Faculty Development Scheme (FDS) - Project Abstract

Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B10/15
Project Title: Adaptive Word-of-Mouth Behavior and Online Forum Design: A Cross-Cultural Investigation into the Dynamic Nature of Online Consumer Reviews
Principal Investigator: Dr CHAN Haksin (Hang Seng)

The proliferation of online communities and social media has propelled word-of-mouth (WOM) communication across cultural and national boundaries. This research thus explores a timely and important topic, one that pertains to the many online consumer forums that are accessible to reviewers and audience worldwide. In particular, it is of high theoretical and practical interest to investigate how globally accessible forums might induce different patterns of WOM behavior across cultures. Through controlled experiments and verbatim analysis of online reviews, this research will yield novel theoretical insights into cross-cultural consumer behavior and will empower practitioners to manage consumer-generated content across cultures.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS23/H04/15
Project Title: "Target not found": Explaining negative responses in visual search tasks
Principal Investigator: Dr CHAN Ka-ho (HKBU SCE)

In our everyday lives, we often need to find objects within a scene. This visual-search task attracts a lot of research attention not only because it taps into human perceptual and attentional processes, but also because many visual-search tasks are of huge practical significance. Past research has been successful in explaining how we make "presence" decisions in visual-search tasks: how we decide that a target is found. However, when we cannot find the target, we make the "absence" decision, which has long been acknowledged as a more complicated process.

For instance, the presence of a target is a stimulus that can trigger subsequent perceptual and behavioral responses. Nevertheless, the absence of a target is generally not a stimulus and cannot trigger responses. Moreover, "absence" is not a simple flip-side of "presence": a search terminates with a presence decision as soon as the target is found, but could go on indefinitely if no target is found. Absence decisions, therefore, involve more complicated processes. The existing model for explaining absence decisions is the deadline model, which states that the observer sets a "deadline" and makes an absence decision if no target is found before the deadline. However, behavioral data do not support this model.

The aim of the current project is to understand how humans make absence decisions in visual search. We propose a computational theory that extends the existing deadline model. Instead of a simple deadline, our theoretical framework proposes that humans make visual-search decisions based on the amount of accumulated perceptual evidence: 1) Before the search task begins, humans set certain criteria for both the presence and the absence decisions by gauging how much perceptual evidence should be accumulated over time in both cases. 2) During the search, humans compare the accumulated evidence with the criteria, and make a decision when the evidence level meets one of the decision criteria. Specifically, according to our framework, one makes an absence decision at a particular time point when the current evidence level is significantly lower than the evidence level expected for a presence decision at that time point.

In this proposal, we explain our plans to 1) develop a computational model based on the above framework, 2) test this model against some existing data, and 3) design new experiments to test the model. The results will help us further understand how visual-search decisions are made in both laboratory and real-life settings.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/M02/15
Project Title: Investigation of the differential roles of centrally located GLP-1 receptors in emesis and feeding in Suncus murinus
Principal Investigator: Dr CHAN Sze-wa (Caritas)

The aim of the project is to use Suncus murinus to investigate the mechanisms of the differential roles of centrally located glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptors in emesis and feeding control.

There is strong evidence from clinic studies and from published pre-clinical studies using common laboratory animals that GLP-1 receptor systems are involved in nausea and emesis and in mechanisms regulating feeding. Thus, GLP-1 receptor agonists can be associated with nausea, emesis and reduced appetite in man. Common laboratory animals (e.g. rat and mouse) are incapable of emesis and therefore the link between a novel GLP-1 receptor being involved in nausea and emesis and feeding control has been missed. This project is based on our own original observations that administration of the GLP-1 receptor agonist, exendin-4, prevents feeding at low doses and at higher doses affects glucose homeostasis and induces emesis in both Suncus murinus and ferrets. We also showed that the GLP-1 receptor antagonist, exendin (9-39), antagonised emesis but it was ineffective in reversing the exendin-4-induced inhibition of food intake. In the ferret, exendin-4 also increases blood pressure and heart rate and decreases heart rate variability (HRV) and the dominant frequency of gastric myoelectrical activity (GMA) without affecting body temperature. The differential effects of exendin (9-39) on emesis and feeding suggest that exendin-4 may act via more than one type of receptor, or a "non-classical" GLP-1 receptor. If this is the case, the "non-classical" receptor may be responsible for the side effect profile of exendin-4, or other GLP-1 receptor agonists; the receptor may also be involved in mechanisms of nausea that are dissociated from those regulating the control of emesis.

In the current proposal, therefore, we will elucidate the role of exendin (9-39)-insensitive GLP-1 receptors (non-classical GLP-1 receptors) in mechanisms of feeding, biomarkers of nausea, and mechanisms of emesis in Suncus murinus. The studies will be performed using standard behavioural testing and established surgical and radio-telemetric techniques coupled with immunohistochemistry and optical imaging of a fluorescent imaging probe to assess effects on gastric emptying. The studies will determine if another classical GLP-1 receptor agonist, GLP-1 (7-36) amide, shares similar pattern of action with exendin-4 to induce emesis and inhibit food intake. The studies will determine the potential site of action of GLP-1 receptor agonists and GLP-1 receptor antagonists to modulate feeding and emesis relative to brain areas regulating vasopressin release and changes in gastric myoelectric activity, which are known to be altered during nausea and emesis. The In-vivo Xtreme imaging system, with a novel near-infrared (NIR) fluorescent imaging agent GastrosenseTM 750, will be used to permit a monitoring and quantification of gastric emptying rates in vivo and in real time.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/B04/15
Project Title: Round number biases, buy-sell imbalances and transaction time: The international evidence
Principal Investigator: Dr CHEN Tao (OUHK)

In a perfect market without any frictions, it is expected that shares will be traded at any given ending price point with an equal likelihood. However, the clustering phenomenon observed in the finance area indicates that stock prices would concentrate on some ri.htmlost digits, particularly round numbers. Psychological evidence argues that stock traders' preference for round numbers is because these thresholds are always taken as cognitive reference points for rough relative comparisons in investment decision-making. If such a round number bias is present in the security market, excess buying (selling) may be observed for 9-ending (1-ending) stock prices adjacent to an integer threshold. For example, a one-cent drop in the share price from $10.00 to $9.99 would motivate investors to generate an illusion of a one-dollar decline, which triggers a buy trade at this price point. On the contrary, if the share price rises from $10.00 to $10.01, a small premium relative to the round number would cause investors to initiate a sell trade at this price point. Furthermore, buy-sell imbalances around round numbers could have an impact on inducing the return predictability. Based on the global intraday high-frequency trading dataset, the impact of round number biases on trading behavior can be firstly evaluated by looking into the buy-sell imbalances and their induced return predictability by price points around round numbers.

Following the marketing literature, the round number bias in price setting also motivates consumers to buy by means of increasing their purchase intention. Similarly, investors purchase intention might be enhanced if they perceive a price drop from the round number threshold. A higher purchase intention is likely to be associated with a shorter response time that investors take to complete the transaction. The inter-trade time recorded in the tick-by-tick data allows further investigation of investor response time in the face of share prices ending a penny above and below the round number. This is another effect of round number biases on trading behavior examined in the present research project.

Finally, this study would conduct a country-level analysis on the impact of round number biases on buy-sell imbalances, returns, and transaction time using the global dataset. Specifically, I relate the cross-country determinants to macro variables such as culture, country governance, stock market features, and level of economic development and explore the extent to which investors adjust their trading pattern subject to distinct macro-structure settings.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B03/15
Project Title: A Global Network Decision Support System for Air Passenger and Freight Businesses
Principal Investigator: Dr CHEUNG King-yin (Hang Seng)

With global business and improving standard of living, the aviation industry performance has significant contribution to the economy of a city. Hong Kong is such a role model; she has risen to the top 9th GDP per capita in the world. The airport has been ranked the top 5 in world's best airport, the 10th world's busiest airports by passenger traffic and number 1 by cargo traffic in 2013. However, with the rapid growth of Mainland China and Asian Countries, it is alarmed that HK will be "marginalized" in the near future. To maintain HK's competitiveness, effective strategies must be adopted to uphold her strategic hub position in air industry. For example, the building of third runway was proposed by the HK Government. The proposal has attracted debates on airport's positioning, strategic relationships among other Asian international airports, airlines (full service vs low cost carrier) and, passenger and cargo demand trends, etc. All these issues are inter-related and affected by many external factors, such as economic development, demographic and infrastructure developments of surrounding cities. There is no framework to study the effects of all these factors on the air industry.

The performance of an airport is affected by the global air transport network evolution, as well as the regional economic and social developments. To fully dissect the interrelationship between various airports and cities, passenger and cargo flows, a comprehensive study on the air network is required. All the previous studies were focusing on few specific airports. They were mainly studying the effects of pre-determined strategies or factors on either passenger or cargo volumes, by assuming all other variables independent. In this study, we will apply new research methodologies - network regression and data mining - to identify the, possibly hidden, relationships between airports based on the global passenger and cargo traffic volumes, among 5000 airports by routes, in the past 10 years. The traffic volume of an airport is not only related to the independent factors, but also related to global air network changes. Using the information from the network, an accurate air transport forecast can be attained. A decision support system will be established to assist policy makers to understand the effects of different strategies on the air network changes, in order to sustain and expand the city's strategic position and competitiveness by regularly examining current policies on aviation industry, and identifying the new demands, promising new routes and threats.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/H02/15
Project Title: An exploratory study of the positive side of work-family dynamics
Principal Investigator: Dr CHIO Hin-man (Shue Yan)

Work-family balance is an important concern among employees, human resources management, and psychologists. During the past decade, researchers began to place more emphasis on the positive side by investigating work-family enrichment. The construct of work-family enrichment refers to the experience of enhancement through a positive spillover from one domain to another domain (Carlson, Kacmar, Wayne, & Grzywacz, 2006). The spillover is bidirectional, meaning that the enhancement can be transferred from the work domain to the family domain, or from the family domain to the work domain. The study aims to explore the positive impact of different types of social support on work-family enrichment. In particular, it aims to investigate the competitive views of whether or not there will be a positive spillover effect in having a domain-specific type of social support. The findings will enable researchers to move forward in developing more relevant models to address the challenges in work-family balance.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS17/H03/15
Project Title: The effectiveness of learning field triage skills in a web 3D game-based virtual world
Principal Investigator: Dr CHOW Meyrick Chum-ming (Tung Wah)

A mass casualty incident (MCI) is a sudden unexpected event producing a large number of victims such that the normal function of local health care facilities is disrupted. Fires, explosions, and public transport accidents are common causes of MCIs. Immediately following an MCI, health care and other emergency services (fire, police, etc.) are needed for search, rescue, and triage operations. Health care professionals play an important role in managing an MCI, particularly in field triage. Multiple casualty triage is the process of establishing the priority of care among casualties at the scene of an MCI to ensure that care is available to those who need it most urgently and with less severe injuries, and that the greatest number of casualties survive.

One of the challenges in teaching accident and emergency (A&E) nursing content and the accompanying triage skills is to provide nursing students with opportunities for real-life experiences. As MCIs are low-probability events, students often do not have the chance to practise the skills during their clinical placement in the A&E Department. Moreover, live exercises are expensive, time consuming, and impractical.

Serious games and virtual worlds have great potential for training people in a novel and innovative way. Serious games are games designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. Although serious games can be entertaining, they are used for the purpose of solving problems in industries such as education, defense, scientific exploration, and health care. The other approach is to make use of web 3D virtual worlds such as Second Life. Virtual worlds are customized settings that mirror the real world, and can be defined as networked desktop virtual reality in which a user is visually represented and acts through an avatar to move and interact in simulated 3D spaces.

Although pure web 3D simulations may create authentic learning environments, they often lack the ability to motivate and engage learners. The introduction of game elements within simulations to produce serious games has been shown to be effective at promoting learning. This study will incorporate the subject matter in the gameplay and use scoring strategies, interactive interfaces, real-time feedback, and flexible courses in a virtual world to engage learners. The purposes of this study are to develop a 3D game-based virtual world for nursing students to learn field triage skills, and evaluate its effectiveness on the acquisition and retention of field triage skills in mass casualty incidents.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/P04/15
Project Title: Fuzzy Generalised Gaussian Density Segmentation Model: Mathematical Analysis and Applications
Principal Investigator: Dr CHOY Siu-kai (Hang Seng)

The modelling of image histograms by a general parametric family of statistical distributions plays an important role in many applications such as scene analysis, image editing and medical imaging. Many studies have shown that the histogram of image variations is symmetrical about zero and has a sharp peak at zero. This phenomenon motivates the use of a parametric family of known distributions such as Generalised Gaussian Density (GGD) to fit the observed histogram. The GGD model has been used by various previous works as a model for the distribution of high frequency coefficients and applied successfully to different areas such as content-based image retrieval and texture classification. However, the use of GGD model for image segmentation has not been studied in the literature. Our motivation for the proposed project is to investigate a robust and effective GGD-based segmentation model for a wide range of applications. In particular, we will study the mathematical optimisation framework that integrates the GGD model with an agglomerative fuzzy algorithm with spatial information for image segmentation applications. We will also develop a rigorous mathematical analysis on the fuzzy GGD segmentation model. The performance of the proposed segmentation algorithm will be evaluated by extensive and comparative experiments on natural and texture images.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS13/H04/15
Project Title: Collations and Annotations to Liuyingtang Ji and a Study on Liang Peilan in Lingnan Culture and History of the Late Ming-Early Qing Period
Principal Investigator: Dr DUNG Chau-hung (Chu Hai)

The late Ming-early Qing poet Liang Peilan (1630-1705) from Guangdong is known as one of the "Three Masters of Lingnan". He was praised by Masters like Wang Shizhen and Zhu Yizun and he hosted poetry gatherings in Beijing, with his poetry widely known. However, his poetry and prose have so far only been included in the collection "Liuyingtang Ji" (Guangzhou Sun Yat-sen University Press, 1992 edition) compiled by L? Yongguang. As L? only collated and punctuated Liang's collection, supplemented the lost poetry, and provided a brief biography, the important work of annotation and full chronology is missing. As a result, it is difficult for scholars to conduct an in-depth and comprehensive study of Liang's poetry.

Furthermore, the importance of Liang's poetry lies in the fact that it describes the Lingnan landscape, including Lingnan Plum Blossom, Luofu Mountains, Lychee and Longan, and is revealing of Liang's affection for Lingnan. From his work we can also gain an understanding of his political position during the decline of the Ming dynasty, and his experience of the political incident in Duanjiang. At the same time his ideas about composition of poetry were closely related to the Lingnan tradition, and Liang even advocated the development of an individual style over following prevalent trends. Yet, scholars have paid little attention to Liang Peilan, and to date no monograph has been published regarding the research of Liang Peilan's poetry, even though Liang was listed among well-known poets in the Qing History Biographies. In view of the lack of annotation and research on Liang Peilan's poetry as mentioned above, this project will cover following research results: First, through the collation and organization of the full collection of Liang's poetry, and an analysis of its content and background in compilation, to produce publication of The Complete Works of Liang Peilan with Annotations and Commentaries. Second, papers related to this research topic will be presented at international conferences. Third, a publication named Poet Liang Peilan in Lingnan Culture and History of the Late Ming-Early Qing Period will be produced.

After completion of the project, the poetry and background of Liang Peilan's poetry contents will be fully presented. This will include a comprehensive analysis of Liang's dilemma of whether to serve the Government or not during the change of dynasty, the impact of the beautiful scenery of Lingnan on his thought and composition of poetry, his theory of compilation and its relationship with the Lingnan tradition, as well as his achievement in poetry. This project will contribute to research into literature of the Ming and Qing dynasties.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/H05/15
Project Title: Mapping Diasporic Networks: The Case of the Indonesian Chinese
Principal Investigator: Dr HUI Yew-foong (Shue Yan)

This project maps out the migratory paths of Medan Chinese and investigates how they are connected and organized across national boundaries. This part of the Chinese diaspora, distributed across Indonesia, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, continues to be connected through kinship, alumni or hometown association ties. Through multi-sited ethnographic research in Indonesia, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, this project will study these ties and ask if they represent a kind of Chinese transnationalism that can persist across generations and geographical regions.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/B03/15
Project Title: CEO compensation and dividend policy in family firms
Principal Investigator: Ms HUNG Hie-yiin (OUHK)

This project examines the impacts of family firms on CEO compensation and dividend policy, and whether family shareholders make use of compensation and dividend practices as alternative means to expropriate firm resources, or both. The Hong Kong economy is dominated by family firms (SCMP, 2002). In October 2014, of the 50 leading Hong Kong firms, 22 are family firms (market value: $4,734,298 million), representing 19.35% of total market capitalization. Through the years, executive compensation has been an unresolved issue among the practitioners and academia. Recently, excessive CEO pay has become a topic of debate, particularly after the financial tsunami. Dividend policy is important as dividend payment represents the return of investment for shareholders and potential investors which affects the attractiveness of the shares. In this project, we explore how these corporate policies are designed in family firms.

Agency problems exist when there is separation of ownership and management (Type I) and majority-minority shareholders conflicts (Type II). Type II agency problems between majority and minority shareholders are evitable for family firms. Family firms with concentrated ownership have been criticized for severe entrenchment problems due to owner opportunism in expropriating firm resources at the expense of minority shareholders. For Type I agency problems relating to owner-manager conflicts, their severity depends on whether family-owners have enlarged their influence by serving as managers. In family firms, it is common for family-owners to appoint family-members to hold board and executive positions. This situation of ownership domination with control often exacerbates the agency problems.

Agency theory suggests that CEO compensation and dividend payment practices can be used to mitigate owner-manager and majority-minority shareholders conflicts. Incentive compensation can be offered to align the interests of agents and principals to motivate the managers to act in the best interest of shareholders. Cash dividend payment can be used to reduce free cash flow and corporate wealth from the abuse of managers and majority shareholders at the expense of minority shareholders. However, compensation practice and dividend policy can also be manipulated by the controlling shareholders for tunneling purposes. Owing to managerial and owner opportunism, managers and controlling shareholders can extract firm resources through excessive CEO compensation and large dividend payout. Therefore, in view of the significance of family firms in the Hong Kong economy, it is important to understand whether family firms make use of dividend and CEO compensation practices to tunnel firm resources, and the extent of these activities.

First, we examine the impacts of family control on dividend policy to explore whether the family owners retain firm resources to increase the moral hazard conflicts between controlling and minority shareholders or distribute excessive dividends. Next, we study the differences in compensation for family-related CEOs, hired CEOs working in family firms and non-family firms. Finally, we test whether there is a substituting effect between CEO compensation practice and dividend policy in family firms to investigate whether compensation and dividend decisions are employed by family owners as alternative tunneling devices.

This project attempts to offer contributions to several strands of the literature: family business, CEO compensation and dividend policy. In the literature, little attention is paid to the relation between dividend and compensation policies in family firms. As there is no tax on dividend income and dual-class share structure, Hong Kong offers a clean setting for such a study to help clarify the mixed evidence in previous research. This project provides evidence on whether family owners engage in tunneling activities and the extent of the expropriation. The findings may have an impact on policy-making on whether more monitoring is needed.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/H02/15
Project Title: A Study of Ethnic Economy of Disadvantaged Ethnic Minorities in Hong Kong: Exploring Experiences in the Process of Social Integration
Principal Investigator: Dr KWOK Kim (Caritas)

As an Asian world city, Hong Kong is proud of being a multicultural society and officially describes itself as "open, tolerant and pluralistic". (Information Services Department 2010:29). However, this claim and self-image has not been fully echoed by many studies (Ku et al. 2004; Hewison 2004; Crabtree & Wong 2012; Law & Lee 2012) on immigrant integration in Hong Kong. Multiculturalism in Hong Kong has remained a descriptive term rather than a benchmark of achieving equal opportunity of rights and resources. With 6.4% of non-Chinese in the total population (Census and Statistics Department 2012), Hong Kong accommodates migrants of various ethnic origins and backgrounds. In recent years, we have witnessed the emergence of clusters such as "Little Thailand" in Kowloon City and "Little Indonesia" in Causeway Bay, with restaurants, fast-food shops, grocery shops, hair salons and remittance banks as some typical examples of ethnic economic activities. These activities have not merely enriched the city ethnoscape with a multicultural touch, but also suggested significant implications for integration of ethnic minority migrants. However, these implications have not yet been well-explored in Hong Kong.

This study is an exploratory research on this less touched upon dimension of social integration of ethnic minorities, namely the ethnic economy. It aims to understand the experiences of ethnic minority groups in business, and in particular, the significance of ethnic economy in the long-term social integration process of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. More concretely, the study endeavors to obtain a general mapping of ethnic economies by identifying their patterns, distribution and tendencies. Secondly, it explores and analyzes experiences of ethnic entrepreneurs in Hong Kong. How do they make use of various individual and group resources for achieving economic goals? How do they experience empowerment and disempowerment in the process of overcoming structural constraints? Thirdly, it identifies areas for improvements in policy making and service provision. Emphasis will be put on the experiences of the disadvantaged ethnic minority groups (South Asians, South East Asians and other groups). Conceptually, it takes reference to the literature of ethnic economy, multiculturalism and immigrant integration, and adopts mixed embeddedness (Kloosterman, Van der Leun & Rath 1999) as its analytical framework. Methodologically, this study combines a baseline study with qualitative methods including field investigation, key informant interviews, semi-structured in-depth interviews and analyses of media materials and documents.

Contributions of this study will be twofold. Academically, by examining ethnic economy in Hong Kong in the regional and international contexts, this study contributes to the conceptual discussions on ethnic business in general, and in particular, ethnic business as a potential means to social integration in advanced Asian societies, which is still an under- researched area. Empirically, findings garnered will enrich our knowledge and understandings of ethnic minorities' life patterns and needs in Hong Kong. This will enhance the awareness of policy makers and practitioners on the significance of ethnic economy. Moreover, towards the goal of achieving a more inclusive multicultural society, the study will shed light on how policy makers and practitioners can improve by formulating measures and appropriate services for ethnic minority entrepreneurs in order to facilitate their social integration in the long run.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS24/B01/15
Project Title: "Care or Fair"?: A Social Comparison Perspective on Servant Leadership and I-deals
Principal Investigator: Dr KWOK Man-lung (PolyU SPEED)

This study is going to develop a multilevel model of servant leadership theory and idiosyncratic deals (i-deals in short) from the social comparison perspective. We try to respond to the calling from van Dierendonck (2011) and echo with Greenberg, Ashton-James, and Ashkanasy's (2007) that understanding more about the underlying mechanism of servant leadership theory. Based on the theory, servant leadership theory suggests that the servant leaders will care more about the individual employees and thus, it is suggested that it will lead to higher i-deals. We are convinced with the positive outcomes of i-deals. However, for those employees who obtain a lesser extent of i-deals or even do not obtain any, when doing comparison with the other employees, negative outcomes may be developed. In order to understand more of these negative effects, social comparison perspective will be applied to examine. Specifically, servant leadership will lead to higher i-deals, and thus, increasing the organizational commitment but reducing turnover intention of the employees. The direct effects of i-deals and organizational commitment and turnover intention will be moderated by social comparison (i.e., upward comparison and downward comparison). Under upward comparison, the positive effect of i-deals to organizational commitment will be enhanced while under downward comparison, the positive effects of i-deals to organizational commitment will be reduced, but the effect to turnover intention may be stronger.

There will be three separate studies (longitudinal in nature) and data will be collected from teams and companies in the Mainland China and Hong Kong. Based on the results, theoretical and practical implications can be provided to the scholars and practitioners. Specifically, we try to advance the understanding of servant leadership and i-deals from the perspective of social comparison. The underlying mechanism of servant leadership will be enhanced. Practically, we can provide a better approach to the management people in order to offer i-deals in their companies. On one hand, individual employees' needs can still be catered, and on the other hands, negative effects can be minimized.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/H06/15
Project Title: Teacher knowledge of early childhood teachers in Hong Kong, with a focus on Mathematics in early childhood education
Principal Investigator: Dr LAO Kam-ling (OUHK)

The proposed research aims to investigate the nature of knowledge of early childhood teachers necessary for developing children's early mathematical concepts under the influence of technology (MtEceK) in Hong Kong (HK). The purpose of this study is to unpack MtEceK through the practice-based development of a conceptual framework with components identified, and to explore how the components are related in the early childhood education (ECE) context in HK.

This study fills gaps in three areas: research on mathematics education; research on early childhood education; and research on teacher knowledge. The current research on mathematics education rarely focuses on teacher knowledge in ECE. Research on early childhood education rarely focuses on the knowledge necessary for developing children's early mathematical concepts. Research on teacher knowledge, with consideration of the influence of technology, is rarely contextualized within the mathematics-related teacher tasks in classroom.

In this connection, with reference to Ball, Thames and Phelps' (2008) and Herbst and Kosko's (2014) research, this study will develop the conceptual framework of MtEceK (the Framework) in four phases. In the first phase of framework conceptualization and contextualization, a hypothesized framework of teachers' knowledge base and its components will be defined and refined, based on the research literature and a series of discussions by an expert panel (EP) and a focus group (FG) of experts and practitioners in ECE and teacher education grounded on ECE teacher practice in HK.

In the second phase of instrument construction, at least 10 job-embedded multiple-choice and multiple-response items for each component will be constructed with reference to the Framework, the HK pre-primary curriculum guide (CDC, 2006) and the list of mathematics-related teacher tasks generated from group discussion. Cognitive pretests will be conducted with the EP and the FG; and items will be revised on the basis of the results from the cognitive pretest. Problems will be resolved in EP and FG meetings to ensure the interpretability and validity of items. A pilot-test for the revised items will be carried out with at least 30 in-service early childhood teachers who are enrolled in the elective courses of the Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood Education Programme (BEDECE) offered by the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK). Cronbach's alpha and biserial correlation will be applied to establish the statistical fit and reliability of the items.

In the third phase of testing and analysis, after excluding poorly performed items and consideration of the time limitation, an instrument with at most 35 items will be compiled for testing. To maintain a relatively stable context for comparison between the item piloting and instrument testing, the OUHK's BEDECE core courses students will be targeted to take the testing of instruments. Data from at least 80 respondents will be collected. After checking the internal reliability and exploring the correlations among components and correlations between components and demographic variables, the Framework and its related definitions of components will be refined after discussion with the EP.

In the last phase of reporting and dissemination, a teacher knowledge framework with components defined, a validated instrument and an HK MtEceK database will be produced, in addition to a dissemination seminar and at least one academic paper. Overall, the study will contribute to the academic field by extending research on teacher knowledge of mathematics education to ECE; and initiating research on teacher knowledge for early mathematics learning, thus providing a new framework and instruments with an Asian perspective and potential research use in other countries. Interpretation of teacher knowledge is culture-specific and contextually sensitive. While the existing research findings and the instruments developed in Western countries are of limited applicability to the HK context, this study will contribute to the quality of early mathematics in HKECE by informing professional development needs in teacher education and by relating teacher knowledge to teacher practice and tasks in classrooms. In the long term, it may also contribute to policy-making through territory-wide profiling of teacher knowledge.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/H06/15
Project Title: People without identity: Exploring the social experiences of asylum seekers in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Dr LAU Flora Pui-yan (Shue Yan)

The aim of this exploratory study will be to examine how asylum seekers, i.e. individuals who leave their country of origin to seek international protection and whose status as refugees has not yet been confirmed (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2014), survive in Hong Kong. Although clearly significant, this population of asylum seekers is nearly invisible in the local context. The key issue of this study is: how do asylum seekers cope with marginalisation in Hong Kong society? The proposed study will apply a sociological lens to explore and analyse the life experiences, social connections and self-perceived identities of asylum seekers as a marginalized group.

The classical sociological concept of stigma (Goffman, 1963) will be used as an entry point for the study. The study will also use the theory of social capital (Woolcock, 1998) as a conceptual research tool and explore how asylum seekers connect to each other, different social groups, NGOs and society at large. Qualitative research methods will be used to explore these dimensions. Specifically, in-depth interviews will be conducted with asylum seekers and NGO practitioners.

This study is expected to make the following contributions to the existing research. First, it will bring the topic of asylum seekers, which is a rarely studied but undoubtedly significant sociological issue, into the field of local academic research. Second, the findings of this study will help policy makers to design improved policies regarding asylum seekers in Hong Kong, especially in the areas of immigration and extra-legal activities.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/B01/15
Project Title: Why don't they return the favor? A study of antecedents to team-member exchange and its impact on work-life balance
Principal Investigator: Dr LAU Rebecca Suk-yin (OUHK)

Teams are becoming more prevalent in organizations nowadays. Researchers have long identified the benefits of employees' close social exchange relationships in which support, feedback, information, and other social resources are shared. The benefits include higher commitment to the organization, improved satisfaction with the job, and enhanced job performance. Nevertheless, situations do exist in which some employees prefer to stay distant from their coworkers, and are unwilling to offer social resources to others. Given the benefits of employee-sharing to individual attitudes and behaviors, why are there still some employees who are unwilling to get involved?

This study's first aim is to provide an answer to this question by taking a personality perspective. People have different personality traits, and we believe that these differences may explain why some people are more willing than others to exchange social resources. In particular, three traits are explored: (1)the propensity to trust, i.e. the degree to which one is willing to trust others;(2)reciprocation wariness, i.e. the degree to which one is worried that one will be taken advantage of in a social relationship; and (3)exchange ideology, which refers to the extent to which one follows the norm of reciprocity, i.e. the social norm to return a favor when one is received.

After answering the question "why are some employees unwilling to get involved?" the question that follows is "what can be done then?" Here, we take it one step further to explore how organizational settings may affect the association between personality and team members' social exchange relationships. Two contextual features are investigated: task interdependence and shared leadership. Task interdependence represents the degree to which a task requires employees to coordinate activities or exchange information to get it done. Shared leadership is a leadership style in which team members share the responsibilities of a leader, each thus taking a role as a leader. We believe that, by increasing task interdependence and shared leadership among team members, employees -even if they are inclined not to share because of personality characteristics-become more motivated to exchange with each other. This exploration, we believe, is of the utmost importance as it offers practitioners managerial insights. Employers, in most cases, cannot select employees on the basis of personality. If they are aware that certain contextual features may stimulate employees to share and exchange social resources, they can design the work context accordingly to encourage their employees to become more involved in social relationships. In addition, this will help demonstrate the relevance of trait activation theory and social identity theory in the examination of employees' social exchange relationships.

Finally, we try to answer one more question: "can employees improve work-life balance by getting more involved in social exchanges?" The concept of work-life balance is no longer new to employers and employees. Nevertheless, it is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve it fully. Employers have been advised to develop various organizational interventions to help employees strike work-life balance. Many of these interventions, however, incur costs which may be difficult to justify or may put small firms in difficult financial situations. In this study, we propose that stimulating the development of close social exchange relationships among team members may help. As employees are more engaged in social exchanges with their team members, they get more social resources that are related to their work, hence promoting more efficient and effective completion of their tasks. In addition, through these close relationships, they also receive family-related information and help from their coworkers which can enhance the functioning of their family role. As a consequence, when the functioning of both the work and family roles is enriched, the conflict between these two roles is minimized, resulting in a higher work-life balance experience.

A cross-sectional research design is proposed to test the relationships mentioned above. Data will be collected from employees working in various occupations and organizations in Hong Kong. It is hoped that this study will shed light on why some employees are unwilling to 'return the favor' in teams and how managers can design the work context accordingly to promote social exchanges which eventually will benefit not only the organization (by improving employees' job performance) but also the employees (by achieving work-life balance).


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/M05/15
Project Title: Molecular Characterization of Endocytic Recycling in Plant Cells
Principal Investigator: Dr LAW Angus Ho-yin (THEi)

Endocytosis is a well-characterized cellular process, which is essential for regulating the signaling receptor density on cell surface and the composition of plasma membrane (PM). On the contrary, recycling of internalized proteins is less characterized, but contributes significantly in replenishing the loss of receptor on cell surface. In fact, endocytic recycling to the plasma membrane initiates at the trans-golgi network (TGN), which is also the early endosome (EE) in plant cells. Over the decade, existence of the recycling endosome in plant cell has remained elusive, and little is known about the nature and identity of PM-recycling carriers in plants. In the mammalian counterpart, a family of proteins containing the Epidermal growth factor receptor substrate 15-Homology Domain (EHD) are markers of recycling, and EHD bearing tubules function in slow-recycling of internalized proteins from early/sorting endosome to the plasma membrane. In this project, Arabidopsis paralogs of EHD proteins will be utilized as molecular marker to identify recycling endosome in plant cells. Genetic approach will be used to investigate the functional roles of EHD in plant growth and development. With a combination of the state-of-the-art cellular, molecular, biochemical and cell imaging techniques, we aim to better characterize the endocytic recycling pathways in plant cells. The outcome of this approach is expected to advance our frontiers of knowledge in plant cell biology, further explore the recycling infrastructure in plant cells, and stimulate potential application in enhancing plants' stress tolerance in agricultural biotechnology.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/B02/15
Project Title: Situated knowledge in power relations: Its legitimization, sharing and appropriation
Principal Investigator: Dr LAW Kuok-kei (OUHK)

Much of the knowledge management (KM) literature focuses on knowledge workers in formal office settings and treats knowledge as an objectified and commodified asset. However, the theoretical lens of 'knowledge-as-situated-practice', which focuses on how individuals come to apprehend and define knowledge that is embedded and situated in everyday work practices, has challenged such conventional wisdom. For example, Gherardi and Nicolini (2002) have demonstrated the social and cultural character of the learning of safety knowledge by building-site novices. Later, by anchoring the same theoretical perspective, Kamoche and Maguire (2011) have examined how coalminers attempted to legitimize and 'trade' their socially constructed risk assessment knowledge (pit sense) with the management for job security and found evidence of the management treating the workers' contextual tacit knowledge as a hindrance to the pursuit of economic gain. These findings demonstrated that there is much to be learnt regarding the emergence and sharing of situated knowledge in non-traditional settings, and that its legitimization and appropriation are often contested by the management.

The proposed research seeks to better theorize the 'knowledge-as-situated-practice' perspective by focusing on its contentious nature with regard to its legitimization, sharing, and appropriation within webs of power relations in a non-traditional, peripheral context - the scaffolding industry. A scaffold is a kind of temporary structure used in construction work to provide access and platforms to enable work to be done by other construction workers. The erection and dismantling of a scaffold tower requires sophisticated knowledge and thorough risk assessment emerging from and embodied in the senses and interactions of scaffold workers.

Three core objectives guide our research. First, we will examine how scaffold workers identify their working knowledge as constituted in everyday practices, and how they conceptualize the legitimization and value of the knowledge they possess. This analytical approach will shed further light on the emergent, yet under-researched, view of knowledge as social accomplishment of workers. Second, we will attempt to understand in what forms, and by means of what mechanisms, scaffold workers articulate and transfer their socially constructed, embodied and sensory knowledge to others, particularly novices. This will allow us to better depict the sharing and inheritance of the seemingly ambiguous form of situated knowledge. Third, we will examine how the appropriability of knowledge is contested and determined between the scaffold workers and the management. While intellectual workers might withhold their knowledge to retain their 'bargaining power' vis-?-vis management, scaffold workers might be less inclined to take such a risk, and enjoy potentially less power. We see a compelling need to explore this dilemma in further research. Given the highly complex nature of the research setting, a qualitative research design is deemed suitable for exploring the phenomenon in question. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with scaffold workers, the management of scaffolding companies and relevant government officials responsible for promoting safety on construction sites. The interviews are used to collect insights and information on how scaffolding and risk assessment knowledge is defined, shared and learned among scaffold workers, as well as whether and how its legitimization and appropriation would come under threat when the management or the government introduce "more bureaucratic procedures rationalized on the basis of commercial outcomes and health and safety" (Kamoche & Maguire, 2011, p. 725).

The proposed research will contribute to the literature by unpacking how situated knowledge is legitimized, shared and appropriated by workers under the threat of imposition of modern scientific safety measures. It thus enables us to unravel potential or latent conflicts and ambiguities attendant to the management of situated and sensory knowledge. It also casts light on the KM practices in the under-researched peripheral contexts in which conventional wisdom may not be appropriate and helps advance the emerging paradigm of the importance of situated and sensory knowledge.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E03/15
Project Title: Improvement of indoor and outdoor air quality by clear photocatalytic-film-coated glass curtain walls for high-rise buildings
Principal Investigator: Prof LEE Amazon Kin-man (THEi)

Poor urban air quality of high Air Pollution Index (API) and poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) are one of the major environmental problems in Hong Kong. One of the potential techniques to improve these problems are to develop and apply clear and transparent thin-clear-coated photocatalyst layers (both inner and outer surfaces) as air-cleaning and pollutants reduction agency on glass curtain walls of high-rise buildings in urban areas. The use of a non-toxic UV activated air-cleansing photocatalyst chemical material has previously been proven its strong air pollutants degrading power under sun-illuminated condition. Among various form of air cleaning photocatalytic materials, Titanium Dioxide, TiO2, has attracted much research attentions, due to its low cost and strong oxidizing power under nature sunlight irradiation, its chemical stability, as well as its anti-bacteria characteristics. Recent research studies have indicated that TiO2, in the form as anatase, has proved to be very effective in the reduction of common air pollutants, such as NOx, VOC and aldehydes. However, such material is currently developed as a non-transparent powder material, thus hindered its applications to tall buildings constructed with glass curtain walls as exterior claddings. In order to make such photocatalyst technology applicable to clear glass surfaces of tall buildings, research in the development of clear and transparent photocatalytic film-coated material is needed. This study is proposed:
1. to develop a spray type clear and transparent photocatalyst solution for application to existing glass fa?ade surfaces of curtain walls of high-rise buildings for the improvement of both outdoor air pollutant concentrations in urban area as well as indoor air quality (IAQ) within the buildings,
2. to develop an effective and economical clear-film-coating technology for permanent formulation of thin clear and transparent coatings of photocatalyst layers on the inner and outer surfaces of new glass fa?ade of curtain walls for high-rise buildings, and
3. to improve the urban air quality and to mitigate urban air pollution problem in urban corridors by the use of photocatalyst technology on existing and new curtain wall fa?ade of tall buildings.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/H03/15
Project Title: Expression of refusals by Cantonese Preschoolers
Principal Investigator: Prof LEUNG Cheung-shing (THEi)

The importance of pragmatic development in children has been widely recognised. Recent years have seen the growth of research on discourse abilities of children in different languages and ethnic groups. In Hong Kong, the study on Cantonese children's linguistic ability mainly focuses on phonological and grammatical development, with little emphasis on pragmatic competence.

This study aims to investigate one of the most common forms of oral discourse, i.e., making refusals, in the development of pragmatic competence in Cantonese-speaking preschool children. Compared with making requests, making refusals is more complex because it is not a preferred response to an act initiated by the other party. Building on previous research on pragmatic development of children in other languages, this study focuses on how Cantonese children of different age groups make refusals.

Findings from this study have both theoretical and practical values. Theoretically, the findings will add to our knowledge of the pragmatic development of children in acquiring Cantonese. It will enable us to conduct comparative studies on children's pragmatic abilities and contribute to our understanding of oral discourse development in children.

Practically, findings from this study will provide useful information on the typical development of oral language in Hong Kong children. Such information will be useful for teachers and other educators involved in teaching, designing and planning the language curriculum for typically developing children and children learning Cantonese as a second language. The developmental data will also be a useful reference for Hong Kong speech and language therapists in assessing children with pragmatic problems and difficulties. Furthermore, the database generated from this study will provide useful data for further research on Hong Kong children's oral discourse development.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/E01/15
Project Title: Construction safety index for skyscrapers in Hong Kong: A Multi-criteria decision-making approach
Principal Investigator: Dr LI Rita Yi-man (Shue Yan)

Skyscrapers are buildings taller than 100 m (Emporis, 2015). With 732 skyscrapers as of 23 January 2015, Hong Kong has more such buildings than another other city in the world, and in a relatively small area. Indeed, further skyscrapers are expected to be constructed to satisfy the dense population's needs. However, the construction of skyscrapers requires more complicated technology, longer construction time and higher levels of subcontracting than low-rise buildings, which all lead to a higher probability of construction accidents.

Research has shown that construction accidents lead to insurmountable pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses in society. Although safety measures have been developed to decrease the number of accidents on construction sites, accidents still occur due to many distal and proximal factors, such as falls from heights, human error and a lack of protective measures.

Although it would theoretically be best to eliminate the factors that cause accidents by implementing a single effective safety measure, such a measure does not exist in practice. Spending an extraordinary sum of money that exceeds the potential benefit of addressing safety issues is also not economically viable. Given budgetary constraints and the large number of skyscrapers in Hong Kong, a construction safety index for skyscrapers (CSIFS) would provide a good tool for safety officers to predict safety risks, implement relevant safety risk plans and prioritise safety measures.

We will develop an objective CSIFS through the following steps:
1. Interview workers and safety officers about their views on the relative importance of accident causation factors.
2. Conduct case studies of workers who have had accidents.
3. Analyse Hong Kong court case reports and study judges' views of the relative importance of the factors that lead to accidents.
4. Survey 150-200 safety officers in Hong Kong.
5. Give the results of steps 1-4 to approximately 15 construction safety experts with more than 20 years of work experience, who will use them to construct the CSIFS by means of questionnaires.
6. Calculate the weightings of the relative importance of the factors that lead to construction accidents with a multi-criteria decision-making approach and an analytical hierarchy process.
7. The safety experts will comment on and adjust the factor weightings determined in step 6.
8. The model will be validated with historical data from both workers who have and have not experienced accidents.

The research results are expected to offer the following practical insights for industry:

  • Employers will be able to use the index to estimate the safety risks of construction workers under specific conditions so appropriate safety measures and risk plans can be provided in advance.
  • Safety officers will be able to achieve a better understanding of workers' perspectives and major safety concerns, allowing smoother and more meaningful implementation of safety measures.
  • Knowledge of judges' concerns about the relative importance of accident causation factors will help contractors and developers to avoid paying out huge sums in accident compensation.
  • Various stakeholders will be made more aware of the safety hazards on construction sites, thereby providing incentives for developers, contractors and subcontractors to develop new safety measures for construction workers.
  • Safety officers will be able to identify workers who are more accident prone under certain circumstances with the CSIFS. Relevant training, preventive safety measures and guidelines can be provided accordingly.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/H04/15
    Project Title: Political discourses in Hong Kong: A systemic functional perspective
    Principal Investigator: Dr LI Sum-hung (OUHK)

    The proposed research project will investigate political discourses as political acts in Hong Kong. Adopting the systemic functional perspective, it will study the political discourses employed by government officials of the People's Republic of China(PRC) and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region(HKSAR), key figures of various political parties including both pro-establishment and pan-democratic camps, and various interest groups, in their political acts in the course of the "5-Step Process of Constitutional Development", leading up to the election of the Chief Executive of the HKSAR in 2017.

    This proposed study will first collect spoken political discourses in the form of debates, interviews/media sessions and speeches and written political discourses in the form of press releases, news articles, statements, commentaries and editorials in both English and Chinese-the two official languages in Hong Kong. The materials will be analysed at four levels: lexical, clausal, discourse and contextual. Through these analyses, the study intends to answer the following questions: (1) What can the theory of systemic functional linguistics (SFL) contribute to analyzing political discourses as political acts in achieving political objectives and to theorizing the relationships between political discourse and political ideologies? (2) How are the political ideologies of government officials and key figures of political parties and interest groups reflected and embedded in their political discourses? (3)What particular political strategies do they adopt in the political discourses to achieve their objectives? (4) How do they change their political strategies at different political stages leading up to the election of the Chief Executive in 2017?

    The proposed study will make three contributions. First, the findings will provide a comprehensive understanding of how political figures employ political discourses to promote their ideologies at different political stages to achieve particular political objectives. Second, theoretically, the study will explicate how the theory of SFL can directly contribute to analyzing and theorizing political discourses as political acts to achieve political functions in political contexts, i.e. approaching political discourse analysis (PDA) from the systemic functional perspective. Third, pedagogically, it will build up a corpus of authentic political discourses, which we will call The Corpus of Hong Kong Political Discourse, to support the teaching and to serve as the learning materials of three course sat the Open University of Hong Kong: Language and Politics in the Society of Hong Kong as a General Education course; Language, Power and Society as a Language Studies course; and The Politics of Language as a Public Administration and Political Science course.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B07/15
    Project Title: The Emergence of Second-Tier Auditors in China: An Analysis of Audit Quality
    Principal Investigator: Dr LIU Junxia (Hang Seng)

    Chinese local audit firms received strong governmental support according to the Chinese Institute of Certified Public Accountants (CICPA)'s strategy of developing "larger and stronger" local audit firms and achieved significant growth in size and market share after 2007. This study examines the association between auditor type (namely, Big 4, Second-tier [also referred to as Large local firms], and Other local firms) and audit quality during 2003-2013 in China. Further, this study investigates changes in such association following the CICPA's effort to accelerate the development of the accounting profession after 2007.

    We plan to use three audit quality proxies, namely, clients' earnings management through discretional accruals or non-recurring items, auditors' propensity to issue modified audit opinions, and analysts' forecast accuracy for our analysis. In addition, we employ propensity scores and client-attributes-based matching samples to control for auditors' self-selection bias and differences in clients' characteristics.

    Using these matched samples, we expect to find that audit quality of Second-tier firms was lower than that of Big 4 and was indistinguishable from that of Other local firms before 2007, whereas after 2007, audit quality of Second-tier firms was higher than that of Other local firms and was indistinguishable from that of Big 4. Specially, we plan to obtain empirical evidence on whether the effort by the Chinese government and the CICPA to develop large local audit firms has contributed to a significant improvement in the audit quality of Second-tier audit firms.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/H03/15
    Project Title: For Whom and for What? Examining the Impact of Self-financing Sub-degree Education on Social Mobility of Hong Kong Youth
    Principal Investigator: Ms LO Villy Suk-ling (Caritas)

    Level of educational attainment of the population is an important indicator of human capital development of modern society especially in what we called the 'knowledge-based' one. Education is also commonly assumed to be a legitimate and significant key to advancing one's social position. As an important social investment that is positively associated with the city's competitiveness, the Hong Kong Government has been spending considerable amount of money in education, accounting for an average of around 20% of annual total public expenditure. Amid the flourishing of degree and sub-degree programs all around the world, Hong Kong's post-secondary education has expanded much more dramatically. Among the senior secondary school leavers, the government aimed at increasing their post-secondary education opportunities from 33% in 2000 up to 60% in 2010. This target has achieved eventually and mainly, however, only by the introduction of two-year post-secondary sub-degree education, including the higher diploma (HD) programs and the newly developed associated degree (AD) programs, offered by self-financing higher education institutions in Hong Kong. With the increasing chances of educational attainment, social mobility of young people seems to be promising. Has it really been the case? What are the concrete developmental paths of the sub-degree program graduates grown up in a period of 'credential inflation' or 'diploma disease'? Is the self-financing sub-degree education in Hong Kong articulated to degree education, higher employability and income, and thus upward social mobility? What is/are the directions and possible intermediated factors affecting their social mobility (if any) after student's graduation? Do professionally accredited sub-degree programs contribute to better prospect of graduates than those graduated from programs without professional accreditations? What are the actual personal aspirations, family environment, mobility barriers/generators and school life experiences of the students studying sub-degree programs?

    This research will be the first of its kind to examine the impact of self-financing sub-degree education on social mobility of Hong Kong's youth. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods will be adopted. Focus group method and research methodology is informed by the critical consciousness raising pedagogy suggested by Paulo Freire and the related critical narrative analysis. Questionnaire surveys and focus group interviews will be conducted with current students and graduates of self-financing sub-degree programs with and without professional accreditation offered by Caritas Institute of Higher Education. The research will access the actual impacts of the self-financing sub-degree education on social mobility with the considerations of different underlying and possible intermediated factors including credential inflation, social class and professional qualification. It will bring about theoretical concerns and teaching reflections on the expected role of educational attainment in the pursuit of a more open and equal society particularly in the years witnessing youth activism in Hong Kong.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS12/M01/15
    Project Title: A comparative study of the bird communities in urban parks of Hong Kong in 1996 and 2016
    Principal Investigator: Dr LOCK Nga-yi (Centennial)

    Large extent of natural habitats has been transformed into man-made environment at a global scale. Urban parks have become one of the last remaining refuges of many of the lowland wildlife. Parks are biodiversity hotspots in urban ecosystems and they support species which serve important ecological functions. Birds are effective environmental indicators and they are the most accessible charismatic wildlife for urban residents to appreciate natural biodiversity. A study of urban bird ecology will thus serve not merely the academic domain of ecology, but also provide recommendations to enhance the quality of life of city dwellers and to conserve natural biodiversity in the rapidly degrading global environmental matrix.

    There has not yet been a study in Hong Kong to investigate the temporal changes in urban bird communities. The results of the present study will be compared to the 1996 data to identify any change of bird communities. In addition, this study will collect information about the park vegetation for a more intensive analysis of the relationship between the bird communities and the vegetation characteristics.

    The results of this study will generate recommendations for the design and management of urban parks, which will enhance the diversity of urban bird communities, increase the aesthetic and recreational value of urban parks, and enhance biodiversity conservation in the urban context. Academically, the data collected by this study is not only useful for understanding the current situation of urban bird communities but will also serve as a historical record for future research focusing on the impact of humans on their environment.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/H06/15
    Project Title: Exploring family caregiving experiences and identifying the process of the ageing carers' planning for continuation of care for the community-dwelling person with intellectual disability
    Principal Investigator: Dr LOW Lisa Pau-le (Caritas)

    Aim: The aim of the study is to explore family carers' experiences of current caring needs, the support they have received and their plans to continue to provide care for community-dwelling persons with mild and moderate intellectual disability (ID) as carers themselves are approaching old age.

    Design: A grounded theory methodology using a constructivist approach.
    Settings: The settings for this study will be conveniently-selected sheltered workshops from Caritas-Hong Kong and Yan Chai Hospital. The sheltered workshops will be selected from the Hong Kong Social Welfare Department's list of services provided to persons with ID. These sheltered workshops will be the sites used to recruit those family carers who look after persons with mild to moderate grades of ID. For Caritas-Hong Kong, two sheltered workshops providing services for persons with ID will be approached. These are Caritas Lok Hang SW (capacity 150) and Caritas Lok Kin Workshop (capacity 126). For Yan Chai Hospital, there is only one sheltered workshop named 'Yan Chai Hospital Madam Lo Lee Pui Ching Memorial Workshop' (capacity 150). Therefore, there will be a total of three sites, giving a capacity of 426 potential clients with ID in which to recruit their family carers.

    Participants: Purposive sampling will be used to begin the recruitment of family carers, followed by theoretical sampling. Based on the principal investigator's prior work in conducting qualitative research in multi-sites, fifteen family carers are planned to represent each site, giving rise to a total of 45 family carers. At this point without undertaking the study, it is not possible to know whether the capacity of the sheltered workshops may influence the phenomenon under study - the family caregiving experiences. Indeed, these sites are larger in capacity than the sites used in the principal investigator's prior study to estimate the sample size. Furthermore, as the actual number of clients with ID who are mild and moderate cannot be determined at this stage this will therefore influence the number of family carers that will be recruited. As a contingency measure, this project will target at sampling 20 family carers per site, giving an estimated number of 60 family carers. Therefore, the final sample size of this project will depend on the numbers required to reach data saturation.

    Methods: Individual audiotaped semi-structured interviews will be adopted. An interview schedule composing of broad questions has been developed based on the search of the literature and the research team's prior knowledge and expertise of conducting research with persons with ID and on family carers. Field notes will be collected to supplement the interview data. Constant comparative analysis methods will be undertaken to generate the concepts and to develop the theory of family caregiving experiences, and to identify the processes of the ageing carers' planning for continuation of care for their family members with ID.

    Results and Conclusion: The theory will capture family caregiving experiences and the processes of family carers in addressing caring needs, the support received and the family carers plans to continue to provide care for the community-dwelling persons with ID in their later life. New understanding and insights into emerging issues, needs and plights of family carers will be made available to inform the policies and practices to improve the care of the persons with ID living in the community, as well as to provide better support for the family carers who are ageing themselves. The theoretical framework that will be generated will be highly practical and useful in generating knowledge about factors that influence the caregiving processes; and, tracking the caregiving journey at different time-points to clearly delineate areas to implement practice changes. In this way, the theoretical framework will be highly useful in guiding timely and appropriate interventions to target at the actual needs of family carers as they themselves are ageing and will need to continue to take care of their family members with ID in the community.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS12/H02/15
    Project Title: Academic discourse socialization of EFL students: A holistic approach to teaching speaking for academic purposes in a self-financing institute in Hong Kong
    Principal Investigator: Dr MAK Ho-yan (Centennial)

    One typical approach to university education is to engage in academic discourses in which exchange of opinions and construction of knowledge take place. This could be challenging for undergraduates, especially learners of English as a foreign language (EFL), who have to learn about the conventions and practices of their discourse communities. To acquire competence and skills in engaging in oral academic discourses (e.g. oral academic presentations, seminar-type discussions), they also have to engage in a learning process, involving exchange of opinions, negotiation of meaning and interactions with peers and experts (e.g. instructors); it is a dynamic, complex, and socially-constructed process by nature. While research on oral academic discourse socialisation has been conducted recently, most of these studies focused on non-native speakers in English-speaking countries, where more opportunities for scaffolding were provided by their native-speaking peers, compared to that in EFL contexts. Regarding preparation of ESL university students through courses on English for academic purposes (EAP), although there has been a considerable amount of research on EAP courses, little is still known about how EFL students are socialized into oral academic discourses and the relationship with EAP course design and activities. Adapting a holistic approach to teaching of speaking to the design of an EAP course, this study aims to investigate how EFL undergraduates would be socialized into oral academic discourses and the potential impacts of various course components on their development in a self-financed tertiary education context in Hong Kong. A triangulation of quantitative and qualitative data from multiple sources will be conducted. The findings of the study will provide pedagogical implications for the design of EAP courses on the development of speaking skills in EFL/ ESL contexts.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/E01/15
    Project Title: Sustainable Development for Community Dial-a-ride Services: Driving more People without more Vehicles
    Principal Investigator: Dr MO Yiu-wing (Hang Seng)

    This research aims at developing sustainable strategies for non-profit transportation organisations to provide dial-a-ride (DAR) services for people with disabilities through the optimisation of revenue and resource management. As an on-demand, door-to-door transport service that requires advanced booking, DAR's utilisation rate is usually low compared with the scheduled route services, and this operation characteristic creates a relatively high ratio of subsidy per person. To address this issue by optimising the resource management, we will study the service options of vehicle pooling arrangements in DAR operations. Through optimisation models, we will identify the relationships among discount rates, passenger tolerance of traveling time and vehicle utilisation rates for the new vehicle scheduling sustainable strategies. Such results are expected for the transportation organisations to serve more people without the demand of additional vehicles.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/E03/15
    Project Title: Vision-based Two-hand Gesture Recognition and Evaluation System for Healthcare Training
    Principal Investigator: Dr PANG Wai-man (Caritas)

    Applying game concept and Virtual Reality (VR) technology for healthcare education and medical training is becoming popular and widely accepted in practice. These medical related serious games are attractive and prove to be cost effective in motivating learning. Many healthcare training systems share a common goal in requiring trainees to accomplish specific tasks with strong two-hand interaction and hand-eye coordination. These tasks usually look simple, but repeated practices are necessary in order to achieve certain skill level. Otherwise, it is difficult for the trainee to perform the task properly, and this can easily lead to risk in hygiene or even injury.
    Existing VR-based training systems require tailored devices to provide realistic interaction with the virtual environment, or some others may require wearing of gloves for recognizing hand gestures. These solutions commonly incur high development cost, and the inconvenience in wearing skin contacting devices. For many of the training applications, a fast vision based non-contact hand recognition solution will be more suitable and welcomed, as the solution provides a more comfortable setting to users and require shorter setup time.

    Therefore, in this project, our major objective is to enable the development of healthcare related serious game systems with the use of vision based techniques, so that tasks requiring two hands cooperation and interaction skills can be automatically and properly evaluated. A wide range of related healthcare skill training applications can take advantages from the proposed recognition system including training on personal care, rehabilitation, massage, and exercise. Specifically, these training systems can correct and guide the trainees with proper hand gestures when performing certain tasks, and keep practising without the involvement of human coach. Moreover, with the elimination of skin contacting VR devices from the recognition procedure, the concerns for hygiene and long setup time are also reduced.

    Our preliminary idea to the solution of the two-hand recognition is to rely on multiview vision based tracking techniques. In recent years, vision based tracking technology is becoming popular. Many attempts try to recognize hand gestures for simple control purposes, such as pointing and dragging operations in the graphical user interface (GUI). Many of them were based on the conventional real-time depth sensors to produce depth map of hand, followed by analyzing hand structure for fast and robust tracking of finger and palm postures. However, it is still challenging in handling highly coupled two-hand interactions. The major difficulties lie in the occlusion problem between two hands, especially when they are close or even touching each other.

    To reduce the effect of occlusion, multiple depth cameras are being developed to cover a wider viewing directions. A fast and tailored algorithm in processing the several obtained depth maps or point clouds will also be developed. In brief, the point clouds are first unified by hardware accelerated registration methods. Then, a quick hand parts segmentation will be proposed for the extraction of features used for identifying palm and finger gestures. Finally, the recognition is accomplished by the use of classification or machine learning algorithms on a large set of sample hand gestures obtained from volunteer subjects in laboratory.

    At the end of our project, we will demonstrate the capability of the hand gesture recognition system with a serious game in the theme of healthcare. The application will provide repetitive training and practises on tasks requiring skills using both hands which yield instant feedback and suggestion to improve the related skills.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/E02/15
    Project Title: An Automated Student Program Assessment Framework with Tailorable and Automated Test Oracle for Computer Science Education
    Principal Investigator: Prof POON Chung-keung (Caritas)

    Teaching and learning of computer programming in beginners' classes are known to be difficult. Students have to do a lot of exercises to practise their programming and debugging skills, and they need feedback on the correctness of their programs. However, assessing students' programming work manually is tedious, time-consuming and error-prone. With the large class and diverse background of students nowadays, it is increasingly challenging for instructors to provide students with adequate appropriate exercises and individual feedback, which are vital to the effectiveness of students' learning and sustenance of their learning motivation. In response, universities worldwide have developed automated program assessment systems (APASs), which free up instructors' time for other un-automated educational tasks. Moreover, APASs are found to be of tremendous benefit in many other aspects, such as facilitating the design of effective pedagogy, provision of instant and personalized feedback to both instructors and students, and enhancing students' learning motivation.

    One core function of APASs is to assess the correctness of students' programs, typically by automatically executing them against a suite of pre-defined test cases and comparing the programs' actual outputs with the instructor's expected outputs. The latter task requires a test oracle, that is, a mechanism for determining the correctness of program outputs. In the field of software testing, the general problem of test oracle automation is well known to be challenging. Implementation of test oracles in existing APASs is often too simplistic, rigid and incapable of being tailored to support the intended educational outcomes of the exercises. For example, multiple correct (or admissible) programming solutions to an exercise may produce different outputs (called output variants). A program which the human instructor accepts to be correct (or admissible) could be inappropriately rejected by a rigid test oracle in an APAS. This technical limitation is common and has been a root cause of many educationally undesirable effects on teaching and learning that can substantially compromise the benefits of an APAS in practice. There is a clear and pressing need to address this limitation, which is said in a recent literature review to be the main disadvantage of using APASs.

    In this project, we will develop an automatic program assessment framework which can recognize a variety of admissible output variants so that both instructors and students can focus on the essentials of the exercises instead of minor output deviations. The framework will satisfactorily handle a much broader range of programming exercises to suit different educational needs. We will build an online APAS platform to implement our framework that highly automates the program assessment process for use in real programming courses. The platform will also be instrumental for empirical evaluation and validation of our research. To fully utilize our expertise and collaboration, we will conduct cross-institutional experiments for higher reliability and validity.

    Our study is significant in perfecting the state-of-the-art APAS technologies and the advancement of the teaching and learning environment for programming classes, as what the work of ours and others has previously contributed. The research is expected to benefit the learning of hundreds of students each year with visible impact in the form of their improved programming skills. This project will advance the research capability of the investigators so that they can transfer research experiences and new knowledge into teaching and learning in their institutions, which is also the main objective of this Faculty Development Scheme (FDS). Since the newly developed online APAS platform can be used by all academic staff of the institutions, the new knowledge and tangible outcomes arisen from this project will benefit the teaching and learning of all three institutions. Finally, we will actively publicize our research findings both locally and internationally so that their potential benefits and values can be deployed by the global computer education community.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/H02/15
    Project Title: Transnational Migration and Reconstructing "Home": The African Diaspora in Hong Kong
    Principal Investigator: Dr SHUM Chun-tat (THEi)

    Hong Kong, an immigrant society, has long attracted migrants from different countries. The African migrant group is a less attended one in Hong Kong. In Chungking Mansions, a building in the heart of Hong Kong's business district, African businesspeople actively engage in various low-budget transnational trades across Africa, Hong Kong, and China. In this building, hundreds of African asylum seekers congregate and engage in illegal employment every day. African migrants have been living in Hong Kong for decades. However, little is known about their migration stories. Based on both quantitative and qualitative research methods, the proposed research will examine the transnational migration and home-making practices of African migrants in Hong Kong. It will demonstrate how the process of transnational migration is initiated and actualized, how the African migrants address other people in the host society and how legal and illegal African migrants interact with and provide support to each other. It will address power relationships among the African migrants, the tactics that they use in their everyday struggles, and different conceptualizations and meanings of home and settlement.

    Africans have lived as invisible minorities in Hong Kong. They fall into the "others" category of the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong. Invisibility is one form of marginalization. Given their invisible status, together with their small population, Africans are often the subjects of suspicion, which generates misunderstandings between Hong Kong Chinese and Africans in their everyday life interactions. Migrants in the receiving society are often considered to be passive and welfare-dependent individuals. The proposed research will provide an instructive perspective for examining how the African migrants, despite their various national origins, actively create a new "African community" in the context of marginalization and exclusion as it exists in Hong Kong. By studying their everyday social interactions and exchanges, this research will make an important contribution to the literature and teaching on migration, transnationalism and home-making. It will offer a new perspective for understanding African-Hong Kong relations and will also have policy implications as to how to strengthen Hong Kong's external relations with Africa in social, economic and cultural fields.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/H11/15
    Project Title: Revisioning Ibsen: The aesthetics and politics of staging the self in China and Hong Kong
    Principal Investigator: Prof TAM Kwok-kan (OUHK)

    This is a critical study of Chinese Ibsenism as contested ideologies in social framing and self-fashioning, as well as politics in the Chinese (including Hong Kong) theatre and social culture. It will explore the ideological implications in recent Chinese stage productions of Ibsen, particularly with reference to the reinvention of the post socialist self and gender in China and the postmodern experimentations in Hong Kong, in order to arrive at an understanding of the interplay between aesthetics and politics. The study will shed light on the key issues in the Chinese models of selfhood hinging on concepts of the Ibsenian self.

    Ibsenism has been playing a key role in the Chinese quest for a new definition of the self since the 1910s. It was first considered a new philosophy of individualism and a new identity of the self to replace the Confucian collectivist identity. Stage productions of Ibsen in the early 20th century focused mainly on the concept of individualist self-identity and non-Confucian self-autonomy.

    With the rise of socialist ideas in China in the 1930s, Ibsenism was redefined according to class ideology when class conflicts surfaced as matters of life and death in Chinese politics. Different interpretations of Ibsenism emerged as debates between individualism and collectivism in Chinese newspapers and journals. Numerous versions of Ibsen's A Doll's House were staged for a new experimentation with the concept of class in the redefinition of an individual. This strand of Ibsenism was extended into the 1960s with the individual characterized as a product of class consciousness. Ibsen's Nora and other characters were then seen in the new light of socialist characterization.

    Since the opening up of China in the 1980s, Ibsenism, however, has been subjected to new interpretations. Experimentations with Western concepts of gender and feminism can be found in the latest stage productions of A Doll's House, The Lady from the Sea and Hedda Gabler shown in China and Hong Kong. Ibsen's other plays that deal with the concept of self and self-identity, such as Peer Gynt, Ghosts and The Master Builder, were added to the theatre repertoire in China as well as in Hong Kong, and became new sites of contestation in representing complexities of the self with psychical depths.

    Chinese Ibsenism has inherited from Bernard Shaw's "Ibsenism" in its emphasis on the social ideas in Ibsen's drama, but also deviated from it in that Chinese Ibsenists (including Hong Kong Ibsenists) have tended to re-brand Ibsenism as a Chinese moral authority for debates over sociopolitical dimensions of life. As part of the Chinese theatre, Hong Kong Cantonese theatre, particularly that before the 1980s, has also seen a great impact of Ibsenism in both form and matter. Since the last decade, Hong Kong theatre directors, however, has begun to reinterpret Ibsen from the perspective of psychological complexity in his drama.

    Developing from my previous work and also different from the work of other scholars, I propose in this project to study the Ibsenian self and its manifestations in China/Hong Kong as both artistic and ideological constructs. The purpose of this study, hence, is to reexamine Chinese Ibsenism in its re-emergence as contested ideologies involving complex relations between the self, gender, class, state, culture and stage representations. The project seeks to address the following issues:

    1. In what ways has Ibsenism been redefined in China's post socialist era and how does this redefinition bear on the theatrical experimentations in China and Hong Kong?
    2. What visions of the self and gender have been experimented with in such productions?
    3. What discourse lies behind the new stage experimentations?
    4. What ideological implications are hidden in the new aesthetics of stage productions?


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/M04/15
    Project Title: Working hand-in-hand: building engineered yeasts for semi-synthetic cephalosporins
    Principal Investigator: Dr TSANG Wai-kei (THEi)

    Semi-synthetic cephalosporins have been used extensively for decades as "magic bullets" to combat microbial infections. The global market for cephalosporins is US$11 billion, representing the largest share in the worldwide sales of £]-lactam antibiotics. Most of the marketed cephalosporins are semi-synthetic, and are synthesized by multi-step chemical derivatization of cephem precursors. However, the methodologies involved are environmentally-damaging because toxic reagents and solvents are used. The increasing annual demand of semi-synthetic cephalosporins and the concept of environmental sustainability pose an urgent need to develop alternative approaches for "greener" production of antibiotics.

    Microorganisms have been heralded as a solution to many of the contemporary world's most pressing issues. One of the frontiers in microbial biotechnology is to help solve environmental and sustainable resources problems, and scientists have been working vigorously to harness single-celled living systems and enzymes to produce high value fine chemicals, which include commodity chemicals, therapeutic intermediates, and essential nutrients. Bioprocess technology has operational advantages: the procedures are low cost, high yield, and environmentally-sustainable.

    Recently, our group has developed a sustainable and effective (~100% overall conversion efficiency) two-enzyme process using D-amino acid oxidase (DAAO) and glutaryl-7-aminocephalosporanic acid acylase (GL-7-ACA acylase) for the biosynthesis of 7-aminocephalosporanic acid (7-ACA), a cephem nucleus for the production of nearly two-thirds of the world's commercial semi-synthetic cephalosporins. A new trend in pharmaceutical industry is the development of simplified bioprocesses for manufacture of cephem precursors. In this proposed study, we intend to construct an array of novel yeast strains for direct production of the major cephem nuclei. The yeast strains will be specifically engineered to express variant DAAO and GL-7-ACA acylase, and establish a functional assembly for one-pot production of 7-ACA. The use of surface display technology eliminates the tedious and cumbersome enzyme purification steps. Moreover, the displayed enzymes will be brought in close proximity, a critical condition for this two-enzyme process as the reaction intermediates are not stable. The completion of this study will establish a model for further development of novel yeast strains in industrial applications that require multi-enzyme collaboration.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/H01/15
    Project Title: An investigation of Hong Kong students' perceptions and experiences of English academic writing: A case study at The Open University of Hong Kong
    Principal Investigator: Dr TSO Wing-bo (OUHK)

    English academic writing skills are crucial for all university students, locally and worldwide. Students who are keen on academic writing are more likely to perform well in their studies and become high achievers in higher education. In Hong Kong, most tertiary institutions run compulsory English academic writing courses for Year1students. Unfortunately, English academic writing is often mistakenly viewed as a "transparent medium" (Lillis, 2006), or a set of core skills transferable to all contexts and all disciplines. Year after year, English academic writing, which should have been introduced as social and cultural practices, is unwittingly taught as generic study skills which are detached from authentic writing practices within different academic disciplines. While atomized skills -such as summarizing, mechanical drilling of grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.-are included in the syllabuses of most generic writing courses, domain-specific discourses and genre-based writing instruction are often left unexplored. One reason for this is that the one-size-fits-all course setting [the kind of setting used at the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK)] is not compatible with the contextualized teaching approach. Despite the best effort of course designers, one English writing course cannot include a wide variety of text types and discourses from all disciplines. Consequently, academic writing courses that employ the simplistic study-skills approach fail to enhance university students' competency in English academic literacy, in particular academic writing.

    The mastery of English academic literacies means much more than sheer grammatical accuracy. As recent research has suggests, academic literacy is discipline-embedded and discourse-relevant (Hill, Tinker & Catterall, 2010; Kapp & Bangani, 2011). Also, academic writing is a socially situated activity (Russell et al, 2009) that involves meaning-making, identity forming, and power relations between writer and reader (Lea & Street, 1998). To help students improve their English academic writing, teachers of English academic writing need to have a better understanding of their students' literacy histories (Stein, 1998), literacy events and literacy practices (Barton, Hamilton, & Ivani?, 2000).Furthermore, universities have the responsibility to create the literacy environment to help their students gain better access to the discourse community (Ganobcsik-Williams, 2006). ESL learners should be given sufficient opportunities to develop their sociocultural sensitivity and reading and writing strategies for various written genres in their own field of study. The traditional English writing class setting should move beyond the grammatical and lexical deficit model. Also, different writing classes should be tailor-made for students coming from various disciplines.

    With the aim of helping local English second language (ESL) learners to improve their academic writing, this research study will explore Hong Kong students' literacy background and actual experiences of developing English academic literacy, with a special focus on academic writing. Using a mixed research methodology (e.g. Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004), this project will first collect quantitative data through a questionnaire survey of approximately 200 students. Then, it will obtain qualitative data from students' written assignments, subject teachers and tutors' feedback, in-depth interviews and follow-up contacts with students taking ENGLA101F: University English Writing Skills (a 5-credit foundation level course) at the OUHK. The research project aims to investigate how local ESL students make sense of English academic writing practices. It will also identify the major issues and challenges Hong Kong students face as they engage in English academic writing in the first 18 months of their university studies. Recommendations for improving the English academic writing course will also be made.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS24/H02/15
    Project Title: Determinants of Public Support for Waste Management Policy in Hong Kong
    Principal Investigator: Mr WAN Kar-ho (PolyU SPEED)

    Over the past three decades, the municipal solid waste in Hong Kong had increased by nearly 80% while the population growth was merely 36%. This indicated that the people in Hong Kong were producing waste at an alarming rate. This problem should be addressed systematically. In May 2013, a blueprint for the sustainable use of resources in the coming decade was published by the Government which targeted to reduce 40% of the waste disposal by adopting a basket of policy measures, including expansion of the existing landfills, adopting incineration, introduction of waste charging and increasing recycling, and it has also recognised the importance of public participation in related campaigns. So apart from setting up waste management facilities, it has committed itself to provide more public education. However, various stakeholders, including citizens, legislators, local environmental groups have voiced the criticism that these measures, particularly the development of landfills and incinerator as well as the waste charging would create environmental problems to the people living in the specific districts close to the facilities and pose additional financial burdens to citizens respectively. Hong Kong people have become more outspoken about their demands and asked for higher degree of participation in policymaking since the change of sovereignty in 1997. Therefore, policy makers should understand the determinants of policy support for waste management so as to address the environmental concerns and the rising sentiments of people in policy participation. To research this, a conceptual model is developed and proposed to be tested with a survey study in Hong Kong. The findings would contribute not only to the compact city of Hong Kong, but also in a global context of increasing urban intensification.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E06/15
    Project Title: Chemical and Toxicological Characterization of Particulate Emissions from Diesel Vehicles
    Principal Investigator: Dr WANG Bei (THEi)

    Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, and the vast majority of the population is exposed to traffic emissions. In recent years, the problem of vehicle emissions has attracted increasing concern in Hong Kong. The epidemiology and toxicology studies have shown the association of vehicle emission pollutants with some serious problems for human health and the environment. The negative health effects posed by vehicular emissions include cardiovascular and pulmonary mortality, chronic bronchitis, respiratory symptoms, and cardiovascular sickness.

    Diesel vehicles, among all vehicles, are the main sources of street-level pollution, making a considerable contribution to both gaseous and particulate air pollutants. According to Hong Kong Environment Bureau (2013), there were about 88,000 pre-Euro IV commercial diesel vehicles (i.e. pre Euro, Euro I, II and III), and they emitted approximate 88% of respirable suspended particulates (RSP) of all vehicle emissions in 2010. Ministry of Environmental Protection of China (2010) stated that by the end of 2009 diesel vehicles accounted for 17.7% of total populations of vehicles in China, while diesel vehicles emitted over 90% of vehicular PM emissions.

    Up till now, several studies have investigated on-road or in-tunnel vehicle emissions in Hong Kong. However, only limited knowledge of the detailed chemical compositions and the toxicological potential of the diesel vehicle particulate emissions at different driving conditions was obtained in Hong Kong. Moreover, there has been no study utilizing chassis dynamometer to characterize the chemical composition and to determine the toxicity of the particulate matter emitted from diesel vehicles in Hong Kong.

    This proposed project utilizes the chassis dynamometer at Jockey Club Heavy Vehicle Emissions Testing and Research Center in Hong Kong to investigate the chemical composition and toxicity of diesel vehicle particulate emissions at different driving cycles. Results from this project can provide HKEPD with more information to determine the viable approach for reducing emissions from mobile sources. Moreover, an improved understanding of the potential of diesel vehicle emission to induce biological responses is the key for the development of more targeted strategies to protect against the adverse health effects associated with diesel exhaust exposure. The data obtained in this project can also be used to investigate trends in emissions with vehicle model year, vehicle type, country of vehicle manufactured, driving cycle, as well as the efficiency of emission control technologies on diesel vehicle.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E05/15
    Project Title: Formation, fate and toxicity of chlorination byproducts generated in seawater desalination by reverse osmosis
    Principal Investigator: Dr WANG Chao (THEi)

    Seawater desalination using reverse osmosis (RO) technology has become an important way of producing freshwater to meet the growing water demands worldwide. Hong Kong has also proposed to build a RO seawater desalination plant to provide about 5% of its fresh water supply. In RO desalination plants, chlorination prior to filtration for preventing the bio-fouling on intake structures and membranes will inevitably lead to the generation of chlorination byproducts that pose potential health, aesthetic and ecological risks. Research on chlorination byproducts has been mostly focused on water treatment and wastewater treatment. Less is known on chlorination byproducts formation in seawater desalination by RO. With the published information available in the literature, only limited researches had been focused on regulated disinfection byproducts (DBPs), while most of these studies were carried out at plants of distillation technology, rather than seawater desalination membrane penetration technology.

    In chlorination of seawater, the formation and toxicity of chlorination byproducts and chlorine chemistry are expected to be different from that in chlorination of drinking water. These differences are arose from the following important factors: 1) unique characteristics of seawater; 2) complicated organic matter precursors coming from natural and synthetic organic compounds; and 3) operating conditions including chlorine dosage, contact time and chlorination mode. All these factors are expected to lead to different chlorine chemistry and chlorination byproduct formation.

    In addition, the chlorination byproducts formed during seawater desalination by membrane penetration technology will cause potential risks to marine ecosystems in locations where brine is being discharged. Chlorination byproducts formed in pretreatment could occur in the desalinated permeate if not rejected completely by RO membranes. The chlorination byproducts discharged with the brine are likely to impose potential adverse effects on marine ecology.

    Thus, the long-term objectives of the proposed research are to generate a systemic knowledge of understanding on the effects of seawater characteristics and the operating conditions of RO seawater desalination on the chlorination byproduct formation. This knowledge will also assist in the development of the optimized seawater pretreatment process of the proposed RO desalination plant in Hong Kong in order to minimize the chlorination byproduct formation. In addition, the effects of chlorination byproducts to marine ecology with the discharge of brine will be examined in the proposed research, which will help to enhance the outfall design of brine discharge of the proposed RO desalination plant.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/E02/15
    Project Title: Relative Attribute Based Configurator Design for Mass Customization
    Principal Investigator: Dr WANG Yue (Hang Seng)

    Mass customisation aims to provide goods and services to meet each individual customer's needs with a level of efficiency close to that of mass production. It is considered to be a viable strategy for companies to gain a competitive advantage in the current business environment. Product configuration systems are one of the major toolkits enabling mass customisation. Configurators interact with customers and transform a customer's specific requirements into a set of tangible product specifications. They have been successfully implemented by companies in various industries, including Dell, Nike and BMW. Alibaba Group, one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world, envisions configurator-based customised product development as the next big opportunity for its consumer-to-business platform.

    Current product configurators require customers to choose from a set of predefined attributes or a list of component alternatives. However, customers may not possess the necessary expertise regarding unfamiliar products. They often express their needs in an imprecise, vague, or even contradictory layman's language. Existing configurators are not capable of bridging this gap, so customers may feel confused when using such a configurator.

    This proposal is prepared to improve the performance of product configurators by bridging the semantic gap between the customer's needs and the product's design parameters. Customer will simply need to indicate their preferences relative to the reference product for each product attribute. A fine-tuned product variant will be found to better fit the customer's needs. In this way, a more user-friendly navigation and selection process can be achieved.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/B01/15
    Project Title: Career strategies of hotel senior managers in Hong Kong
    Principal Investigator: Dr WONG Simon Chak-keung (THEi)

    This research explores career development strategies. It aims to investigate any relationship between career strategies used by hotel senior managers in Hong Kong with career planning, career commitment and organizational advancement prospects. The study adopts a mixed research methodology and consists of two stages. Stage one focuses on the identification of career strategies used by hotel senior managers. Focus group interviews and or in-depth interviews with selected hotel senior managers will uncover the strategies they have used to advance their careers. Past literature will be referenced in order to develop other potential career strategies. Stage two applies a quantitative method. A questionnaire will be developed with all the measurements for career strategies, career planning, career commitment, and organizational advancement prospect. Factor analysis will be employed to develop the underlying dimensions of career strategies. A two-step hierarchical multiple regression will be adopted to discover the relationship between dependent variables - career strategies and independent variables (career planning, career commitment, organizational advancement prospect). Step 1 will check whether the demographic variables will have an impact on the career strategies among the hotel senior managers. Step 2 will be tested by entering the other independent variables (career planning, career commitment, organizational advancement prospect). The results will firstly generate a unique discovery of the various career strategies that Hong Kong hotel senior managers have adopted to advance their careers. Secondly, the relationship of either demographic variables (in step 1) or the other career planning, career commitment and organizational advancement prospect (in step 2) with the career strategies (dependent variables) will be revealed. The outcomes of the research will assist both hoteliers and human resources experts in developing talent management practices in order to retain and develop the most important asset in the Hong Kong hotel industry - human resources.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS17/M02/15
    Project Title: Investigate FosPeg? mediated PDT efficiency on Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma using 3D cell model approaches
    Principal Investigator: Dr WU Wing-kei (Tung Wah)

    Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma (NPC) is one of the top ten cancers with the annual incidence of over 800 new cases in Hong Kong. Conventionally, treatments for NPC are mainly based on chemo-radiotherapy. However, the failure of NPC therapies is found to be associated with the advanced staging, distant recurrence and multi-drug resistance properties.

    Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is one of the FDA approved therapeutic approaches which uses a combination of photosensitizing agents (PS), visible light and molecular oxygen to induce selective eradication of biological targets, including tumor cells. Our previous in vitro studies on FosPeg?-mediated PDT using traditional cell culture model have demonstrated the photocytotoxic effects on various NPC cells, in addition to the cell cycle regulation, inhibition of cell migration and inhibition of intracellular signal proteins (MAPK and EGFR pathways).

    In this study, we aim to demonstrate PDT efficiency and investigate the optimum PDT dose by using two NPC 3D cell culture model approaches. We propose to use the 3D cell culture model to mimic the normal physiological condition and tumor microenvironment. The use of 3D cell culture model could provide us a more accurate prediction, particularly on the effect of oxygen content and light delivery to PDT efficiency in solid tumor. Outcome measures include the tumor size and characteristics, mode of cell death, intracellular signal proteins and drug resistance protein expression at pre- and post-PDT treatments. The proposed project addresses the problem of poor treatment outcome for NPC, in order to provide critical scientific evidence to support the efficacy of PDT on NPC.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS24/B05/15
    Project Title: Is R&D Rewarded by the Stock Market? Evidence from China
    Principal Investigator: Dr XU Ming (PolyU SPEED)

    Subsequent to the approval by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) and the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong, stock trading through the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect commenced on 17 November 2014. Cross-border investments in Chinese stocks through this arrangement could increase significantly over time. More in-depth analyses of Chinese stocks would become more critical for international investors who are keen to augment their asset allocations in China but lacking the expertise about Chinese stocks particularly in its technology sector. Internationally, investments in research and development (R&D) are known as a key strategic factor to continually improve the technological innovation in product and services on a global basis. Since the beginning of economic reform, the Chinese government's efforts at R&D promotion have contributed significantly to rapid economic development. China's investment in R&D has increased dramatically in recent years.

    For publicly traded companies, the cost and benefit of R&D activities may be reflected not only in current stock prices, but also in the patterns of future distribution of stock prices. Many prior studies on the relation between stock performance and the R&D intensity have been conducted with affirmative results. Such relationship however has not been investigated in-depth in relation to Chinese technology-based enterprises despite the recent emergence of these firms in the global arena. This proposed study aims to enhance such understanding through in-depth analyses of selected technology enterprises publicly listed in China. Specifically, the study examines the relationship between the expected stock return and the R&D intensity for Chinese firms from 2003 to 2013 using the cross-sectional regression approach. Rather than on instantaneous responses of the stock prices to the R&D announcements, our inquiry is whether firms' R&D activities every year affect the risk-reward patterns of stock returns in the next year. The finance theory indicates that only systematic risk will be compensated in terms of higher expected returns. The work by Berk et al (1997) also implies that R&D induces a systematic component of risk and should, therefore, be compensated in expected returns. The Chinese data provide an opportunity to examine the theory empirically, in addition to the evidence from the US and Japan which are the two main spenders in R&D investment over the world.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS17/H01/15
    Project Title: An exploratory study on the medium of instruction (MOI) of the self-financing tertiary institutions in Hong Kong
    Principal Investigator: Dr YEUNG Marine Yim-king (Tung Wah)

    The medium of instruction (MOI) has been a bone of contention in Hong Kong since its colonial days. While it is evident from research that using the mother tongue as the medium of learning is far more effective than using English, the formulation of the MOI policy has always been motivated by political agenda and has to be understood in the broader social and political context. Despite the Hong Kong SAR government's effort to promote the "biliterate and trilingual" language policy, most tertiary institutions today still adopt English as the medium of instruction. However, with the expansion of tertiary education in the early 1990s and the decline in the general English language proficiency of university students, some university lecturers, particularly those in science faculties, have found it difficult to teach in English as required. This raises the issue of the practicality of the indiscriminate adoption of the EMI policy at tertiary level, particularly at the self-financing tertiary institutions where students are generally known to have under-performed in the English subject. The proposed study is an exploratory study that aims to tap into the experiences and opinions of educators and students from the self-financing tertiary institutions in Hong Kong, a rather underrepresented stakeholder group of the MOI policy, about the implementation of the EMI policy at tertiary level. Qualitative data will be collected via interviews with teachers and students sampled from a variety of faculties in different self-financing tertiary institutions in Hong Kong. It is hoped that findings of the study will shed light on the reality of language use in the tertiary classroom and inspire further studies in a larger scale, with the ultimate goal of the formulation of a fair language-in-education policy that accommodates the learning needs of all students.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/P02/15
    Project Title: Sparse Optimization Models with Application to Portfolio Management
    Principal Investigator: Dr YU Kwok-wai (Hang Seng)

    Mathematical optimization has long been a very important topic investigated by many researchers. It is applied in a wide variety of fields, such as finance, network design and operation, supply chain management and engineering. With the rapid increase of data in real-life situations, many optimization problems have to deal with vast amount of data. As only some data from a large data set are meaningful and useful, it is challenging to analyze such a large set of data and extract useful information. It is essential to study sparsity for big data. Thus, sparse optimization becomes increasingly important due to its various applications. One of the attractive applications is the construction of sparse portfolios. Due to transaction costs and physical constraints, investors usually prefer a more manageable sparse portfolio. It is essential to devise methodologies for constructing sparse portfolios. Although the concept of sparse optimization has been studied by many researchers and practitioners, these studies are concentrated mainly in the single-objective framework.

    It is worth noting that most problems in the real world are concerned with more than one objective. However, there has not been much research into sparse multi-objective optimization problems (SMOPs). Therefore there is a great demand to establish an in-depth theory in the optimality of SMOPs. In this project, we will investigate the sparse tri-objective quadratic programming problems (STQPPs) and the sparse bi-objective Conditional-Value-at-Risk programming problems (SBCPPs). For the STQPPs, we will study the optimality conditions and investigate the properties of the Pareto optimal solution set. We plan to use Clarke subgradient for analysis and devise effective computational algorithms for solving the STQPPs. For SBCPPs, we will consider the multi-objective convex programming method and piecewise linear approach for solving the SBCPPs. In the first method, we will propose a novel subgradient method to solve the SBCPPs. We will also conduct extensive numerical experiments to demonstrate the high efficiency of our proposed algorithm on solving bi-objective convex programming problems. In the piecewise linear approach, we will apply the multi-objective simplex method and Benson's outer approximation algorithm to devise an effective algorithm to obtain the set of all Pareto optimal solutions. We will also apply the proposed algorithms to obtain optimal sparse portfolio strategies and use the real data from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange for empirical analysis.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/M01/15
    Project Title: Investigation of Spatio-temporal Relationship between the Structure and Function in Glaucoma Using Partial Least Squares Regression (PLS-R)
    Principal Investigator: Dr YU Marco Chak-yan (Hang Seng)

    Glaucoma is a chronic progressive optic neuropathy, which is a leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. According The World Health Organization (WHO) Universal Eye Health Global Action Plan 2014-2019, monitoring glaucoma is one of the major issues in managing age-related irreversible blindness. Currently, structural examination of the optic nerve head and functional examination of the visual field are the major assessment modalities for detection of glaucoma and monitoring of glaucoma progression. However, in clinical practice, glaucoma by large is monitored using global measures, such as average retinal nerve fiber layer thickness and visual field mean deviation. Geometric information of the retinal nerve fiber layer distribution and visual sensitivity are often analyzed separately. Without integrating the spatio-temporal data derived from both the structural and functional tests, it is difficult to interpret glaucoma progression (as structural progression and functional progression may not agree) and evaluate disease prognosis. This project aims to develop a statistical model to integrate the spatio-temporal information from longitudinal structural and functional data sets for interpretation of glaucoma progression. Due to the involvement of high dimensional data, data reduction technique will be adopted to extract sufficient information for the model development.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/M03/15
    Project Title: Fermentative Production of Tetrodotoxin (TTX) from Marine Microorganisms for Pharmaceutical and Medical Applications
    Principal Investigator: Dr YU Peter Hoi-fu (THEi)

    One of the most common and hardy fish found in South China Sea and Hong Kong waters is the puffer fish (Tetraodontidae). Most puffer fish contain tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin which is 1200 times more poisonous than cyanide. The neurotoxin in a mature puffer fish is enough to kill 30 people and there is no antidote. However, tetrodotoxin (TTX) is a potential innovative analgesic and a local anesthetic which is non-opioid (i.e. non-additive). Tetrodotoxin could be a potential pain relief to many patients, including cancer patients.

    During our early studies in 2000-2003, we had collected and identified 10 species of puffer fish in the Hong Kong waters. We investigated the distribution of tetrodotoxin in different organs of puffer fish, and the influence of seasons on the production of the TTX. Our findings of the fact that variable of amount of TTX are present among different species of puffer fish and that TTX is widely found in other species of fish make us query whether TTX might actually originate from bacteria.

    From our previous RGC project (PolyU 5458/05M), we reported (December 2008) that we were able to isolate several bacterial species from puffer fish that can produce TTX. To optimize the TTX yield, we also had varied different parameters of fermentation condition, including pH, temperature, salinity, aerobic/anaerobic conditions, different culture medium, effect of arginine and external source of proteins Some of these results were very useful in our study of TTX production by bacteria. In our study, we had developed and compared various methods for detection of TTX, comparing several sensitivity and easy usage of the techniques, such as the mouse bioassay, several HPLC methods, and also a cell-culture method, and we had found the cell culture method is a better choice. We were able to produce a TTX antiserum for the identification and detection of TTX (collaborated with South China Agriculture University of Guangzhou), this antiserum is not available commercially, and in our research plan we would like to develop a rapid-detection kit for TTX. We also had applied our findings and techniques of TTX detection to apply to a preliminary clinical study, and we were able to detect and analyze TTX in the TTX poisoning case of 4 patients in Hong Kong. With the study of the various parameters affecting the production of TTX, we have gained a better understanding of the mechanism of production of TTX (promotion and inhibition). After elucidating the mechanisms of TTX biosynthetic pathways, a better understanding in the formulation and planning the optimal culture media and conditions can be achieved.

    In this application proposal, we would like to optimize the culture conditions for TTX production by fermentation with bacteria and develop a more standard and reliable process for the extraction and purification of TTX, to optimize the TTX production to about 1 mg/L by combining the innovative fermentation method and the developed extraction and purification method. We would also want to develop an ELIZA kit for the detection of tetrodotoxin.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/E04/15
    Project Title: OREO: Cross-Layer Optimization for Power Efficient OLED Display
    Principal Investigator: Dr ZHAO Yingchao (Caritas)

    Worldwide smartphone and tablet shipments will surpass two billion in year 2015. Powered by batteries, these mobile devices are in desperate need of higher power efficiency to extend usage time. The display is often the most power-consuming component of a mobile device. Traditionally, the majority of power consumption can be attributed to a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) panel, which can take up about 60% of the total power consumed by a mobile device. Recently, Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) has emerged as the choice of display, given its advantages of higher emitting efficiency, bigger contrast ratio, brighter colors, and the possibility of being built on a flexible and transparent substrate. Although OLED is more power efficient than LCD, it still consumes quite a lot of power in mobile devices. We tested the OLED display power of a Samsung Galaxy S4, which in standby mode occupies approximately 43% of the total power consumption. One unique property of OLED that differentiates it from LCD is that OLED power consumption is highly color-dependent. This property will be exploited in our project to significantly improve OLED display power efficiency. Specifically, a hierarchical collaborative optimization framework across three layers will be developed.

    First, at the device-level, this project will develop a unified power model for OLED cells capable of capturing both color-dependent power consumption and dynamic power from color transformations between adjacent frames.

    Second, at the hardware-level, as OLED cells allow trade-offs between power and color, visual-quality aware dynamic voltage scaling (DVS) will be developed for different applications.

    Third, at the software-level, as different colors consume different amounts of power, the dynamic tone mapping (DTM) approach will be studied for videos to save display power through video classification and color transformation.

    Through exploiting hardware-level power trace information, a novel software-level online video classification technique will be investigated. The most challenging aspect of this project is to adaptively conduct the proposed techniques in a time-conscious and effective manner considering stringent timing requirements for applications such as video streaming and games.

    The key is the power model, which integrates the hardware-layer and software-layer to overcome this challenge. Preliminary results re-confirm the huge potential of OLED display power reduction delivered by tri-layer optimizations of OREO.

    The principles of power saving for OLED display that will be obtained from this project will also benefit the software development training for undergraduate students whose majors are digital entertainments. They can embed the power saving idea in the design of mobile applications, and eventually build power conscious applications.

    With the success of this project, we aim to cut OLED display power by half, which will help reduce power consumption of mobile devices, extend usage time, and contribute to a better user experience, as well as a greener planet.


    Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/M01/15
    Project Title: Empowering Caregivers of People with Schizophrenia: Comparing Intervention Effectiveness of Family Link Education Programme (FLEP), Narrative Practice Group (CNGP) and Integrative Peer Support Growth Group (IPSGG)
    Principal Investigator: Dr ZHOU Dehui (Shue Yan)

    In this comparative intervention effectiveness study, we will develop a new intervention approach to support caregivers for people with schizophrenia, called the Integrative Peer Support Growth Group (IPSGG), test it and compare its effectiveness with two other intervention approaches, the Family Link Education Programme (FLEP) and the Collective Narrative Practice Group (CNPG). As the first local effectiveness study that involves multiple intervention approaches for caregivers, the proposed study will help to articulate the pros and cons of each approach and their practical effects on caregivers of people with schizophrenia.

    The proposed study uses a longitudinal framework (pre-assessment, post-assessment, and three-month follow-up) and a delayed treatment control nested design, which tests the effectiveness of three intervention groups (an FLEP group, a CNPG group, and a wait-list control group with a delayed treatment with IPSGG). A mixed method involving parallel quantitative and qualitative research will be used to track the effects of the three intervention programmes.

    We plan to recruit a sample of 120 caregivers of people with schizophrenia, with 40 caregivers in each intervention group, to ensure an anticipated effect size (Cohen's d) of .68, the desired statistical power level of .80 and a probability level of .05. All 120 caregivers will take part in the quantitative research, in which their subjective burdens, psychological well-being, empowerment, self-efficacy, regulation of emotions and social support will be measured using standard validated scales at three data points: at enrollment, immediately after the intervention, and three months after the intervention. ANOVA with repeated measures and ANCOVA analyses will be used to track the progress of participants in different intervention groups.

    Qualitative research in the form of semi-structured focus-group interviews will be carried out to probe into (i) the fluid experiences of the caregivers in the project, (ii) unravel changes in their caring experiences, and (iii) substantiate, explore and complement the findings of the quantitative study as part of the triangulation research process. A total of thirty participants will be recruited for the focus-group interviews occurring at five time points, with six participants in each focus group. All participants of the focus groups will be selected in terms of their genders, their relations with the family members who suffer from schizophrenia and the interventions that they received. Thematic analysis will be used to analyse the qualitative data and triangulate the findings of the quantitative assessment.