job crafting, namely how employees change their task-related elements (e.g., whether or not to seek challenging tasks, or how much personal time to invest in accomplishing job tasks). The manner in which employees craft their jobs with a relationship orientation remains much less investigated. Furthermore, interesting yet critical questions in need of exploration are how and to what extent job crafting may exert favorable or unfavorable effects. As job crafting has a multifaceted nature, employees may choose to change job elements merely for self-serving purposes (e.g. only performing tasks that are noticeable to managers and ignoring important but less-noticeable duties). In such cases, organizational interests will be harmed. On the contrary, employees may craft their jobs with purposes of enhancing workplace effectiveness, which may in turn generate more positive results.

To address these research gaps, the proposed study has three purposes. First, it seeks to broaden the investigation on job crafting consequences by incorporating both favorable and unfavorable outcomes. In addition, this study will explore two different foci of employees in the crafting process (i.e., task-focused crafting and people-focused crafting), which may ultimately relate to different patterns of outcomes. Guided by the motivational goal framework (Barrick, Stewart, & Piotrowski, 2002), we argue that job crafting in a task-focused direction would enhance an employee’s overall task effectiveness while job crafting with a people-focus (e.g., regarding establishing relationships as more important) would facilitate relationship building outcomes. Lastly, this study will identify and examine a critical boundary condition of employee integrity under which employees’ job crafting behavior may relate to positive or negative outcomes. We argue that when employees craft job elements with a high integrity level, they are more likely to bring forth constructive effects to themselves and coworkers. On the other hand, job crafting with a low level of integrity would relate to more destructive consequences such as poor relationships with coworkers.

To test the proposed moderated mediation model, this study will adopt a three-wave, multi-sourced method to collect empirical data. Research findings will serve as a springboard for future studies on the topic of employee job crafting.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/B02/17 (Withdrawn)
Project Title: Impact of XBRL on market efficiency: Evidence from an emerging market
Principal Investigator: Prof LIU Chunhui (Caritas)


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/E01/17
Project Title: Self-adaptive Collective Motion of Swarm Robots
Principal Investigator: Dr LIU Hai (HSMC)

Robotics technologies are advancing rapidly. Groups of robots have been developed that can communicate with each other using wireless transmissions and form robot swarms. Applications of these swarms include surveillance, search and rescue, mining, agricultural foraging, autonomous military units and distributed sensing in micromachinery or human bodies. For example, swarm robots can be sent into the places that are too dangerous for human workers and detect life-signs via infrared sensors. In all of these applications, a group of self-propelled robots move in a cohesive way (i.e., connectivity is preserved during these movements). Such behavior is usually referred to as collective motion. This research aims to design self-adaptive collective motion algorithms for swarm robots in 3D space. The algorithms are expected to be self-adaptive in the sense that robots will be able to dynamically determine proper moving parameters, based on their environments and statuses. Using the proposed collective motion algorithms, robots will be able to move along a pre-planned path from a source to a destination while satisfying the following requirements. 1) The robots will use only one-hop neighbor information. 2) The robots will maintain connectivity of the network topology for information exchange. 3) The robots will maintain a desired neighboring distance. 4) The robots will be capable of bypassing obstacles without partitioning the robot swarm (i.e., member loss). We will develop collective motion algorithms for the following three cases: 1) no obstacles and no leader, 2) no obstacles with a leader; and 3) with obstacles (with and without a leader). We will conduct extensive experiments in testbed robots to examine the performance of the algorithms in practical applications.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/H11/17
Project Title: How do students perform and perceive translation tasks in corpus-assisted translation settings? –A quantitative and qualitative study on the potential and problems of using corpus in specialized translation teaching in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Dr LIU Kanglong (Shue Yan)

As suggested by its name, corpus-assisted translation pedagogy is placed within a triangle formed by at least three distinct but not discrete disciplines: corpus linguistics, translation and pedagogy. The merits of a corpus have been recognised by a number of translation scholars who have taken a strong interest in translation pedagogy. The cross-fertilisation between corpora and teaching has resulted in an exponential increase in research advocating the adoption of corpora in translation teaching (Bernardini 2000, 2004; Bernardini, Stewart & Zanettin 2003; Maia 2003; Beeby et al. 2009; Kübler 2011; Mu & Zhu 2013; Liu 2015). I have done a critical review of the application of corpora in translation teaching settings (Liu 2014). By examining the contrasting perspectives and viewpoints on the application of corpora to translation teaching, it is argued that gaps remain and research in this area can be further strengthened. In particular, I specifically point out that: (1) Most of the existing research is based on European languages and the claims are yet to be testified in other language settings (e.g., English to Chinese). In particular, there is a lack of empirical research in Chinese settings. (2) Notwithstanding the obvious advantages of parallel corpora, research at this stage more or less comes under the constraints of the under-availability of sizable parallel corpora that are developed especially for pedagogical applications (cf. Beeby et al. 2009). (3) Research in this area is predominantly derived from conceptual deliberation or personal experience rather than systematic, longitudinal-empirical studies.

In this era of globalisation, there is an increasing need in the market for specialised translation, which accounts for more than 90% of all the translation work in the market (Chan 2015, p. 44). For this reason, I see an urgent and imperative need to construct a pedagogically-oriented platform for specialised translation teaching in Hong Kong. The construction of such a corpus platform is conducive to enhancing the competence of translation students, thereby bridging the gap between academia and industry.

The proposed research project will consist of two major phases, which can overlap.

The first phase will be the construction of a Web-based interactive teaching platform. The platform will have the following key features: (1) a supporting Web-based CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) and user-friendly GUI (Graphical User Interface); (2) integrating both monolingual and parallel corpora and capable of displaying occurrences in KWIC (Key Word in Context) form; (3) including a number of genres related to specialised translation; (4) able to display search results in expanded texts, e.g., the search keywords can be displayed in context at the paragraph or textual level; (4) allowing users to construct their own corpora (either monolingual or parallel) from external sources using the platform; and (5) enabling users to upload their assignments to the platform for teachers’ marking and cross-referencing among the students.

The second phase will involve the assessment and testing of the corpus platform and its sub-components. With this purpose in mind, we will plan to recruit 40 translation students to take part in a range of surveys, semi-structured focus groups and translation experiments (one pre-test and two post-tests consisting of an E-C and a C-E translation experiment). Students will be divided into a control and an experimental group based on their translation level obtained from the pre-test. It is hypothesised that the experimental group will enhance their specialised translation competence using the corpus platform. For evaluating the effectiveness of the corpus platform, a mixed methods design will be adopted. A quantitative method will be used to analyse the students’ translation tasks in the experiments using SPSS statistics. A qualitative method will be applied to examine the students’ perceptions and evaluations of the corpus platform using open-ended surveys and semi-structured interviews in the form of focus groups.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E16/17
Project Title: Synthesis of PHAs using Carbon Source from Ferrous Activated Persulfate Oxidation combined with Alkaline Fermentation of Excessive Activated Sludge
Principal Investigator: Dr LIU Yaohui (THEi)

Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are considered to be one type of promising biodegradable plastics because their thermal and mechanical properties are similar to thermal plastic then offer better application. The major obstacle that hinders large-scale application of PHAs is the high production cost, including the carbon source cost and the low production yield. Studies carried out by our research team found that the PHAs can be accumulated within the bacteria in activated sludge and the production yield had been greatly improved under appropriate Carbon to Nitrogen (C:N) Ratio and Carbon to Phosphorus (C:P) Ratio. The findings suggested the PHAs production is able to combine with wastewater treatment. However, high carbon source consumption is still required for a higher production yield to offer substrate pressure for PHAs accumulation. On other hand, wastewater treatment plants produce tons of excessive activated sludge (EAS) to send to landfill sites. Recent years, advanced oxidation process (AOP) methods have been widely used to improve the efficiency of sludge fermentation and persistent chemical oxidation. Among the sludge various fermentation methods, ferrous activated persulfate oxidation method offers appropriate duration and strong oxidation effects to digest the EAS to be short-chain fatty acids(SCFAs) for PHAs production. To lower down the PHAs production cost, this study aims to reused the digested excessive activated sludge from wastewater process for PHAs synthesis.

Excessive Activated Sludge (EAS) samples will be digested with persulfate and ferrous ions together with citric acid to determine the optimal concentration based on the digestion of extracellular polymeric substance (EPS) and intracellular substances detected by Three-dimensional excitation–emission matrix (EEM) fluorescence spectroscopy. The optimized digested samples will be used to adjusted the C:N ratio for PHAs production.

The outcomes from this study will provide significant improvements of alkaline fermentation efficiency, reduce the EAS disposal and further lower down the production cost of PHAs.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E04/17
Project Title: The mechanism study of mass transfer in the liquid desiccant dehumidifier and regenerator with experiment and molecular dynamics simulation
Principal Investigator: Dr LUO Yimo (THEi)

Air humidity affects building materials, the occupants’ thermal comfort in the building and the work performed by them. Excess moisture can lead to mold and mildew, affecting indoor air quality. Humidity control, therefore, is important and since dehumidification consumes much energy (up to one third of all cooling energy in humid climates), it is important that the process is as efficient as possible.

Amongst different dehumidification technologies, the liquid desiccant dehumidification is promising. Moisture in the process air is absorbed by cold strong liquid desiccant as it flows downwards in a dehumidifier. The weak liquid desiccant is then collected and re-generated in a regenerator by solar energy or waste heat to remove the absorbed moisture. The dehumidifier and regenerator therefore play great roles in the performance of air dehumidification.

During the research, an interesting phenomenon had drawn our attention. That is, the average overall mass-transfer coefficient in the dehumidifier was much greater than that in the regenerator. But the phenomenon did not cause enough attention. The underlying reasons were still unrevealed, which might be good pointcuts for enhancing the performance of the dehumidifier and regenerator, and further decreasing the energy consumption of air dehumidification. On the one hand, experimental study is necessary to clearly explain this phenomenon from macroscopic scale. On the other hand, the fast development of computer technology make it more available to apply the molecular dynamics simulation technology to investigate the complicated behaviors at the two phase interface and the corresponding microscopic characteristic of mass transfer in the devices.

Based on the investigation, this project aims to study and reveal the mechanism of the mass transfer in the liquid desiccant dehumidifier and regenerator with experiment and molecular dynamics simulation. A novel mathematical model will be proposed, on the basis of the molecular dynamics model, for more accurate prediction of the mass transfer at the air-liquid desiccant interface from macroscopic scale. Besides, some guidelines beneficial to the design and operation of the system will be put forward through comprehensive comparison and analysis. It is believed that the comprehensive understanding of the mass transfer mechanism at air-liquid desiccant interface will be meaningful in enhancing the mass transfer, reducing the regenerator temperature, and improving the system performance. More importantly, the methods can also be applied in other industrial devices, such as heat exchangers, evaporators, condensers and absorption towers, to improve their performance.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/H21/17 (Withdrawn)
Project Title: The Effectiveness of Crisis Communication Strategies on the Public's Reaction: The Moderating Role of Media Crisis Framing and an Organization's Prior Reputation
Principal Investigator: Dr LYU Joanne Chen (HSMC)


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/E06/17
Project Title: Design of Flexible Vehicle Management Systems for Mass Customised and Sustainable Paratransit Services
Principal Investigator: Dr MO Yiu-wing (HSMC)

Given the current ageing population and limited social welfare expenditure, scholars are renewing their interests in how community organisations can operate to sustainably serve various needs of people with travel inconvenience in society. This research aims to design flexible vehicle management systems that enhance the management of various paratransit services through better system design and optimisation of vehicle resources.

The study scope of paratransit services includes schedule route, dial-a-ride, feeder and pooled dial-a-ride. Users who require those services have different expectations for travelling times, prices, service frequencies as well as pick-up and drop-off locations. This variety of service requirements poses numerous new challenges for community organisations to sustain paratransit services. Hence, it is essential to innovate options for a holistic approach to coordinating various types of service in a common sharing platform, which meet people’s diverse needs in a more efficient way. We expect the outcomes of this research would support the policy review and operational improvements for community organisations.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/H02/17
Project Title: The Rise of Youth Activism
Principal Investigator: Dr NG Vitrierat (THEi)

The study of The Rise of Youth Activism aims at understanding of how the youth participates in political actions in both institutional and non-institutional contexts. Although it is obvious that more youngsters have actively joined political actions since 2007, there are only few systematic analyses conducted on youth activism in Hong Kong. In order to understand this phenomenon, the current study is divided into two parts:

In the institutional context, we will study the past results in Legislative Council Elections and District Council Elections by quantitative methods such as survey among university students. This will provide original data for understanding the youth political orientation in voting. In the non-institutional context, we will conduct qualitative analysis such as in-depth interviews of young activists in different political groups and protests. Focus will be on how these youngsters understand the social, political and economic environment and how they make sense of their political participation particularly joining radical actions. It is hope that this study will help the government and other public institutions to formulate appropriate policies to address the concerns of the younger generation.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/B05/17
Project Title: Working with Emotionally Intelligent People: I am ‘Energized to’ be More Proactive
Principal Investigator: Dr PENG Kelly Zheng-min (Shue Yan)

Working with emotionally intelligent teammates is more enjoyable and productive than working with emotionally unintelligent teammates. Emotional intelligence (EI) can be briefly defined as the ability to handle emotions and emotional issues. We are well informed that emotions are inherently social functional and that EI can lead to better social interactions. However, the research to date has largely been limited to the impact of a focal employee’s EI on his/her own attitudes and behaviour. We are keen on the knowledge about the interpersonal process of EI, how the influences of teammates’ EI happen, on the focal employee at the workplace, which may contribute to the literature significantly. At the same time, the changing nature of work and organisations has challenged traditional views of how employees perform at work. With the increasing interdependence and uncertainty of work systems, proactivity—self-initiating, future-oriented behaviour to change work situations—is becoming crucial to employees’ performance. Under such situations, how teammates and the focal employee understand and manage emotions in social interactions are even more crucial for initiating and implementing changes in team context. Unfortunately, there is limited knowledge about the interpersonal process of EI on proactivity in the team context.

Parker, Bindl and Strauss (2010) identify ‘energized to’ as the key direct affect pathway influencing proactivity. In this process, affect is functional and ‘energize’ individuals to become proactive. We posit that this pathway explains how EI has interpersonal effects on proactivity in a team environment. According to the theory of EI (Mayer, & Salovey, 1997), EI of both teammate’s and focal employee can help the focal employee nurture positive affect and/or reduce negative affect. Meanwhile, the proactivity literature shows that positive and negative affect may motivate or sometimes demotivate the focal employee to be proactive. Building on theory of EI and the motivational process of proactivity, the proposed research will focus on the interpersonal process of EI’s on proactivity. That is, we will aim to investigate how teammates’ EI influences a focal employee’s proactivity in the team context. Specifically, the proposed research will test how team composition of EI influences a focal employee’s positive and negative affect, which in turn influences his/her proactive behaviour.

Additionally, the focal employee’s EI will act as a moderator in the interpersonal process according to theory of EI and the motivational process of proactivity. One’s own EI determines how one interprets and deals with teammate’s emotional information and one’s own emotional experience. Thus, the focal employee’s EI is an important condition to both the team composition of EI and affect link and the affect and proactivity link. By taking consideration of focal employee’s EI, the proposed research aims to provide a comprehensive picture of the relationship between teammates’ EI and proactivity and how the interpersonal process works under different level of focal employee’s EI. This will further enlighten future research on the interpersonal processes of EI in workplaces.

To test the interpersonal process model of EI and proactivity, we conducted a pilot study to preliminarily explore the interpersonal influence of EI in a team setting. Based on the positive results, we propose to conduct a longitudinal field survey to formally test the proposed model. We believe the research may contribute to the EI, affect and proactivity literature, and provide managerial implications for managing employee EI and proactivity in the workplace. Even if applied to interpret the Hong Kong workforce with the high interdependence and uncertainty, the research would be of significant pedagogical value.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS22/H01/17
Project Title: Amendment to Yang Bojun’s Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu
Principal Investigator: Prof SIN Chow-yiu (Nang Yan)

Yang Bojun’s 楊伯峻 (1909-1992) Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu 春秋左傳注 (Glosses on the Zuozhuan), which comprises 4 volumns and 1736 pages, has received critical acclaim from the academia since its inception. It is thus far the best exegesis on the study of the Zuozhuan 左傳. Besides drawing from the best of previous research, Yang also put forward his own original contributions. Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu is therefore unmatched by later exegeses.

But even the best minds cannot be exempted from errors, so there appear many articles raising issues in the Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu. Yet these articles still leave many issues untouched. The present research project attempts to produce a comprehensive corrigendum of Yang’s book that can provide reliable reference for Chunqiu 春秋 and Zuozhuan researchers.

Furthermore, advance in computer technology allows the insertion of scanned archaic characters into footnotes. This helps readers to better understanding the text. Such a method may also be applied to the study of other traditional classics.

Another important task of this project is to identify loanwords that have escaped Yang’s attention, and through expounding the phonetic relations among characters, it can enhance readers’ understanding of the Zuozhuan. The present project will re-examine the phonetic conditions for loanwords through examples in Zuozhuan. This has great importance for the study of all classical texts.

Many silk and bamboo scripts have been excavated since the latter half of the 20th century, and a number of them provide useful references to the study of Zuozhuan.

New attempts to understand Zuozhuan passages through anthropology and ethnology have also been proposed, and they will be thoroughly examined in the present study.

According to our preliminary estimate, the number of amendments necessary for the Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu exceeds two thousand. Our proposed erratum for this classic is therefore a meaningful contribution to the field.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/H06/17
Project Title: Literary Movement and Political Instrument: Yuan Zhen’s Transformation of Imperial Documents
Principal Investigator: Dr TAN Mei-ah (HSMC)

Yuan Zhen 元稹 (779-831), an essential figure in the literary and political history of Tang China, was a pivotal poet-official who shared great literary fame with his contemporary Bai Juyi 白居易 (772-846). Reaching the apex of his career during Muzong’s 穆宗 (795-824, r. 820-824) reign, he was entrusted with writing imperial documents for the emperor. From 820 to 822, he composed at least 143 pieces that constitute a major portion of his prose. These writings are little studied, but are worth examining because they revolutionized the genre and played a significant role in the so-called “Ancient Prose Movement,”, while also serving as a powerful instrument of politics. They contain a wealth of information that sheds light on the political, social, and literary atmosphere of Tang China.

The objective of this project is to produce the first book-length manuscript in English on these documents. It takes a cross-disciplinary approach that combines history and literature to analyze their political and social implications, prose rhetoric, relations with intellectual movements and the promotion of ancient-style prose in the mid-Tang, and ultimately their use as a means of governance. It also disputes the current scholarship, which considers Yuan’s imperial documents to be written in a straightforward, truthful style. This study will advance the current understanding of Tang literature, politics, and cultural history, as well as shedding light on the use of literary skill for administration.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS13/H01/17
Project Title: An analytical compilation of Chinese couplets on structures in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Prof TANG Chiu-kay (Chu Hai)

The couplet is an important Chinese cultural heritage. It is a combination of the artistry of using the Chinese language in a poetic manner and writing the Chinese characters in a beautiful way. Couplets are often composed for important occasions like the Spring Festival, weddings, birthdays, and funerals in Chinese communities worldwide. We can often find couplets in places like Chinese gardens, temples, pavilions, and graveyards. Since the Tang Dynasty, numerous excellent couplets have been composed. However, all the books on the history of Chinese literature have paid no attention to this genre. Books on Hong Kong literature, written by Mainland and local authors, have been published since the end of the last century but none of them have examined the hundreds of thousands of good couplets composed locally.

Since 2014, Hong Kong scholars have started to publish the voluminous Great Series of Hong Kong Literature 1919-1949 . As the chief editor of the Great Series has indicated in the preface that there has as yet been no book on the history of Hong Kong literature written from a local perspective, it is hoped that this Series would serve as the foundation for the composition of such a book. This twelve-volume Series is an anthology of works covering prose, fiction, literary criticism, new poetry, children’s literature, popular literature, and classical literature. It includes a whole volume devoted solely to works written in the classical style by local authors because the chief editor realizes that the large amount of poems and essays written in the classical style by Hong Kong intellectuals is an important expression of the literature and culture of Hong Kong. However, this volume only collects prose, and shi and ci poems written in the classical style, couplets are not included.

Hong Kong has numerous places, sites, or historic buildings which are adorned with couplets. Many of these couplets are not only very well-composed by famous writers but also very well-written by famous calligraphers. Information on the history, culture, and anecdotes of the literary arena of Hong Kong provided with these couplets may contribute to a better understanding of local history, customs and behaviour of the inhabitants. The proposed research aims to salvage this precious part of Hong Kong literature, art, and culture by recording couplets posted or inscribed on outdoor and indoor structures before they are destroyed in the course of time.

There are two opposite views on the rules of tonal and rhythmic patterns for couplet composition. Some scholars believe that there are no hard and fast rules in composing couplets apart from the alternate use of oblique and level tones in the last words of the lines. Another group of scholars insists that there are stringent rules in couplet composition in respect of tonal and rhythmic patterns. A representative example of this group is Yu Dequan, the propounder of the theory of horse hoof rhythm in couplet composition. The couplets found on structures in Hong Kong are usually composed in a more serious manner by the literati. They adhere to the rules of composition, if any, more closely than couplets written by the ordinary people on occasions like wedding or birthday parties. Therefore, an analytical study of a substantial quantity of these couplets may give a better understanding of the theory of couplet composition.

The couplet is an integral component of local literature, therefore books on the history of Hong Kong literature will not be complete if couplets are not discussed. Local scholars can start to write our own books on the history of Hong Kong literature only if they have the necessary materials at hand. It is hoped that the outcome of the proposed research would serve such a purpose.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS12/B01/17
Project Title: A study of examining cognitive determinants and conative behaviors of users in gaming apps
Principal Investigator: Dr TANG Kit-yee (Centennial)

The mobile gaming app market is a multibillion-dollar space. The app game Pokémon GO, for example, has become a worldwide phenomenon not only as a social sensation but as a high profitable business model. While most mobile gaming apps are free to download, companies can earn profits from in-app advertising that generates revenue from advertisers. The total number of players in a game illustrates its profit capacity because the greater the player population, the more advertisers will come and contribute to the profit. While word of mouth (WOM) is essential to increase player population, keeping current players is also of paramount importance. It is thus important to investigate the cognitive determinants of the conative behavior (intention to continue playing and WOM).

Utilizing the theoretical lens of self-determination theory and goal framing theory, this study aims to investigate and develop an intervening mediation model of cognitive determinants (social influence, perceived enjoyment, and sense of achievement) and conative behaviors (intention to continue playing and WOM). This study seeks to advance knowledge in the gaming app business literature and its linkage to self-determination theory and goal framing theory. The work on establishing and validating theoretical constructs should lay a foundation for future development of gaming app business research by drawing researchers’ attention to this area. The theoretical framework also provides guidelines to practitioners who plan to enter the lucrative app game market.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/P06/17
Project Title: Alternative Item Count Techniques for Sensitive Survey Questions: Theories and Methods
Principal Investigator: Prof TANG Man-lai (HSMC)

One of the most important challenges in modern survey measurement is the elicitation of truthful answers to sensitive questions about behavior and attitudes (e.g., abortion, illegal drug use and racial prejudice). It has long been well known that accessing information regarding a sensitive characteristic in a population usually induces two notorious issues, namely non-response bias (i.e., respondents refuse to collaborate in the fear of the protection of their confidentiality) and response bias (e.g., respondents answer the sensitive questions but give false answers), which usually induce estimate’s efficiency loss, inflated sampling variance, and biased estimates. Therefore, techniques that guarantee anonymity, minimize the respondents’ feelings of jeopardy, and encourage honest answers are of great demand. In this project, we propose several practical generalizations for the famous item count techniques for sensitive survey questions.

Poisson ICT has recently been developed to overcome the shortages of the conventional item count techniques (ICTs) by replacing the list of independent innocuous (binary) statements by a single innocuous (Poisson) statement. Despite various attractive advantages, Poisson ICT still possesses some limitations. First, it is assumed that respondents will comply with the survey design. Second, it is assumed that the outcome of the innocuous statement follows the less practical Poisson distribution. Third, no regression model has been developed for binary sensitive outcomes.

In this proposal, we plan to
(i) (New Poisson ICT with Non-Compliance) Develop a new Poisson ICT that takes the non-compliance from the respondents into consideration;
(ii) (New Inflated-Zero Poisson ICT) Develop a new Poisson-type ICT that allows the outcome of the innocuous statement follows the more realistic inflated-zero Poisson distribution; and
(iii) (Regression Modeling with Sensitive Outcome) Develop a regression model for binary sensitive outcomes.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E09/17
Project Title: Treatment and Catalytic Upgrading of Mixed Oil Wastes and Wood/Paper Wastes to Transportation Fuels in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Dr TSANG Chi-wing (THEi)

Non-recyclable solid wastes such as contaminated paper, wood and cardboard, polystyrene packaging is a problem to the recycling industry since they must either be directed to landfills or incineration plants. One of the major contaminant should be the food waste and the related edible oil waste, as food wastes constitute a major part of the municipal solid wastes (~40%). Food wastes are therefore always mixed with various types of other waste materials such as paper, wood and plastic wastes from packaging materials, thus complicating the waste separation and recycling processes. On the other hand, in paper recycling industry, paper soiling with food and oil can be a serious issue. Paper and boxes are always inevitably contaminated with, e.g. food grease, wasted edible oil, thus making the paper no longer be recyclable. Examples are soiled paper napkins, food boxes, etc. The process for sorting between the recyclable and non-recyclable paper can be costly. The non-recyclable waste paper/wood will inevitably be sent to landfills. In this project, we attempt to devise a catalytic system which can chemically degrade oil wastes and wood wastes simultaneously such that non-recyclables could be turned into valuables. The degradation of oil, paper and wood wastes share a common features, i.e. C-O bond cleavage and oxygen removal, it could be economical if the different wastes could be processed together to produce useful chemicals such as transportation fuels. We aim at the fundamental study on the simultaneous degradation of triglycerides (from oil wastes) and cellulose/lignin (from paper/wood) by cleaving suitable C-O bonds using heterogeneous catalysis method. Depending on the outcomes, the products can further be upgraded to various types of transportation fuels such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuels by catalytic distillation and at the same time, the technology could be applied in turning non-recyclable paper/wood wastes into valuables and relieve the burden of landfills for the years to come. In order to advance this catalytic technologies, the PI will collaborate with the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Dalian University of Technology and the Southwest Research Institute for technical and experimental supports, aiming to reach the following objectives:
1) To develop an effective and synergistic catalytic system for the simultaneous degradation of a) waste oils from food wastes and b) cellulose and lignin from wood wastes by fundamental study of the simultaneous C-O bonds cleavage, which is not studied before;
2) To propose a sustainable solution to relieve the landfill overburden problems: turn non-recyclables into valuables, which would otherwise goes to landfills;
3) According to a statistics in 2013, only about 1% of the collected recyclable wastes are actually treated and “recycled” to useful products, not to mention those non-recyclable wastes. Moreover, the remaining recyclable wastes are mostly exported mainly to China and other countries. Therefore, we aim at raising the level of public interest on the value of wastes, especially wood wastes and how they could be turned into higher value commodities.
4) To develop a sustainable pathway for the recycling industry. It is known that only by exporting the recyclable wastes could not make a sustainable development for the local recycling industry because of no value added. Since recycling cost is far more expensive than the cost of exporting materials, motivation can only be activated by converting recyclables into higher value products or commodities.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E07/17
Project Title: Development of a high-efficiency and low-cost UV-LED/chlorine process for removal of antibiotic resistant bacteria and their resistance genes in municipal wastewater disinfection
Principal Investigator: Dr WANG Chao (THEi)

The overuse and misuse of antibiotics for human and veterinary infection leads to the wide dissemination of bacterial resistance in the community and the environment. Antibiotic resistance (AR) has become an emerging global health concern. Municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are resources of antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) spread to the environment owing to fluid mixtures of bacteria, abundant nutrients and antimicrobial agents. Also, ARGs conjugative transfer is reported to take place in WWTPs. However, conventional WWTPs target to remove nutrients (e.g., C, P, and N) and pathogens, and do not target ARB or ARGs. The primary and biological treatment processes in WWTPs have limited contribution on treatment of AR, which replies the crucial role of effective wastewater disinfection. Available research showed that the commonly applied disinfection processes in WWTPs such as UV or chlorine could probably cause the reduction of ARB or ARGs concentrations, but could not completely remove AR. In addition, ARB or ARGs showed selectivity towards UV disinfection and chlorination. The combined process of UV irradiation and chlorination is more effective in disinfection than the single process, which is achieved by the generation of active radicals, a synergetic effect via activating the target pollutants by chlorination toward UV photodegradation, and the residue chlorine for secondary disinfection. Nowadays, mercury-free light-emitting diodes for ultraviolet (UV-LEDs) have emerged as a promising alternative of the conventional mercury lamps, because UV-LEDs are more compact in size and durable than the mercury lamps. With the further technology development and advancement, the wall plug efficacy and lifetimes of UV-LEDs are predicted to achieve 75% and 100,000 hours, respectively, with a price reduction by 40% in 2020. Moreover, the specific features of UV-LEDs, such as adaptability of emitting radiation at any specific wavelength, multiple wavelengths and pulsed illumination will provide possibilities for the UV-LED/chlorine process to achieve more efficient disinfection. Wastewater matrix including effluent organic matter (EfOM), suspended solids (SS), ammonium, pH and alkalinity might impact the disinfection efficiency of the UV-LED/chlorine process via consuming chlorine or UV, reducing the light transmission and even scavenging the active radicals. In this study, we intend to obtain the optimized operational parameters in terms of way of chlorine addition, disinfectant dose, and UV-LED wavelength by the UV-LED/chlorine process in removal of ARB or ARGs and alleviation of ARGs conjugative transfer. Furthermore, the impacts of UV-LED’s specific features such as multiple wavelengths and pulsed illumination on the removal of ARB or ARGs and alleviation of ARGs conjugative transfer will be examined. A critical understanding of the wastewater matrix on the performance of the UV-LED/chlorine process will allow us to suggest the operational conditions of this innovative disinfection process for real wastewater disinfection, either for direct discharge or for wastewater reuse.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/E07/17
Project Title: Configuration-based recommendation for online product customization in e-commerce
Principal Investigator: Dr WANG Yue (HSMC)

E-commerce accounts for a large proportion of total retail spending worldwide and continues to expand rapidly. The customised products segment is one of the highest growth areas. Companies extend their business from traditional standard products to customised products that better satisfy their customers’ requirements. In contrast to traditional product design-make-sell development cycles, e-commerce platforms provide online configuration systems and product recommendation systems to address customer requirements. However, these systems may not fit the context of product customisation due to different customer needs elicitation and recommendation procedures.

A configuration-then-recommendation mechanism is proposed in this project to meet the challenges. The mechanism firstly elicits customer needs by asking customers to specify the most relevant product attribute. Then the most likely accepted product variants are recommended based on each product variant’s marginal relevance. The proposed methodology 1) requires minimal input from customers, 2) does not require prior knowledge about customers and 3) does not require customer expertise about the product.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/H05/17
Project Title: A Study of Edo Annotated Editions of Du Fu’s Eight-line Regulated Verse
Principal Investigator: Dr WONG Chi-hung (OUHK)

Not only is Du Fu’s (杜甫, 712-770) poetry influential in China, it has also attracted the eyeballs of countless readers worldwide. In the history of Chinese literary criticism, a myriad of literati have attempted to annotate Du Fu’s poetry, and figuratively mentioned in the field of Du Fu studies “Du [Fu’s poetry] is annotated by a thousand specialists” (qianjia zhudu 千家注杜). These annotations have greatly shaped our understanding of Du Fu and his poetry, as well as the evolution of Du Fu studies in later generations. Recently, some of the ancient annotated editions of Du Fu’s poetry have been collated and published.

Du Fu’s poetry illustrates the decline of the Tang dynasty (618–907) through abundant content, in which many scholars believe that he is the greatest Chinese poet of all times and have been fervently exploring his life and poetry. By studying the commentaries made by a numbers of annotators, researchers are able to both probe the hidden meanings and metaphors of Du Fu’s poetry and examine the academic style of different times and different commentators.

It is true that ever since Du Fu’s poetry was introduced to Japan, the Japanese literati have shown profound interest in citing his poetry in their Chinese poetic writings and interpreting his writing style. In the Edo period (1603-1868), Shao Fu’s (邵傅, fl. 1587) Collected Explanations on Du’s Eight-line Regulated Verse (Dulu Jijie 《杜律集解》) has been imported and translated, and this book, simply put, is an annotated introduction to Du Fu’s eight-line regulated verse (lushi 律詩). Edo sinologists have also critically annotated Du Fu’s poetry based on Shao Fu’s works. These annotated editions are Utsunomiya Ton’an’s (宇都宮遯庵, 1634–1710) Supplementary to Collected Explanations on Du’s Eight-line Regulated Verse (Gōto zōkō Toritsu shūge 《鼇頭增廣杜律集解》), Daiten Kenjō’s (大典顯常, 1719–1801) Elucidations of Du’s Eight-line Regulated Verse (Toritsu hakki 《杜律發揮》), and Tsusaka Tōyō’s (津阪東陽, 1757–1825) Detailed Explanations on Du’s Eight-line Regulated Verse (Toritsu shōkai 《杜律詳解》).

Although many studies have shed light on Du Fu based on materials found in Asia, the Japanese materials have not yet been thoroughly explored. This project thus aims at collating and annotating the three Japanese annotated editions mentioned above, to dig out the characteristics of Japanese sinology and Du Fu studies, to see how they interpret Du Fu’s poetry, and to examine the relationship between Chinese and Japanese documentology. We will fill these research gaps by introducing Japanese materials to the audiences by delving into the Japanese interpretation, and ultimately presenting the relationship between Chinese and Japanese Du Fu studies, in order to arouse the interest of scholars in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E08/17
Project Title: A Study of Shear Strength and Seismic Performance of Non-seismically Designed Reinforced Concrete Eccentric Beam-Column Joint
Principal Investigator: Dr WONG Ho-fai (THEi)

Reinforced concrete eccentric beam-column joints are common in building structures. It is largely arisen from architectural requirement such as alignment of façade which results in offset of beam center line from the column center line. In addition, due to different use and span of floor, it is normal to have beams of different depths connecting at the same joint. This arrangement induced vertical eccentricity from offset of beam axes. The eccentric beam-column joints are unavoidable in practice as it provides essential benefits to both engineers and architects as their designs always need to satisfy the use of floor and various geometric restrictions.

Seismic performance of non-seismically designed structures has been a hot topic recently. Low to moderate seismic region, such as Hong Kong, has no seismic consideration traditionally, though strong wind design may be incorporated. The seismic risk of these regions is in the case of low probability but high consequence. From post-earthquake investigations, beam-column joint was shown to be one of the most vulnerable regions and its failure induced collapse of many buildings. Seismic performance of non-seismically designed eccentric beam-column joint is, thus, considered to be essential relating to its practical use in existing moment-resisting frame structures. However, there is still lack of consistent approach to evaluate and design such joints from current code of practices and studies.

The primary goal of the proposed study is to perform thorough investigation to understand the seismic behavior and failure mechanisms of reinforced concrete eccentric beam-column joints with consideration of various key parameters. This goal will be achieved by performing experimental study, numerical simulation and analytical investigation. In the experimental study, large scale eccentric beam-column joint specimens will be cast and tested under reversed cyclic loading. Numerical simulation will be followed by using nonlinear finite element analysis. The numerical model, which will be validated by experimental results, will be used to perform parametric studies of joint. Based on the numerical and experimental results, an analytical model will be developed for evaluation and design applications of eccentric beam-column joints.

The research results from this pioneer study can provide better understanding of seismic behavior of non-seismically designed eccentric beam-column joint with consideration of various key parameters. The design recommendations are expected to reduce the seismic risk and benefit the future development for countries those are threatened by earthquakes.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/E03/17
Project Title: Optimizing Analytics Processing in Encrypted Database Systems
Principal Investigator: Dr WONG Wai-kit (HSMC)

Encrypted (relational) database management system (EDBMS) is an important research topic in database-as-a-service (DBaaS) model, where a data owner (DO) stores its data on a cloud database managed by a third-party service provider (SP). SP is responsible to provide hosting and database-related services to DO, e.g., backup management, query processing. There is a security threat that an insider at SP may be compromised by attacker and steals DO's private data. For instance, a rogue DBA has stolen 2.3 millions customer records of a Fortune 500 company, including bank account and credit card information. The idea in EDBMS is to use application level encryption where data is encrypted and decrypted by DO and SP does not have access to the private keys. Without the private keys, a malicious insider at SP can only obtain encrypted information without being able to decrypt them.

Many prototypes of EDBMS are recently developed, e.g., CryptDB/MONOMI developed by MIT, Cipherbase developed by Microsoft, and SDB developed by our team with HKU. One challenge in EDBMS development is that processing over encrypted data at SP is significantly more expensive than processing over plain data. Optimization techniques are important to make EDBMS practical. Encrypted indexing methods were developed and used to support efficient query processing in EDBMS, e.g., Cipherbase developed encrypted B+-tree and SDB uses domain partitioning index, both for optimizing range query processing. However, to our knowledge, existing encrypted indexing methods do not address analytical queries. Without proper optimization, analytical processing can be expensive in EDBMS. Consider the following simple SUM query: SELECT SUM(sales_amount) FROM Sales WHERE sales_date > `1/1/2016' GROUP BY product_ID, shop_ID. The selection (σsales_date > `1/1/2016') can be optimized using existing encrypted indexing structure. We suppose selection processing is efficient. Then, EDBMS needs to take the encrypted `sales_amount' value of every satisfying tuple and performs a summation. Say there are $1$ million tuples satisfying the selection. In Cipherbase, EDBMS ships 1M encrypted values to a trusted machine (TM). TM then decrypts them and performs the summation on plain values. The cost incurred by EDBMS (the additional decryption cost) is significant compared to the summation cost on plain values. This project is the first research work to optimize analytical query processing in EDBMS.

Our plan consists of two phases. In the first phase, we work on optimization for static analytical queries, i.e., improving the efficiency of EDBMS in answering a single analytical query. We plan to use 3 approaches: (i) adopting progressive analytics; (ii) developing indexing structure for exact/approximate aggregation; and (iii) developing encryption methods to support efficient approximate aggregation. The above 3 approaches can be applied together to achieve a highly efficient processing engine in EDBMS. In the second phase, we work on online analytical processing (OLAP) by extending the above 3 approaches to improve user interaction in OLAP operations.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E10/17
Project Title: Development of a novel photocatalytic membrane system for bacteria-resistant organics oxidation in wastewater
Principal Investigator: Dr YAN Yuk-shing (THEi)

The consumption of antibiotics pharmaceutical drugs in 71 countries have increased by 36% over the last decade. Most of the antibiotics cannot be fully metabolized in human body and thus are excreted to the environment through wastewater effluents. Unfortunately, conventional wastewater treatment plants which depend heavily on biological treatments are considered ineffective to remove pharmaceuticals.

One of the popular alternatives is advanced oxidation processes (AOPs). By exciting photocatalyst with various light sources, non-selective hydroxyl radicals can be generated to oxidize most of the complex organics and to mineralize them into harmless inorganic molecules. In particular, TiO2 is the most commonly used photocatalyst which has been studied over decades. However, one of the drawbacks is that it can only be excited under UV irradiation and thus, an additional cost of illumination is needed for wastewater treatment. In order to utilize the free-of-charge solar visible light source, plenty of novel photocatalysts were developed recently in which bismuth oxybromide (BiOBr) showed a very high visible-light response and a stable structure under irradiation. To further enhance the photoreactivity of BiOBr for the degradation of antibiotics, our research team has deposited precious metal gold onto the BiOBr to reduce the chance of photo-excited electron and hole recombination (i.e., a phenomenon which reduces the activity of photocatalyst). Based on the preliminary result, the degradation of norfloxacin under UVA irradiation increased by 20% after the deposition of Au onto BiOBr. In view of the promising result, this study aims to extend the understanding of antibiotic degradation under visible light spectrum and to explore the possibility of using transition metals (i.e., Cu and Fe) to enhance the BiOBr photoreactivity. In addition, this study aims develop a photocatalytic membrane reactor by combining both photocatalytic oxidation and membrane separation into a single treatment process. In short, the bimetallic BiOBr will be deposited onto the surface of an alumina membrane, so that no photocatalysts can be released to the environment causing any adverse impact to the ecosystem. The antibiotics in the wastewater will be degraded on the membrane surface, whereas clean water will pass through the membrane. The success of this project will bring new insights to the realm of catalysis research and membrane science. The proposed design of photocatalytic membrane reactor can also become a reference for the future development of pilot-/industrial-scale photocatalytic system to achieve a better antibiotic degradation. In order to advance the current wastewater treatment technologies, the objectives of this study are:
(1) to improve the outdoor water quality by exploring the feasibility of novel visible light driven photocatalysts for antibiotic degradation;
(2) to deposit different types of metals onto the surface of photocatalysts to enhance their photoreactivity;
(3) to attach the emerging photocatalysts onto a membrane to prevent the nano-sized photocatalysts from discharging into the environment; and
(4) to develop a photocatalytic membrane reactor for a continuous treatment of antibiotic-containing wastewater.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/P02/17
Project Title: Interior Subgradient Methods for Large-scale Quasi-convex Optimization and Their Applications
Principal Investigator: Dr YU Kwok-wai (HSMC)

Quasi-convex optimization is fundamental to the modelling of many problems in application fields such as economics, finance and industrial organization. Large-scale quasi-convex optimization problems are often solved by using projected subgradient methods which have extremely simple formulae and require a very low storage. However, these methods require the assumption that the projection onto the constraint set is easy to calculate, yet they still suffer some of the drawbacks of Euclidean projection, which destroy the descent property and lead to some zigzagging phenomena. On the other hand, the sum of ratios problem has a variety of important applications such as multi-stage stochastic shipping, government contracting, and bond portfolio optimization problems, but it is difficult to globally solve this problem. Exploiting the structure, it can be formulated as a minimization problem of a sum of quasi-convex component functions over its constraints. Hence, there is a great demand for novel subgradient methods that can avoid the difficulties of Euclidean projection and can solve a much broader class of large-scale quasi-convex optimization problems.

In this project, we will first propose an interior subgradient method based on the Bregman function to solve a quasi-convex optimization problem. The main benefit of the interior subgradient method is that it forces the produced sequence to stay within the interior of the constraint set, and thus automatically to eliminate the Euclidean projection. We will investigate its convergence results and convergence rates under the assumptions of the Hölder condition of order p and local weak sharp minima and by using the diminishing and Polyak-type stepsize rules respectively. We will further consider a minimization problem for the sum of a large number of quasi-convex component functions over a closed and convex set, which may not be achieved by the usual quasi-subgradient method for solving quasi-convex optimization problem as the sum of quasi-convex functions is not quasi-convex anymore. We will introduce two interior subgradient-based methods to solve this sum-minimization problem. The first is an incremental approach based on the interior subgradient method, which is to be shown to quickly converge to the global optimal solution; and the second is a stochastic approach based on the interior subgradient method, which is computationally inexpensive even for large-scale optimization problems. Finally, we will apply the proposed interior subgradient methods to solve the reward-risk ratio optimization problem for portfolio selection which is a quasi-concave problem and to solve the multiple Cobb-Douglas production efficiency problem which is a sum-maximization problem of quasi-concave component functions.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/H01/17
Project Title: Fevers of National Learning in 20th century China : Post-enlightenment Phenomena
Principal Investigator: Dr YU Xuying (OUHK)

China in the 20th century has witnessed two “fevers” of national learning (guoxue). One refers to the movement of “Rearranging the National Heritage” (zhengliguogu) in the 1920s; the other is a comprehensive revival of national learning in the academic, public and official fields in the 1990s. The first rise of national learning marks a paradigmatic shift from traditional scholarship to modern scholarship by scientization, specialization, and de-ideologicalization of national learning. The second rise of national learning in the post-socialist condition consists of two parts: the academics’ “scholastic turn” towards the pure, disengaged and standardized national learning of the early 1990s, and a renaissance of Confucianism in the public as well as the state promotions of the late 1990s. From an elitist interpretation of national heritage to popular culture, the second fever has seen a process of popularizing, obscuring, and ideological reinstating of national learning.

Both fevers can be regarded as post-enlightenment phenomena. Appearing near the end of the New Cultural Movement that has been labeled as the enlightenment movement in the modern China, and with the task changing from “repudiating” to “rearranging” Chinese tradition, the first fever signaled a decline of enlightenment discourse. Although proposing a critical examination and systematic re-evaluation of national heritage does not mean a conservative turn, it does reveal Chinese modern intellectuals’ identity shift from the enlightenment thinker to scholar. In response to the post-socialist condition, contemporary intellectuals’ advocacy for replacing intellectual history with the history of scholarship, and pursuing apolitical scholarship, is not only a call of rethinking the enlightenment, but also a silent retreat from the public sphere. The scholastic turn and the regime’s advertising the rejuvenation of national culture together with the commodification of Confucianism, have contributed to the rise of conservatism in the 1990s, which is opposite to the “New Enlightenment” Movement in the 1980s.

By contextualizing and comparing these two fevers, this research sets out to complete three tasks. Firstly, to decode how “national learning” as a discursive-political device has been produced and reproduced with layers of meaning. Secondly, to examine how it opens up strategic possibilities for intellectuals to legitimize themselves, struggle for their positions in multiple-level spaces, and make their mark on history. Thirdly, to sketch the trajectory of the modernity discourse of China shifting its focus from the Western model to an alternative modernity by uncovering the tension between enlightenment and national learning.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS24/H01/17(Withdrawn)
Project Title: Incubation of Third Sector Housing as Contribution to Meet Hong Kong’s Housing Needs
Principal Investigator: Dr YUNG Betty Lock (PolyU SPEED)


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E11/17
Project Title: Development of a method to quantify risks posed by multi-landslide hazards triggered by extreme rainstorm events
Principal Investigator: Dr ZHANG Shuai (THEi)

Landslides have led to a large number of fatalities and are known as a major natural hazard to the public in Hong Kong and a large part of the world. Normally, landslides exhibit several typical mass movement processes such as slides, rock falls, and debris flows. In some cases, the deposits from the slope failures can block a river and form a landslide lake or a barrier called as landslide dam; flooding may occur if the dam breaches. It is possible that one hazard causes a secondary hazard, which in turn triggers a tertiary hazard. Such domino effects, starting from a slide or a rock fall, are called cascading landslide hazards. Extreme cascading landslides occur frequently following an extreme rainstorm. Human risks posed by these cascading landslide hazards can be rather high due to the possible amplification effects of the chain hazards. For example, a severe rainstorm hitting Lantau Island on 7 June 2008 triggered approximately 1,600 natural terrain landslides. Among them, a total of 38 landslides occurred on the hillside above the North Lantau Highway with four of them developing into unexpected channelized debris flows. On 7 August 2010, a huge debris flow was triggered by a rainstorm in Zhouqu City, China. Source materials of the debris flow were mainly from the slope failures in the debris flow gully. The debris flow brought huge amount of sediment into the Bailong River, formed a landslide dam and resulted in the flooding of the Zhouqu City. This catastrophic event killed 1765 people.

Under a changing climate, the annual rainfall in Hong Kong is expected to be more variable and extreme over time. The 30-year average annual total rainfall increased from 2214 mm in 1961-90 to 2398 mm in 1981-2010. It was evident that the scale of natural terrain slope failures, debris flows and flooding would increase drastically under extreme rainfall (Wong 2013), which is beyond the defense provided by the current slope safety system. Failure to anticipate the increased risks caused by the cascading landslides could lead to unexpected losses of human lives and properties. Current risk assessment practices pay little attention to quantifying the increased risk associated with "cascading" events. Cascading landslides involve interactions among the hazards and the vulnerabilities to these hazards. The present structure of risk assessment needs to be improved to include such interactions and to quantify in some manner the interactions and the added risk to human life caused by the cascading events.

The primary objective of this project is to develop a methodology for assessing the risks posed by multi-landslide hazards triggered by extreme events under changing climate conditions. The scientific tasks will include (1) identification of multi-landslide hazard scenarios and their interactions that could be generated; (2) numerical simulation of multi-hazard processes and their interactions under extreme rainstorms; (3) development of an improved framework to quantify the risks posed by cascading landslide hazards, which consider the interactions among the multiple landslide hazards and vulnerabilities to these hazards. The essence of the framework is to anticipate scientifically and prepare for any new intensified hazards, which may otherwise lead to serious social consequences. A detailed case study which involves slope failures, debris flows, river damming and flooding will finally be conducted to illustrate the multi-hazard risk analysis methodology. Such a framework for landslide risk management can be applied to civil engineering systems in Hong Kong and other regions.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E15/17
Project Title: Colour Fading Effect on Cotton by Plasma-induced Ozone treatment
Principal Investigator: Dr ZHONG Dan (THEi)

Recently, various techniques have been developed by textile and apparel industries to improve colour fading effect for fabrics to favour customer’s aesthetic taste. Printing on fabrics and washing the final products are widely used techniques and fraying on fabric to create design by sanding or stone washing became popular. . However, due to low efficiency of these techniques and the growing demands from the market, researches are carried out to look for efficient solutions and more advanced manufacturing techniques to provide better appearance and quality.

From the environmental point of view, conventional colour fading processes consume large amount of water and generate highly contaminated wastewater due to use of dyes. As environmental protection has been emphasized and treatment of chemical waste requires high cost, an alternative method should be developed to replace the convention ones for applying designs and textures on textile surface. This plasma treatment is a non-aqueous method to replace conventional methods. It is environmentally friendly due to no water consumption and exhibits high fading efficiency. Therefore, it will be highly accepted for mass production and intensively reduce the cost of manufacturing, as well as the drawbacks from conventional treatment will be tackled. In order to study the flexibility and possibility of applying plasma treatment for achieving colour fading effect on textile material, this project aims to investigate the colour fading effect between plasma treatment and conventional colour fading processes and develop guideline reference for garment manufacturers in using plasma treatment for colour fading process.