The Research Grants Council (RGC) plans to enhance support to junior
academic scholars by launching an “Early Career Scheme” with an estimated
fund of HK$150 million. The scheme is designed to nurture the development of
promising research talents by supporting the research projects of junior scholars
at the beginning of their academic career. It is hoped that the scheme
will encourage outstanding junior academics to Hong Kong to launch their
careers, start up research programs, and strengthen the bond between research
RGC Chairman Professor Roland Chin announced the details of the “Early Career Scheme” at a media
briefing on 15 February 2011. He explained that the grant each scholar receives will vary depending
on the research topic and practical needs of the research, with an estimated average of HK$1
million grant funding being allocated for each project and its educational activities. The scheme
will be open for applications starting this August, and the outcome will be available by summer
2012. Application proposals will be reviewed independently by international experts, who will
further shortlist up to 5% of the top junior scholars
to receive the honorary title of “Early Career Award”.
Junior academics, explains Professor Chin, refer to
newly appointed tenure-track assistant professors at
UGC-funded institutions, meaning that their eligibility is determined not by age but by their
years of teaching experience. The scheme’s applicants must be full-time academic staff in the
capacity of assistant professors or equivalent with a career objective of
lifetime teaching in a tertiary institution. They must have
not more than three years of experience, with a job portfolio that covers both
teaching and research work, and be able to independently
supervise Master or Doctor of Philosophy research students.
According to Professor Chin, young scholar research
funding schemes in other countries have been around since the 1970s and
1980s. The most prominent award at the time was U.S. National Science Foundation’s Presidential
Young Investigator Program, later known as the Faculty Early “Career” Development program. This
award is dedicated to supporting the research start up of junior academics and represents a high honor
bestowed on young professors. Young professors winning the award not only received funding for
their research projects, but took great pride in the
honor and recognition they received.
Professor Chin further points out that since most
young academics have had limited working experience, the new funding scheme could help
them focus their research direction and strengthen the bond between research and teaching. The
scheme’s foresight is in encouraging young scholars
to make research and education a lifetime career. This precisely sums up the spirit in naming our
scheme the “Career” awards.
In 2012, UGC-funded institutions will implement
a new four-year curriculum structure, added Professor
Chin. To meet increasing needs of the new curriculum,
Hong Kong will be recruiting an
additional 1,000 professors – many of whom are expected to be junior academics.
In view of this development, RGC has made “investing
in the new generation” one of its objectives to bolster
support for young scholars and attract the best talents
to Hong Kong.
At the same time, the RGC has pledged to
provide better research support for work in the humanities
and social sciences.
As research work in the humanities and social
sciences is different from that of sciences and engineering, says Professor Chin, the RGC has
developed a new funding scheme to extend the scope of the teaching relief grants, which is part
of the General Research Fund grants, and established
a new prestigious fellowship scheme for outstanding investigators under the
disciplines of the Humanities and Social Sciences Panel.
The scope of the teaching relief grants will
expand from the current four disciplines – Anthropology;
Humanities and Creative Arts; Literature, Language and Linguistics; and Law – to all subjects in the
Humanities and Social Sciences Panel. The duration of teaching relief time will be extended from the
current four months to six-to-twelve months, so that applicants can have ample time to dedicate
their attention to research. In addition, under the new prestigious fellowship scheme for outstanding
investigators, exceptional academics can be awarded extended time-off and supporting funds to enable
them to focus on research work and writing. These schemes will be launched in August 2011.