Faculty Development Scheme (FDS) - Project Abstract

Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/M06/16
Project Title: The synergistic effect of using pioglitazone in combination with piceatannol in treating nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in rats
Principal Investigator: Dr CHAN Shun-wan (THEi)

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the most common liver disorders in Western countries and it becomes an emerging problem in the Asia Pacific region. The prevalence of NAFLD in the general population of Hong Kong was about 42%. Under the current obesity epidemic, NAFLD prevalence increases and imposes a huge social and economic burden to our society. Given the importance of insulin resistance (IR) in the pathogenesis of NAFLD, insulin sensitizers have been broadly investigated in the treatment of NAFLD. Unfortunately, clinical studies have not demonstrated a consistent benefit in NAFLD patients treated with insulin sensitizers. Among the insulin sensitizers available in the market, pioglitazone, a thiazolidinedione with hypoglycemic, has better cardiovascular safety profile and anti-oxidant properties than other insulin sensitizers. It has been used to treat NAFLD clinically. However, the long-term usage related side-effects of pioglitazone have limited its utility. Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that the consumption of foods high in phenolic compounds is associated with lower risks of many chronic diseases. Although Resveratrol, a well-known dietary supplement, has shown pre-clinically to have beneficial effects on various chronic diseases. However, its poor bioavailability and rapid metabolism have limited the use of resveratrol in dietary intervention to improve health and prevent chronic diseases. Piceatannol, a natural analog of resveratrol, not only has higher bioavailability than resveratrol but also has biological effects such as promoting glucose uptake, improvement of glucose tolerance and enhancing autophagy. These effects could improve IR and reduce hepatocellular fat accumulation as well as hepatocyte dysfunction. In our preliminary study, high fat diet (HFD) was shown to successfully induce NAFLD in rats. We have demonstrated that a 4-week piceatannol treatment could significantly reduce liver lipid contents in rats fed with HFD. The efficacy of piceatannol used was not good enough so the use of it on managing NAFLD is not promising. It has been showed that combination drug therapy utilizes more than one medication but each agent is given at a dose much lower than the normal therapeutic dose (i.e., minimal side effects are anticipated) resulting in synergistic therapeutic outcomes. We hypothesize that a combination drug therapy using pioglitazone and piceatannol could be an effective therapeutic strategy for NAFLD. Thus, the primary goal of the proposed study is to evaluate the synergistic effect of using pioglitazone in combination with piceatannol in treating NAFLD and its related liver damages. Additionally, the hepatic and systemic mechanistic pathways of this combination drug therapy will be investigated. To achieve these, this study will be developed with three objectives: (1) to evaluate the synergistic effect of using pioglitazone in combination with piceatannol in treating HFD-induced NAFLD in rats; (2) to investigate whether the beneficial effects of using pioglitazone in combination with piceatannol in treating HFD-induced NAFLD in rats is via hepatic autophagic enhancing pathway; and (3) to use metabolomics approach for the comparison of serum metabolic changes in normal rats, NAFLD rats and NAFLD rats treated with pioglitazone in combination with piceatannol. Data about the synergistic effect of the proposed combination drug therapy and the understanding about the underlying mechanism(s) involved could improve the existing strategies for NAFLD prevention and treatment, resulting in reducing the prevalence of NAFLD.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/M02/16
Project Title: Potential involvement of NUCB2/nesfatin-1 in emesis and feeding in Suncus murinus
Principal Investigator: Dr CHAN Sze-wa (Caritas)

Nesfatin-1 is a newly discovered 82-amino acid anorectic peptide derived from nucleobindin2 (NUCB2). NUCB2/Nesfatin-1 immunoreactivity is highly expressed in hypothalamic as well as medullary nuclei such as the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) and dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus (DMNV), brain areas implicated in feeding and emesis control. Over the past decade, nesfatin-1 has been extensively studied in common laboratory animals because it is generally believed that the peptide not only reduces food intake and gastric emptying but is also involved in the long term regulation of body weight, making it a promising target for anti-obesity therapeutic drugs. Nevertheless, we know relatively little concerning the potential involvement of nesfatin-1 in emesis control because common laboratory animals (e.g. rat and mouse) are incapable of emesis and therefore the role of nesfatin-1 as a transmitter linking the forebrain and hindbrain being involved in nausea and emesis and feeding control has been overlooked.

The aim of the project is to use Suncus murinus (house musk shrew) to investigate if NUCB2/nesfatin-1 is a key transmitter in emesis and feeding control. We identified that S. murinus nesfatin-1 shares >85% amino acid sequence similarity with human and mouse. Our pilot study showed that central administration of NUCB2/nesfatin-1 potently reduced food intake and induced emesis in S. murinus. In the current proposal, therefore, we will identify the anatomical distribution of NUCB2/nesfatin-1 protein and mRNA using immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization, respectively. We will also examine plasma and tissue expression of NUCB2/nesfatin-1 in the fasted and fed states. We will elucidate the role of NUCB2/nesfatin-1 in mechanisms of feeding, biomarkers of nausea, and mechanisms of emesis in S. murinus. Experiments will be performed using standard behavioural testing and established surgical and radiotelemetric techniques combined with measurement of brain monoamine neurotransmitters and immunohistochemistry. The studies will use a range of classical and novel anti-emetic drugs to determine the mechanism of action of nesfatin-1 to reveal the differential effect of nesfatin-1 in the regulation of feeding and emesis. Our findings will yield novel mechanistic insights into forebrain-brainstem communication.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B19/16
Project Title: The Evolutionary Trend of International Income Inequality: An Analysis of Decomposition and Transitional Dynamics
Principal Investigator: Dr CHEONG James Tsun-se (HSMC)

This project examines the trends, composition and transitional dynamics of international income inequality. The investigation is conducted over four stages, centered on several related research directions. By combining the four components, this study can clearly reveal a comprehensive picture of the evolutionary trend of international income inequality.

The proposed project is divided into four research components. First, in the initial stage, different inequality measurement approaches and indicators are employed to provide an overview of the evolutionary patterns and trends of international inequality. Second, the countries are divided into regional subgroups and a decomposition analysis by subgroup is conducted to estimate the contributions of the inter-regional components and each of the spatial groupings to overall international inequality. The decomposition analysis can shed light on the underlying patterns of inequality and quantify the level of the North-South divide (that is, the difference in income between poor countries in the South and rich countries in the North). It can furthermore reveal the relationship between geographical groupings and inequality, thereby pinpointing the root of the problem of inequality. Third, the technique of decomposition by income sources is employed to evaluate the contributions of the three economic sectors. The information on the relative significance of the agricultural, industrial and service sectors can facilitate the formulation of industrial policy for economic development in developing countries. Finally, this study analyses the future evolution of regional inequality and assesses the possibility of convergence. Stochastic kernel analysis is employed to examine the transitional dynamics. Moreover, the Mobility Probability Plot, a new display tool of distributional analysis developed by the PI (Cheong and Wu 2015a), will be employed. The transitional analysis not only prepares a forecast of the future world income distribution, but also reveals the mobility of each country across the income distribution. Priority lists can thus be formulated according to the analysis results so as to better coordinate international efforts in economic partnership and development.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/H03/16
Project Title: Exploring how self-control training improves self-control performance: An experience sampling study
Principal Investigator: Dr CHOW Tak-sang (Shue Yan)

Self-control is often required when there are conflicts between temptations and long-term goals. Imagine when someone trying to lose weight sees his friends ordering delicious but high-calorie cheeseburgers. Two behavioral tendencies are competing for enactment: a) stick to the diet plan and order a low-calorie meal; or b) satisfy the immediate desire and order the cheeseburger. Such conflict could also happen when a researcher rushing to meet a grant proposal deadline receives an invitation to a party; or when someone wants to withhold his anger in the face of provocation. Successful self-control usually requires people to resist temptations and to enact behavior that is consistent with long-term goals. However, people often yield to temptation. The failure to exert self-control is at the root of many individual and societal misfortunes ranging from academic underachievement to unsatisfactory relationships. Exploring effective ways to boost self-control is a valuable endeavour.

Although recent research suggests that self-control grows by repeatedly practising small acts of self-control, little is known about how this 'self-control training' works. This project seeks to understand the psychological mechanisms underlying the self-control training. In particular, we will test whether the repeated practice of small acts of self-control increases self-efficacy to resist temptation and reduces perceived fatigue after self-control exertion. We also explore the longevity of the training effect and whether it works better for certain types of self-control conflicts. Overall, this project strives to provide important information that can help researchers and practitioners to optimize the effect of self-control training in future.

The current project also extends previous works by examining a cost-effective way to boost the training effect: Goal-setting. Goal-setting is an integral part of many programs that aim to promote behavioural changes. However, it is often omitted in self-control training. Past studies usually required participants to repeatedly practice small acts of self-control without mentioning the expected performance levels of these practices. Specific, challenging goals provide clear external reference for people to evaluate their progress. When the goal is realistic and challenging, people are more likely to obtain mastery experience and develop self-efficacy in the process of training. The current project will compare the effect of self-control training with and without a goal-setting component to evaluate its additional value.

To gain a deeper understanding of the training effect on everyday, naturalistic behaviours, this project will include not only laboratory assessments and traditional questionnaire measures but also real life experience sampling. Participants will be required to report their experience of self-control conflicts and related cognitions every day when they receive a smartphone signal. There will be three waves of one-week experience sampling (before the training, one week after and one month after the training). The exact delivery time of the signal will be randomly selected within a preset time window. By comparing the pre-training and post-training experiences, and comparing experiences of people in treatment condition and control condition, we can obtain insight into the effects of self-control training on people's experience of everyday conflicts of self-control.

Taken together, the present project will extend the previous research theoretically, practically and methodologically. By combining a randomised controlled experiment with the experience sampling method, we seek to enhance the understanding of the process involved in the long-term improvement of self-control. This project will also have clinical and educational implications for improving problematic behaviour related to failures of self-control.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/H08/16
Project Title: A study of the language specificness of two nursing specialties
Principal Investigator: Dr CHOW Vanliza Mei-yung (OUHK)

The proposed research will investigate the language used in nursing discourse on an intra-disciplinary level using across-method triangulation.

The study will examine two sets of data about two nursing specialties, namely oncology and paediatric nursing, in order to explore their language specificness. The first set of data will consist of nursing journal articles of these two specialties. Articles specifically about patients, the role of nurses and the care they provide which were published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing and European Journal of Oncology Nursing between January 2010 and December 2016 will be downloaded and compiled into two written sub-corpora. Meanwhile, another set of data generated from interviews with 25 oncology and 25 paediatric nurses in Hong Kong will also be compiled into two spoken sub-corpora and analysed in the same way. The ethnographic data drawn from interviews will complement the sub-corpora to provide special lexis, including metaphors, which characterises the knowledge of the two nursing specialties, particularly in the context of Hong Kong.

The proposed study using triangulation of data and methods will contribute to explore the special lexical items and their respective language patterns characterising the two selected nursing specialties, especially the patients, nurses and kinds of care provided in them, particular in a Hong Kong context. The findings would also increase our awareness of the use of metaphor to construct nursing knowledge on an intra-disciplinary level. These two kinds of knowledge would then help to facilitate English learning and teaching for specific purposes (hereafter ESP) in the nursing field in Hong Kong.

A pilot study has been conducted to grasp a preliminary picture of the possible specific lexical items and their respective phraseologies describing these two nursing specialties. The findings revealed that special language patterns (including metaphors) describing the work of pediatric and oncology nurses were used. A larger scale study would allow more lexis and language features encoding the knowledge of the two nursing specialties, particular in a Hong Kong context, to surface.

The whole investigation of the two sets of data will be divided into four phases: i) a quantitative analysis in which the words and their frequencies used in the two written and two spoken sub-corpora will be counted in order to uncover any specific use of words in describing the patients, roles of nurses and the care they provide in the two nursing specialties; ii) an in-depth investigation of the lines describing the words 'nurse(s)', 'patient(s)', 'oncology', 'pediatric', 'health care' and 'care' extracted from the four sub-corpora to explore whether any of these words may co-occur with any specific lexis, especially verbs (renamed as process types in systemic functional linguistics, SFL hereafter) and the language patterns in describing the patients, nurses and the kinds of care delivered in these two nursing specialties; iii) a search for the use of metaphors in these lines extracted from the four sub-corpora to analyse what, if anything, these metaphors reveal about the knowledge of the two nursing specialties; and iv) a comparison of the results generated from the two written and two spoken sub-corpora to examine any special lexis and metaphors used to construct knowledge of the two nursing specialties, especially about their patients, roles of nurses and the care they provide, particularly in the context of Hong Kong.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/B02/16
Project Title: Halting wasteful consumption: The differential impact of guilt and shame
Principal Investigator: Dr CHU Maggie Ying-ying (OUHK)

In recent years, there has been a heated debate about waste management in Hong Kong. Every year, more than 6 million tons of municipal solid waste are produced, putting a big burden on our existing waste management facilities, particularly the three landfills. Worse still, the present consumption-led lifestyle has speeded up the growth of many types of solid waste. Products often end up unused or partially used before being sent to the landfills. People often buy products without regard to their actual needs - for example, ordering too much food in restaurants; or throwing away a fully functional phone, merely for a change in style. Despite the controversy over the government's proposed means of dealing with the waste problems in Hong Kong, there is a common consensus that waste must be reduced by changing consumer behavior. How can we encourage more responsible consumption? The proposed project aims to address this issue. In particular, we assume that consumers' decisions to reduce waste are governed by negative emotional reactions that are associated with wasting, in particular, shame and guilt. We will examine the underlying process by which these emotions affect consumer behavior and the factors giving rise to these emotions.

Although shame and guilt are related, they differ in a number of important psychological dimensions (Han, Duhachek, & Agrawal, 2014; Lindsay-Hartz, 1984; Niedenthal, Tangney, & Gavanski, 1994; Tangney, 1990; Tangney, Miller, Flicker, & Barlow, 1996). For example, when people feel guilty, they perceive themselves to have engaged in bad behavior and thus become motivated to take action to undo the harm they have caused. When people feel shame, however, they see themselves as "bad persons" more generally, and this gives rise to a tendency to avoid situations in which they are likely to be evaluated negatively. In the context we are considering, therefore, these emotions can have different implications for behavior. That is, guilt tends to motivate more constructive behavior (e.g., to reduce purchase quantity next time and to reuse an old phone), whereas shame tends to result in more passive responses. However, guilt and shame can often coexist. Therefore, an understanding of what gives rise to these emotions and the conditions in which each has the predominant effect is important.

Previous research seems to suggest that the experience of guilt and shame are both preceded by some sort of social comparison. However, the target of comparison tends to be different. People feel guilty particularly when they find themselves over-privileged in relation to others (Baumeister, Stillwell, & Heatherton, 1994) - for example, when one wastes uneaten food while others are starving (i.e., a downward comparison). On the other hand, the experience of shame entails a comparison with others that unveils one's inferiority (Lindsay-Hartz, 1984), such as comparing oneself with others who have acted responsibly (i.e., an upward comparison). In combination, if the situation activates these different comparisons, they can have different effects on consumption behavior.

We speculate that the experience of shame will lead consumers to reduce waste if doing so enables them to gain social approval (i.e., to be accepted and more positively evaluated by others). This is because shame is characterized by a feeling that one's wrongdoing (e.g., having consumed irresponsibly) is socially exposed and disapproved of by the observing others (actual or imaginary). Therefore, when reducing waste can serve as a means to gain social approval, the shame-laden consumers would be more likely to do so. But since the desire to regain social approval is not core to the experience of guilt, its effect on consumer behavior should not depend on this contingency. To conclude, the potential findings of this project would provide policymakers with important insights into how to stop wasteful consumption by influencing people's experience of guilt and shame associated with wasting.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/P05/16
Project Title: Statistical Inference of Sensitive Randomized Dichotomous Responses with Applications to Information Management and Healthcare Management
Principal Investigator: Dr CHU Man-ying (HSMC)

Response distortion on sensitive questions has long been a concern to researchers, although the use of randomized response techniques has been shown to be very helpful in eliciting truthful answers to such questions. Randomized response techniques have been adopted in survey studies in a variety of fields, including business, healthcare, political science and social sciences, to collect sensitive data while protecting respondents' privacy. Previous research mainly applied randomized response techniques to analyze a single attribute or question, and thus could not determine whether sensitive responses are dependent on or influenced by other questions. Understanding the dependence among sensitive and non-sensitive responses is crucial to understanding respondents' behavior and attitudes concerning sensitive issues.

Elucidating the associations among sensitive and direct questions has been challenging because a large number of parameters are usually involved. In the proposed project, we will develop statistical inference methods for estimating the dependence of sensitive dichotomous responses obtained from randomized response techniques without using the joint distribution of the responses, and also investigate the dependence analysis of multiple sensitive questions. In addition, we will explore applications of the proposed inference method in information management and healthcare management. Further extensions to allow dependence to be a function of observable factors via regression modeling will also be considered. We expect that our findings will not only open up a new methodology for analyzing and modeling sensitive responses, but will also advance applications of randomized response technique in business, healthcare, political science and social science studies.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/B01/16
Project Title: Is social media a distraction or an enhancement for organisations? A social media and team creativity model (SMTCM)
Principal Investigator: Dr CUI Xiling (Shue Yan)

Social media has been widely adopted by individuals and organisations over the past decade. In recent years, the rapid developments of mobile technology have enabled social media to penetrate many aspects of daily life. Facebook, according to its statistics, had over 4.4 million users in Hong Kong in 2014, with a penetration rate of around 60%. More than 86% of these users access Facebook via mobile devices, which is one of the highest rates in Asia. In addition, many people in Hong Kong use WhatsApp and WeChat for mobile instant messaging. Undoubtedly, social media and its applications are shaping the way individuals and organisations communicate. But is this change good or bad? In particular, does social media use impede or enhance aspects of job performance, such as innovation, in an organisational context?

Whether they like it or not, employers realise that increasingly their employees use social media to communicate with each other. Leaving voice or text messages for team members is replacing some fact-to-face communication, due to its effectiveness and efficiency. Employees also use their organisational mobile devices at home, extending team communication beyond the traditional workplace boundaries. When mobile devices are incorporated into work processes, the traditional ways of structuring work patterns are altered to be more diversified. These changes in communication influence many aspects of a team, especially the interaction among team members, which in turn influences team creativity.

This study aims to examine the social media usage of employees and its effect on team creativity. We propose a social media and team creativity model (SMTCM) based on group property framework. Group properties include role, cohesiveness, norms, status and size of groups. We examined each property from an interpersonal perspective with regard to social media use and then, developed five social-media-enhanced interpersonal factors for team creativity, including role trust, team cohesiveness, collaboration facilitation, conformity pressure reduction, and social loafing prevention. These factors are believed to be influenced by social media use and thereby to influence team creativity. Moreover, we believe the ubiquity of social media positively affects social media use. This study is expected to contribute to the existing literature by highlighting the role of social media use on team creativity and offer important insights to both research and practice.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS13/E02/16
Project Title: Digitalized Assessment Developmental Coordination Disorder with Integrated Eye-Motion Tracking Technology: System and Algorithms
Principal Investigator: Dr FU Hong (Chu Hai)

Development coordination disorder (DCD), also referred to developmental dyspraxia, is a motor disorder in children, affecting around 5%-6% of school-aged children. DCD affects the children's daily functioning, leads to difficulty in learning, organizing and moderating motor skills, and can have significant long term effects on academic, psychosocial and vocational outcomes. DCD is a disorder of visual motor integration, so the study on vision motion coordination is essential to understand the mechanism of DCD, which gives systematic and objective assessment, for timely and proper intervention. Current standardized assessment systems focus on the final performance of children on some visual motor tasks, while ignoring the detailed visual motor coordination in performing these tasks. Little work has been done on the study of the eye-motion coordination with digital technologies. Therefore, there is a need to develop a proper digital system to measure the eye movement and body motion simultaneously, to study the mechanism of eye-motion coordination, and to perform effective and objective assessment based on digitalized information.

In this proposal, we are planning to develop a digitalized system to record both the eye movement and body motion information, to conduct an in-depth study with a joint eye-motion analysis, and then to give an intelligent assessment of DCD. To achieve the above objectives, four essential issues will be addressed in this project: (i) integration of eye tracking and motion capturing system; (ii) data fusion of eye tracking and motion capturing; (iii) modeling of visual motor coordination with eye-motion tracking data; and (iv) intelligent assessment of DCD with machine learning algorithms. Two sub-systems for gross and fine movement evaluation will be implemented with a head-mounted eye tracker and multiple Kinects. The algorithms for eye tracking and motion capturing data fusion will be developed to obtain integrated eye-motion tracking data. Then a joint-eye-motion analysis will be carried out to figure out the patterns and correlations in eye motor integration of DCD. Finally, a classifier will be trained to perform intelligent assessment of DCD.

The outcomes of the project will provide an alternative for DCD assessment with digital devices and intelligent algorithms. With this system, an automatic, objective and intelligent assessment can be done easily, with simple guidance of a clinical technician, which makes it efficient to identify the children with DCD and therefore to conduct timely intervention. The findings in joint eye-motion data analysis will disclose the patterns of visual motion integration of DCD, which is beneficial for both DCD assessment and intervention. Meanwhile, the findings, research methodologies and data capturing systems could also be considered as valuable reference for other diseases related to visual motion integration, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia (DVD).


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS17/M04/16
Project Title: Characterising and Fingerprinting Biomarkers of Urolithiasis: A Case Control Study (Stage 1 of 2)
Principal Investigator: Prof GOHEL Mayur Danny I (TWC)

Progress in the characterisation of an appropriate diagnostic biomarker to detect the formation of renal stones has been hindered due to (i) ill-defined and insufficiently purified urinary macromolecules (UMM), (ii) the use of commercial products (mainly of non-kidney and non-human origins) as test materials and (iii) inadequate models of stone formation. We have previously established that among the urinary glycosaminoglycans, hyaluronan is an important and reliable inflammatory marker for patients with crystals and stones. Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) and percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) are now widely used to eradicate stones. However, recurrence rates remain high (up to 60%) over the lifetime of certain patients. These recurrent stone-formers are good models for investigations to establish the important biological markers and mediators of inflammation in the blood and urine of renal stone patients. Recurrent stone-formers are also good subjects for studying the levels of specific biomarkers identified among in-patients following ESWL/PCNL treatment through a longitudinal study (as will be done in the 2nd stage of the proposed study). Analyses of these data in patients following ESWL will aid in developing a simple urine test that can predictably detect the development of silent renal stones. This proposal is for Stage 1 and funding for Stage 2 will be sought later in 2018 on conclusion of Stage 1.

The main goal of this project is to allow renal stone patients to be monitored with a simple urine test, which will give advanced warning of clinically significant recurrence. This study is designed to narrow the biomarkers that can be readily tested and validated during Stage 2 of the longitudinal trials. The results of this study may allow follow-up treatment to be instigated at the most appropriate times, thereby bringing both financial and health benefits.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E02/16
Project Title: How public are the public spaces? The effect of management regime on public space quality
Principal Investigator: Prof HO Daniel Chi-wing (THEi)

Public spaces play an important role in the well-being of urban dwellers. We have seen in the past few decades a trend to provide such spaces through private developments. The practice of granting private sector the rights and responsibility of providing and managing public spaces within private developments has been criticized by researchers because of management approaches that restrict social interactions and exclusion of certain populations, hence contradicting the principles of a truly 'public space'.

Much research has studied the impact of design on the quality of urban public spaces, but relatively little work has focused on the management dimension. This project aims to examine the current governance structure in the management of urban public spaces, both publicly and privately owned, in Hong Kong and develop an evaluation framework for assessing the qualities that reflect public aspirations for urban public spaces.

Adopting Gehl's approach of a public space and public life survey and de Magalh?es and Carmona's analytical framework of examining the interlinked processes and practices of regulation, maintenance, coordination and investment in urban public spaces, this research attempts to shed light on the complexities in the management of urban public spaces and critically examine how the management dimension affects the quality of urban public spaces. A survey of the general public and workshops will be conducted to explore the demands on and the aspirations for urban public spaces in Hong Kong. The findings will provide a basis for analysing whether the current approach is adequate in meeting public expectations. An evaluation framework which is based on the results of the survey and workshops will be developed to assess public space quality. This framework and assessment will help policy-makers and stakeholders to deliver urban public spaces at the appropriate quality.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/E01/16
Project Title: Design and development of a big data system for predicting harmful algal blooms
Principal Investigator: Prof HO Kin-chung (OUHK)

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD), and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) of Hong Kong Government have been collecting and logging different environmental data along coastal waters in Hong Kong for a few decades. Based on these measured and collected data, we shall design and develop a "Big Data" computing system for forecasting the occurrences of harmful algal blooms (HABs). HABs pose threats to the marine habitation and economy in the coastal areas around the world. It would be very desirable to devise and develop a novel monitoring and forecasting system for identifying any potential HAB events. The effectiveness of this monitoring and forecasting system relies on the accuracy of HAB estimation and detection algorithm.

In this project, we shall create an operating Big Data computing system to be used for identifying harmful algal blooms. Many computation models rely on numerous sampled and logged raw data, such as pH, the amount of dissolved oxygen (DO), temperature and other physical characteristics of the water. To achieve this target, we shall initiate the creation of an early phased in-house Big Data system, which will be constructed through the interconnection of multiple computing units. In this project, we shall verify the functionality of this system, and deploy it for implementing different models of harmful algal blooms. And in the future, this system will be expanded and built to handle much larger amount of raw data with different HABs models and mathematical algorithms. The computation models for HABs will be selected and coded to generate numerous data points, which will be evaluated and used to feed into different machine learning (ML) algorithms. That is, the data collected from both the EPD and AFCD may go through multiple computation processes due to the different types of machine learning algorithms in terms of both supervised and unsupervised learning designs. The findings from the different algorithms could give different results regarding the occurrences of algal blooms. The goals of this proposal are to: (1) create an operable early phase Big Data system; (2) select formulae from different HAB models that accept the collected data information; (3) investigate collected data and the feasibility of mapping HAB model formulae into ML algorithms; (4) develop a simple ML algorithm into program code that will run in the Big Data computing system. We look forward to designing and building a highly reliable and high-performance Big Data computing system for HAB.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS17/M05/16 (Withdrawn)
Project Title: A community-based nurse-led diabetes prevention programme
Principal Investigator: Dr HO Man (TWC)


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS17/H01/16
Project Title: Effectiveness of the Mental Health First Aid Programme for nursing students in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Dr HUNG Shuk-yu (TWC)

In recent years, awareness of mental well-being has become a great concern. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) has actively promoted health concepts worldwide over the past few decades, mental disorders or illnesses are not uncommon nowadays. Because of the negative attitudes of society towards mental disorders or illnesses, people with mental illnesses are afraid of social rejection and distancing, which leads to a reluctance to disclose their own conditions and delay in seeking help from professionals.

The literature has shown that mental health problems are highly prevalent in adolescence or early adulthood globally and locally. Several foreign and local studies reported that college students, especially those who are studying nursing or medicine programmes are more susceptible than other students to mental health problems such as stress, burnout, depression and anxiety due to professional role demands. Academic and clinical factors are two major reasons for the high level of stress in nursing students. The long duration of academic training and clinical placement in hospitals may exert great pressure on these students, who are usually aged between 18 to 25 years. Contact with patients with diseases and even death during clinical training may have a negative effect on students' mental health well-being.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a psychoeducation training programme designed to increase participants' mental health knowledge and mental health first aid intentions and decrease their negative attitudes towards and increase supportive behaviour of individuals with mental health problems. The aim of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of the MHFA programme and mental well-being of nursing students in Hong Kong.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/B08/16
Project Title: The relationship between corporate philanthropy and corporate financial performance in Hong Kong-listed companies
Principal Investigator: Dr LAM Sze-sing (OUHK)

Corporate sustainability has been at the top of the management agenda for many global corporations. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting provides important information for investors to evaluate the sustainability of corporations. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx) has recently revised the Listing Rules to require companies to either comply with ESG disclosure requirements or explain any non-compliance. This generates pressure on corporations to scrutinize and reshape their corporate social responsibility (CSR) program to cater to sustainable development.

Corporate philanthropy is a major form of CSR. The practice not only benefits society, it may also enhance the corporation's reputation leading to long-term advantages. However, the theories proposed in the literature disagree on whether philanthropic giving would contribute to financial performance. Although a number of recent overseas studies have provided some empirical evidence suggesting that corporate philanthropy has positive impacts on corporate financial performance, the results may not apply to Hong Kong enterprises for the following reasons. First, most of the studies utilized US data with only a few using mainland China data. With a different social and political environment than those in the US and mainland China, the financial impact of philanthropic initiatives may vary significantly in Hong Kong. Second, the data were collected before 2009. The social consciousness of consumers has risen drastically worldwide as well as in Hong Kong in the last five years. New and contemporary data are required for substantiating the relationship in Hong Kong. Last, prior studies mainly focused on the monetary measure of philanthropic activities. But corporate philanthropy goes beyond mere donations. The relationship between non-monetary donations and financial performance also deserves investigation.

This project aims to examine the relationship between corporate philanthropy and corporate financial performance based on companies listed on the main board of the HKEx. The listed companies consist of local companies (Hong Kong companies) and mainland companies that seek listing in Hong Kong (mainland companies). Philanthropic information regarding the monetary donations and non-monetary donations of listed companies will be hand-collected from their annual reports, CSR reports, sustainability reports and websites. The database developed can be used to evaluate: (1) the relationship between different types of donations and financial performance in Hong Kong companies and mainland companies; (2) the impacts of the social and political environment and ownership structure on the relationship; and (3) the effects of stringent control on ESG reporting on the relationship. This project will not only contribute to the relevant research on corporate philanthropy, but also provide practical insights on making philanthropic investments in corporations and the regulatory control of relevant information reporting. The database will serve as a brand new resource for future research on the corporate philanthropy of Hong Kong-listed companies.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E13/16
Project Title: Modelling age composition and survival of high-rise building stock for sustainable urban management
Principal Investigator: Dr LAU Wai-kin (THEi)

Notably in more developed regions, building stock ageing which is a transition characterised by falling mortality and shrinking new completions is emerging. Not like the case in Europe where attention has been given to the issue, much less however has been done in Asia Pacific Rim to study the ageing stock. In finding way out of this transition, one cannot even answer how long buildings will last before they are demolished, not to mention little is known about the factors leading to their "mortality". Against this background, the age composition and survival of building stock will be investigated. Two Asia Pacific, cities, namely Hong Kong and Adelaide, are chosen for study for their highly dense and primarily high-rise urban environment.

In modelling age composition and survival of high-rise building stock in the two cities, survival analysis methods such as the lifetable method and the Kaplan-Meier method will be reviewed and applied to determine the expected lifetime and the mortality rate. Besides, in order to gain knowledge of demolition of buildings, an empirical analysis of demolition cases in Hong Kong and Adelaide will be conducted to identify the key factors leading to demolition. Backed by the revealed trends and the added knowledge relating to building stock and demolition, the policy Delphi method will be used to generate and evaluate views and opinions form different stakeholders to provide options for sustainable urban management against building stock ageing.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS17/M01/16
Project Title: Effects of combined cognitive and exercise training for older adult with mild cognitive impairment
Principal Investigator: Dr LAW Lan-fong (TWC)

Dementia is an extremely disabling condition impacting on older adults and health care system, leading to increasing global concerns. The 2005 Delphi consensus estimated a new dementia case occurred every seven seconds worldwide, which was updated in 2015 to the astonishing rate of one new case every 3 seconds. It has also been forecast that 49% of the total projected new dementia cases will occur in Asia.

In Hong Kong, about one in ten of those aged 70 or above, and about one in three aged 85 or above have dementia. A local study has projected that the number of people with dementia will be more than double in 2036.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had just held the first global Ministerial Conference on 'Global Action Against Dementia' in March 2015, where emphasized on the urgency of finding cures or modifying interventions for dementia and the need for an increase in research investment. An immediate response is required to tackle this global crisis by building up local capacities and through cross-discipline and cross-sector collaboration in developing innovative interventions.

It has been suggested that combining cognitive training and exercise training may have synergistic beneficial effects on the brain and further enhance cognitive functions. The Principle Investigator has developed a combined cognitive and exercise programme, using simulated functional tasks and exercise as an intervention in a pilot study. The initial findings showed the programme to be effective in improving the cognitive functions and functional status of elderly people with mild cognitive impairment. The results have been published. However, this pilot study did not include exercise-only or no-treatment comparison groups, which can enable a better understanding of the mechanism of the effects or the overall significance of the programme.

The proposed study will further validate the effects of this combined cognitive and exercise programme for older adults with cognitive impairment in a larger population. This will include no-treatment and exercise-only comparison groups, in collaboration with a local hospital and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The study will be a four-arm single-blind randomized controlled trial. The participants will be randomized to a combined cognitive and exercise intervention group, a single exercise intervention group, an active training comparison group, or a no-treatment control group (no existing intervention in the NGOs).

The primary aim of this study is to determine whether an innovative combined cognitive and exercise programme is effective in enhancing the cognitive functions and motor performance in older people with mild cognitive impairment. A further aim is to assess whether participation in a combined cognitive and exercise program can reduce functional decline and increase the quality of life in elderly people with mild cognitive impairment. If proven effective, the programme can be further rolled out to other Hong Kong hospitals and NGOs.

Overall, the commitments resulting from this study will represent a milestone in developing local preparation and responses to the call for Global Action against Dementia.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/B02/16
Project Title: Are Asset Impairment and Earnings Management for Tunneling? Evidence from Connected Transactions in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Dr LEE Hua (Shue Yan)

Prior research has documented that controlling shareholders may expropriate wealth through tunneling-like connected transactions. This project explores how firms with forthcoming transfer of assets to related parties justify the transaction price prior to the tunneling transactions without attracting investors' attention or regulatory intervention, and how firms respond to the economic consequences of these trading strategies. Specifically, the questions of interest are whether suspected tunneled firms use asset impairment before asset-transfer connected transactions to reduce the transaction price, and as a consequence, whether these firms manage contemporaneous earnings to avoid decreases in reported earnings? Our analyses will provide insight into the policy implications of the mandatory disclosure of connected parties (related parties) and connected transactions (related party transactions).


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/P03/16
Project Title: Analysis and Application of Bounds in Insolvency Problem
Principal Investigator: Dr LEE Wing-yan (HSMC)

Insurance companies need to make payments to the policyholders in case claims arise. This is one of the major risks faced by insurance companies due to the uncertainty on the times and sizes of claims. Therefore, the riskiness of a portfolio of insurance policies is an important piece of information to an insurance company.

The time to ruin is one of the quantities in risk theory that measures the riskiness of a portfolio of insurance policies. It is defined as the time that the insurer's surplus first drops below zero. Although distributional quantities related to the time to ruin provide valuable information on the riskiness of a portfolio of insurance policies, the analytical forms of these quantities are not always readily available. This is due to the complication of real-life situations. Therefore, in this project, we aim at deriving bounds on these distributional quantities. When exact forms of these quantities are not available, these bounds can serve as an indicator on the risk level faced by insurance companies.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/H02/16
Project Title: Psychological fit: A new method of apparel sizing system in mass customization
Principal Investigator: Dr LI Travis Wang-hei (THEi)

Computer aided system (CAD) integrating 3D body scanning, 3D modeling and virtual garment fit simulation were regarded in academia, industry and market as major technological innovations in mass customization for clothing, which effectively enhance the efficiency, accuracy in garment design and manufacturing today and in the future. Although manufacturer and retailers realize that the highest level of customization could definitely bring the greatest product satisfaction to consumers as the product is designed per their request completely. But owing to consideration in cost effectiveness (the cost differential to the consumer may exceed the perceived value of fit and design customization for many consumers), fit and design customization is still not commonly practiced today that Senanayake & Little (2010) suggested that there is a need for new method to capture and process the ""voice of the consumer".

Based of theoretical foundation built up on the relationship between design preferences and clothing psychology in our previous studies, psychological dimension is suggested as a dynamic and potential dimension which could solve the existing universal sizing problem in apparel market. A conceptual framework for research on Psychological Fit Sizing System (PFSS) is proposed in this study. Instead of examining body shapes and measurement as the primary dimensions in consumer's personal preferences during clothing fit customization, this project will bring forward a new process of mass customization. It adopted standard customization method used a single block pattern stored and altered to create all individual custom patterns, but provide variation in garment pattern making with identification of customers' body shapes in through body scanning. More than anthropometric survey as other sizing system study did, customers' psychographic characteristics was first to be examined as a cue to segment customers through structured questionnaire survey. Through classification of customers into clusters with distinctive characteristics in body sizes/ shapes and psychographic orientation, this study is primarily designed to examine how evaluation and preferences on ease allowance differs among subjects from various identified clusters, through co-design experiment in virtual garment fit simulation.

This proposed study will generate original knowledge in method of sizing systems by 1) extending the flexibility and knowledge of fit customization affecting the Mass customization process at the pre-production stage and 2) examining preferences on ease in garment tops for clusters which segmented according to their distinctive physical and psychographic influences garment fit customization. To classify target subjects, various statistical analyses will be used. Principal component analysis will be applied to extract subjects' psychographic characteristics while groups of subjects which categorized by cluster analysis in terms of body scan data and their psychological orientation, through test of between-group difference with post hoc analysis of ANOVA and correlational analysis, supported by qualitative study during co-design experiement. Findings of this study will provide foundation of empirical knowledge for PFSS, effectiveness of PFSS and communication of this new sizing system will be left to be examined in future studies.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B10/16
Project Title: Identify the Uniqueness of Idiosyncratic Deals: A Comparison with Similar Practices and An Empirical Investigation
Principal Investigator: Dr LIAO Yi (HSMC)

Given the fast-changing environment surrounding organisational frameworks, the topic of employee idiosyncratic deals (i-deals) has received increasing attention from management researchers and practitioners. I-deals are customised terms of employment that are negotiated and agreed by a focal employee and his/her employer, with an aim of benefitting both parties (Rousseau, Ho, & Greenberg, 2006). Examples of i-deals include flexible work hours and work places, special arrangements on employee expatriate issues, or tailored employee skill development programs. The basic idea of i-deals is attractive, in that such deals can benefit both employees and employers in practical ways. However, previous studies have largely focused on just one kind of benefit, namely how i-deals can enhance positive attitudes (e.g., organisational commitment) for employees at work and in their citizenship behaviour. Furthermore, other organisational practices may claim similar effects in promoting employee effort. For example, generally flexible work arrangements can allow employees to take care of their family and work issues simultaneously, so that the employees may feel obligated to contribute more at work.

The proposed study will seek to distinguish between the effects of i-deals and those of similar practices. The study will also investigate the unique role of i-deals in promoting employee and employer benefits, explore the theoretical framework for i-deals and analyse empirical findings to answer the research questions. The 'negotiated' or customised terms of work are arguably the critical elements in i-deals, along with the context that such terms are not 'granted' by organisations, but rather 'earned' by employees through their own efforts. This critical aspect of i-deals helps to enhance their effect on the employees' perception of empowerment. This perception involves the employees' sense of their own value to their employers and their determination in achieving job success. In this way, i-deals tend to give employees both psychological energy and favourable arrangements or resources from their organisations. These gains tend to further enhance both the employees' career success and their contribution to the organisation's competitiveness.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS12/H04/16 (Withdrawn)
Project Title: Between Sweden and China: Gender Dynamics and Practices in the Chinese Transnational Family in Sweden
Principal Investigator: Dr LIONG Mario Chan-ching (Centennial)


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/H04/16
Project Title: A Qualitative Exploration of Leadership and Management Styles among Management Staff and How They Influence the Care Providers Caring for the Older People in Residential Care Homes
Principal Investigator: Dr LOW Lisa Pau-le (Caritas)

Aim: The aim of the study is to explore the styles of leadership and management adopted by management staff, and how these styles influence front-line care providers' perceptions when they provide care and support to the older residents in residential care homes.

Design: A multi-site exploratory descriptive qualitative cum focused ethnographic study.

Settings: Conveniently-selected residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs) from three distinctly different non-government organizations (NGOs) and independent private aged homes will be approached. Three care-and-attention homes, two contract/self-financing homes, one nursing home and two private aged homes will be selected, giving rise to eight homes that differ in terms of types of homes, resident capacity, staffing numbers and religious affiliation.

Participants: Maximum variation sampling will be adopted to recruit the staff members at two levels. Level one will be the management staff (senior staff) appointed to perform leadership and managerial duties and responsibilities. These include the superintendents and assistant superintendents or equivalent grades, social work assistant or equivalent, registered nurses, and health workers or equivalent (if in private aged homes). Level two will be the care providers (front-line staff) performing the daily care for the residents. These include enrolled nurses, health workers and personal care workers. The selection criteria for staff refers to the professional (social and health care personnel) and non-professional care staff who provide or influence the physical, psychosocial and/or spiritual care of residents; at least one staff representative from each rank; and, a willingness to engage in an individual interview with the researcher. Twelve staff members from each type of home will be recruited. Depending on the capacity of the eight homes, the preliminary calculation of the sample size will be 96 staff members. The final sample size will depend on the numbers required to reach data saturation.

Methods: Individual audiotaped semi-structured interviews and non-structured participant observations will be adopted for each home. Field notes will be collected to supplement the analytical descriptions of the interview data. Constant comparative analysis methods will be used to analyze the observational and interview data. Once the coding scheme is confirmed, a final analytical framework will result to describe the leadership and management styles adopted by management staff from across the homes, and how these styles influence the care providers' perceptions when they provide care and support to the older residents.

Results and Conclusion: The preliminary framework will delineate the leadership and management styles perceived by management staff to be appropriate and relevant for Hong Kong RCHEs. Findings will also examine how the management staffs' perceptions of leadership and management styles are translated into the work practices of care providers. Factors underpinning the practice of leadership and management styles, and how they influence the attitudes, behaviours and views of care providers looking after residents with different needs will be revealed. Specifically, findings will increase our understanding of Chinese styles of improving organizational effectiveness and staff relationships in RCHEs. Methodologically, interviews and participant observations are used to generate understanding of the phenomenon. The study also provides a glimpse of the situation in the NGO and private sectors by including all types of RCHEs in Hong Kong. Recommendations hope to identify ways to prepare people to be leaders and managers and hold supervisory/visionary and/or managerial positions in RCHEs; and, strategies to equip them and the staff to work creatively to achieve common goals in the provision of high standards of resident-family care. The ultimate output is to equip the staff working in the homes to operate effectively to satisfy the multiple needs of the residents, family and staff.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E07/16
Project Title: Development of fluorinated Si/C composites with porous and micro/-nanoarchitectures for advanced Lithium ion batteries
Principal Investigator: Dr LU Xiaoying (THEi)

Roadside air pollution and over-reliance on non-renewable energy are the major challenges for Hong Kong to achieve sustainable development. In order to address the formidable challenges from environmental degradation and the energy crisis, the use of rechargeable lithium ion batteries (LIBs), which are viewed as one of the most promising energy storage systems, is of great significance in harvesting intermittent renewable energy and powering up electric vehicles. However, with increasing demand for energy density, conventional electrode materials of relatively lower specific capacities, such as graphite based anode materials (372 mAh/g), will not be able to satisfy the requirements of future LIBs. Recently, silicon-based materials have been identified as great potential anode materials for LIBs with high energy density, owing to the high theoretical specific capacity of silicon (4200 mAh/g). Because of the high lithium storage capability and semiconducting nature, several critical problems of utilizing silicon- based materials in repeated charge-discharge cycles, such as dramatic volume expansion and poor electric conductivity, need to be circumvented for high-energy-density LIBs. Although many attempts have been made to accommodate the huge volume expansion and improve material conductivity, inevitable limitations of silicon-based materials including high production cost, low initial Coulombic efficiency, inevitable formation of undesirable components (e.g. -Si-O-Si- and Si-OH) and low tap density, still exist as main hindrances for practical applications. The excellent lithium storage capability and long cycling performance in previous studies were usually reported with low active material loadings (e.g. 0.8~1.5 mg/cm2) and Si contents, thus generating a low volumetric energy density. To solve the above-mentioned problems, here we propose a facile and scalable nano-bubble template approach combined with a spray-pyrolysis strategy to synthesize fluorinated silicon-carbon (Si/C) composites with porous and micro-/nanoarchitectures. The fluorinated Si/C composites are anticipated to be advantageous for producing stable solid-electrolyte interphase (SEI) films, improving electron transport and increasing the permeability of fluoride-containing electrolytes into electrochemically active sites. Overall, the fluorinated Si/C composites in this research will enhance battery performance significantly, including specific areal capacity, rate capability and cycling performance. The enhancement in electrochemical properties will demonstrate its potential to store renewable energy and power up electric vehicles. This proposal will be a milestone and provide a new strategy in material sciences for creating advanced materials for the next generation of LIBs, and will also be crucial for achieving the sustainable development of Hong Kong.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/B01/16
Project Title: Economic Consequences of the Anti-Corruption Campaign in China
Principal Investigator: Dr MAN Paul Ho-yin (Caritas)

Upon taking office in 2013, President Xi Jinping called for a revamp of the Communist Party's approach to fight corruption and launched an anti-corruption campaign to pursue officials of all rankings within the Party. In China, it is a common practice for officials to sit on the board of companies. Taking advantage of this political connectedness, and together with corruption practices in some cases, these firms very often enjoy preferential business privileges over their competitors. We conjecture that the launch of the anti-corruption campaign will have direct negative impact on these political-connected firms, resulting in a much tougher operating environment for them. However, management's possible response, in terms of accounting practices, to the changed operating environment is subject to debate. One line of argument is that they will refrain from managing earnings in order to access external debt finance or avoid further political scrutiny. Another line of argument is that they will window-dress their financials to meet investors' or analysts' expectations. Our findings will help to address this issue and highlight the possibility that the anti-corrupting campaign may result in an unintended scenario of higher level of earnings management for these firms.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/E05/16
Project Title: Adaptive Process Optimization Strategies: Sustaining the Best-in-class Performance of Spare Parts Services
Principal Investigator: Dr MO Yiu-wing (HSMC)

With the advanced logistics developments in recent decades, various manufacturers are able to profit from the spare parts service for systems maintenance and to enhance product sustainability by managing the express delivery and the reverse logistics. These advanced logistics developments have driven the evolution of traditional spare parts management into a new service model. Apart from the on-site spare parts management, manufacturers and authorised service providers must offer more customised services and the collection of repairable items from users in the reverse logistics process. However, these evolutionary service requirements introduce procedural complexities and extends the service scope.

In this research, we aim to optimise the process of service parts management through a holistic and adaptive approach. The whole process scope includes logistics network design, inventory and warehouse management, and reverse logistics operations. To identify the numerous factors and parameters during the process optimisation, we will start by standardising a generic process flow of service parts operations that align with companies' strategic objectives. Then, we will perform data collection to investigate the effects of these factors and their correlations. After identifying the critical factors, we will formulate them into a generic decision model for deriving optimal adaptive policies with a data-driven process control mechanism. A simulation platform will be developed to verify and monitor the proposed solutions. The performance of the optimal adaptive policies will be finally benchmarked with the optimal static policy, which is commonly applied in various industries. These results will provide effective guidelines for the implementation of adaptive process optimisation of service parts operations.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/H03/16
Project Title: Exploring the Sexual Self of Female Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Principal Investigator: Dr NG Hoi-nga (Caritas)

Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) refers to the involvement of a child in sexual activity to which the child is unable to give informed consent (Hong Kong Social Welfare Department, 1998). This study adopts a mixed method research with concurrent triangulation design to investigate the relationship of CSA with sexual self-concept among female adult survivors of CSA. Sexual self-concept generally refers to how individuals perceive themselves as sexual beings. It also refers to individuals' evaluation of their sexual feelings and actions (Buzwell & Rosenthal, 1996; O'Ssulivan et al., 2006).

This study aims to (1) present a comprehensive understanding of the sexual self-concept of female adult survivors; (2) describe the current level of psychological functioning (self-evaluation, social relationship, and psychological well-being) of female adult survivors of CSA; (3) examine the nature of the relationship between CSA, sexual self-concept, and psychological functioning of female adult survivors; (4) explore intrapersonal, interpersonal, and sociocultural factors affecting sexual self-concept and to investigate if there are any factors that act to intervene the effects of CSA.

The qualitative study of the mixed method research involves conducting in-depth interviews with 20 female adults who reported CSA experience. Participants of the interviews would be recruited through referrals from NGOs which provide services for female adult survivors; and through convenience sampling by posting recruitment note on campus, in church, in Facebook, and in emails. Semi-structured interview guide would be used to conduct the in-depth interview, which lasts for about 2-3 hours. The interviews would be recorded, transcribed, and analyzed by Fraser's method of narrative analysis. Results of the qualitative study would be integrated with that of the quantitative study.

A questionnaire would be designed for collecting quantitative data. It consists of objective self-report inventories of self-evaluation, social relationship, psychological well-being, and eight dimensions of sexual self-concept. The eight dimensions of sexual self-concept (viz., sexual self-esteem, sexual self-efficacy, sexual satisfaction, sexual anxiety, sexual depression, sexual fear, sexual motivation, and sexual-consciousness) are selected from a multidimensional sexual self-concept questionnaire. The selection was based on extensive literature review of female adult survivors of CSA, feedback from counsellors of CSA survivors, PI's previous research on female sexuality, and PI's pilot studies on female survivors of CSA. A targeted sample of minimum 80 female adult survivors of CSA would be gathered over a consecutive period of 1? years from sources similar to those of the qualitative study. All those who participate in in-depth interview would also be invited to fill in the questionnaire.

Qualitative and quantitative data are gathered separately yet concurrently. Data collected would be integrated in the interpretative phase of the study. However, throughout the research process, investigators of qualitative and quantitative study are in continual dialogue to ensure that data collection procedure is properly done and cross-validated.

Results of this study would present a comprehensive understanding of the sexual self-concept of female adult survivors of CSA and factors associated with CSA. The findings should have significant implications for training of professionals and for intervention of CSA. For examples, knowledge generated may enrich the current social work training curriculum content relevant to CSA. Information gathered is useful for enhancing frontline intervention strategies for CSA adult survivor. Findings would also help advocating prevention of CSA and promotion of well-being of survivors.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B20/16
Project Title: Is the Investor-pays Model an Effective Solution to Problems in the Credit Rating Industry?
Principal Investigator: Dr SHEN Jianfu (HSMC)

There have been many studies, commentaries and criticisms of credit rating agencies (CRAs). Some critics argue that CRAs should take responsibility for the recent subprime crisis because they gave too favorable ratings to structured products such as collateralized debt obligation (CDO). In the area of traditional corporate bonds, major CRAs have been found to be very slow to downgrade distressed companies such as Enron, WorldCom, Lehman Brothers and others. The distortions of rating accuracy and timeliness may be attributed to the issuer-pays business model that is adopted by most CRAs: the raters are paid by issuers to give ratings and have incentives to align with the interests of issuers. Regulators have considered abandoning the issuer-pays business model and replacing it with the investor-pays business model. However, major CRAs argue that reputational concerns can overcome their incentives to please an issuer as the long-term future profits from the overall capital market are more important than short-term payoffs from pleasing a single issuer.

The objective of the proposed research is to compare and contrast rating quality in agencies with issuer-pays and investor-pays business models, and to explore whether reputational concerns can discipline CRAs and whether the conflict of interest in the issuer-pays model affects rating accuracy and timeliness.

The study will test four major hypotheses related to rating accuracy and rating timeliness and their relations with reputational concerns and conflict of interest. The first test will compare the accuracy of ratings (i.e., how accurately the credit ratings reveal credit risk and predict defaults) by issuer-paid and investor-paid CRAs. The second test contrasts the differences in rating timeliness in two types of agency by exploring whether CRAs downgrade ratings in time to capture future defaults. The third and fourth tests examine whether reputational concerns and conflict of interest affect rating accuracy and timeliness in issuer-pays and investor-pays business models. Reputational value changes with market concentration, the business cycle and the expected default probability in the market. Conflict of interest arises when rating fees are higher from an issuer and the issuer has a lower credit rating. The rating quality under the issuer-pays business model should improve if the reputation is more valuable and deteriorate if conflict of interest is more severe. These characteristics are assumed not to significantly affect rating quality under the investor-pays model. The study concludes with the discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of adopting an investor-pays business model as an effective solution to the problems in the credit rating industry.

The bond market in Hong Kong is growing year on year. It is important for the HKSAR Government to regulate the bond market and CRAs in the capital market. The proposed research will shed light on the validity of the current business model in the credit rating industry and evaluate the merits of the investor-pays model as an alternative.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/H05/16
Project Title: Asylum-seeking journeys among refugees in Hong Kong: processes, meanings and impacts
Principal Investigator: Dr SHUM Chun-tat (THEi)

Hong Kong is a major first asylum port in Asia for refugees who originate from different South/Southeast Asian and African countries. Many of them have travelled to different cities and countries before arriving in Hong Kong. Refugee issues in Hong Kong have gained considerable attention in the past few years. Yet, few have been concerned with their migration journeys, its meaning for the refugees, and its relation and psychosocial impact to their daily encounter with Hong Kong society. Based on qualitative research method, the proposed research will examine the experience of the asylum-seeking journeys among refugees in Hong Kong and the meanings which are attributed to the journeys. It will demonstrate the actual process of journeying from homelands to Hong Kong and how it feels to be a refugee. It will address memory, fear, identity reconstruction, community building and personal growth of refugees during the journey.

Hong Kong government considers all refugees as 'illegal immigrants' and the refugees are often negatively portrayed as passive victims and welfare-dependent individuals in the media reports and public discourse. The proposed research will give voice to refugees' unique experience by examining the migration stories from the point of view of refugees. By studying the lived experience of the journeys and their survival strategies in Hong Kong, this research will examine how their everyday life experience in Hong Kong is affected by what happened on the journeys and by its meaning for the individual. It will make an important contribution to the literature and teaching on forced migration, refugee studies and Hong Kong studies. This research will offer a new perspective for understanding refugees in a first asylum port and will also have policy implications to the government who can shape the humanitarian policies that are more responsive to the refugee experience.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/P01/16
Project Title: Advanced Statistical Methods for Complex Longitudinal Data Analysis
Principal Investigator: Prof TANG Man-lai (HSMC)

The longitudinal data are generally defined as the data resulting from the observations of subjects which are measured repeatedly over a period of time and arise frequently in many research areas. A key characteristic of longitudinal data is that observations within the same subject may be correlated, which motivates most of the statistical methods for the analysis of longitudinal data. Although there have been extensive methodological developments for analyzing longitudinal data, statistical analyses of complex longitudinal data (e.g., non-normal response, censored response and measurement error in covariates) can be very challenging and advanced statistical methods are of great research interest and practical demand.

In this proposal, we will propose
(i) (Non-normal longitudinal data analysis) A profile likelihood estimation approach, in which the estimated likelihood is maximized without the specification of the working correlation structure, is proposed for non-normal longitudinal data.
(ii) (Response with fixed detection limits and measurement error in covariates) A censored quantile regression (QR) with mixed effects and covariates in errors is proposed. Algorithm that combines inverse probability censoring weighted (IPCW) and orthogonal regression (OR) methods will be developed for parameter estimation.
(iii) (Asymptotic statistical properties) Consistency, efficiency and asymptotic normality of the proposed estimates will be proved. Extensive simulation studies will be conducted to evaluate the performance of the proposed methods.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS24/H04/16
Project Title: Revisiting Public Relations Functions and Values in the Digital Era
Principal Investigator: Dr TONG Suk-chong (PolyU SPEED)

Confusion and conflict have emerged on the relationship between public relations and marketing both theoretically and practically in the past few decades. Recent research has highlighted the discrepancy of public relations functions and public relations values between the professions of public relations and marketing. Stepping into the digital era, it is critical to examine the use of social media by public relations practitioners in Hong Kong and how interactivity brings similarities and differences to public relations functions and values in the professions of public relations and marketing. This research will use a coorientation framework to explore how the two groups of professionals (Public Relations VS. Marketing) perceive the public relations values they could attain, and the public relations functions and interactivity function they performed. A two-stage analysis, which involves both an empirical survey and a series of in-depth interviews targeting at public relations and marketing professionals, will be conducted to finalize a Public Relations Function Index in the digital era. The findings will generate both theoretical and practical contributions to the understanding of the public relations and marketing professions in Hong Kong.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/M02/16
Project Title: Made-to-order: engineering and optimization of "tunable" yeasts for phytate hydrolysis
Principal Investigator: Dr TSANG Wai-kei (THEi)

Phytate is the major storage form of phosphorus in plants. It is present in cereals and raw materials of vegetable origin used in animal and human diets. Phytate can be readily degraded by phytase, thereby freeing inorganic phosphate (Pi) for assimilation. However, simple-stomached animals, including humans, swine, and poultry, have little phytase activity in their guts, and therefore almost all dietary phytate is discharged into the environment, causing phosphorus pollution. Phytate is also considered as an "antinutrient", for its ability to form insoluble and stable complexes with metal ions such as zinc, iron, magnesium, and calcium, thus reducing dietary absorption of essential minerals. It is therefore a dire need to develop sustainable approaches for environmentally-friendly utilization of this valuable and abundant natural resource.

Microorganisms are indispensable in production and biopharmaceutical industries. Scientists have been engineering these tiny "workhorses" for industrial manufacture of fine chemicals, biocatalysts, and essential nutrients. Large scale microbial cultivation can be accomplished in low cost growing conditions. Most importantly, microbial bioprocess development and optimization entail sustainable operational procedures without using hazardous and toxic reagents.

Recently, our group has developed an array of yeast-based whole cell biocatalysts that express bacterial phytase on cell surface for phytate hydrolysis. Although enzyme activity of surface-attached phytase was detected, the magnitude was compromised with respect to free soluble form. Loss of enzyme activity was evident upon prolonged usage. In an attempt to address these problems, we intent to engineer the metabolic circuitry in Pichia yeast for secretory production of phytase. Synthesis of phytase will be tailored in a "made-to-order" fashion in response to the external Pi levels. To this end, we will generate a functional Pi-responsive promoter library that covers a wide range of activities ("tunable") using random mutagenesis. Moreover, we will examine the effect of activating the subcellular secretory pathway on phytase production via simultaneous expression of small proteins crucial for protein homeostasis. As a proof of concept, the hydrolytic capacity and characteristics of the engineered Pichia yeast strains on phytate will be assessed under simulated industrial conditions. The completion of this proposed study not only will generate whole cell biocatalysts as platform hosts with potential applications in food processing industry and animal waste treatment, but also lay a foundation for further research initiatives of employing Pichia-based systems that involve crosstalk between ambient Pi concentrations and cellular responses.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/H08/16
Project Title: Developing the Model of Inoculated Spiral of Silence (ISoS) for the Insight of Public Opinion in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Prof TSO Scarlet Hung (HSMC)

The project aims to develop new theoretical construct of Inoculated Spiral of Silence (ISoS) with innovated concepts and variables and to explore the insight of citizen opinions toward controversial issues in Hong Kong. The fundamental and essential significance of developing such ISoS model lies in investigating the formation and changes of public opinions in Hong Kong context, so as to devise an effective approach to understanding and influencing thoughts of the people in the process of gaining their support to function in a particular way.

Two classic theories of communication are examined in the project, which are the theory of Spiral of Silence and the theory of Inoculation. While the former emphasizes the fear of isolation from a dominating social group could consequently lead individuals to remaining silent instead of voicing opinions, the latter contrarily points to a different process of public opinion stressing on the view that one not always be dominated by the stronger side. Based on appropriately balancing effects of such theories, it is considered that more substantial political deliberations and dialogue about public agendas would be able to be held, and hence a more deliberative democracy could be achieved. The variables of interest associated with the study include fear of isolation, characteristics of hardcore, the interaction effects between experiment condition and issue involvement, different degree of resistance to counter-attitudinal attack among inoculated and control subjects, and willingness to speak out. The project is envisioned to contribute a better understanding of public opinion in Hong Kong and to provide a novel perspective for the academic and the professional for their more effective future decisions in a variety of fields, such as public policy-making, public relations, crisis communication and health communication.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS23/H02/16
Project Title: Dismantling the Gender Binary - Developing Competence Enhancement Program in recognizing Intersexuality for Social Worker and Teacher Trainees
Principal Investigator: Dr TSUI Elaine Yin-Ling (HKBU SCE)

Intersexuality is a general term referring to an individual who is born with a reproductive anatomy that does not fit the typical gender binary system in society. The condition can be identified at birth by having ambiguous external genitalia. Other conditions in relation to intersexuality may be identified before or during puberty. The prevalence rate in the West currently ranges from 1 in 700 to 1 in 2000 live births. Policies addressing the human rights of physical autonomy and the psychosocial impact of sex alteration on individuals with intersex status have matured after intense discussion and advocacy work in the past two decades. Still, due to the narrow definition of gender, intersex fails to fit into the rigid binary of male versus female conceptualization of gender. Moreover, myths exist and the general public often mistakenly equates intersexuality to transgender. The living experience of individuals with intersex status is heavily influenced by the acceptance of the general population, especially by people who may work closely with them. Very little is known in terms of the attitudes of frontline professionals towards intersexuality in the Chinese community. The current research aims to develop a training program for frontline professionals in Hong Kong. The contribution of this research will be the first step of initiating discussion in this Chinese community in acknowledging the needs of this silent and underrepresented population group.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS24/H05/16
Project Title: The Use of Urban Green Spaces (UGS): The Impacts of Perceived UGS Characteristics and Socio-psychological Factors
Principal Investigator: Dr WAN Kar-ho (PolyU SPEED)

Urban green space (UGS) is an essential element in land use planning. Public authorities have been identifying ways to encourage the use of UGSs primarily because of their contribution to a higher quality of life, and to better physical and psychological health of the urban population. Specifically, UGSs provide rejuvenating experiences for stress relief, resources for physical activities, and opportunities for social interactions. Although the HKSAR Government acknowledged the importance and positive aspects of UGSs, and instituted planning standards in provision of UGSs, Hong Kong currently suffers from a limited number of UGSs, particularly in old urban districts. Furthermore the existing UGSs are often small, poorly managed and designed, and located along the road. Therefore, users suffer from limited facilities, noise and poor air quality. Given that land resources are scarce in high-density cities, such as Hong Kong, a sound understanding of the preferences of users would help public authorities effectively utilize land resources that, in turn, can meet the needs of citizens and encourage their use of UGSs. In addition, the city's physical constraints may limit the provision of large and high-quality UGSs, this study integrates both the urban design and socio-psychological perspectives to understand UGS usage. This study proposed to adopt both qualitative interviews and quantitative survey to examine the key factors influencing the use of UGS. In addition to identify the key UGS attributes to be improved, the findings of this study would inform the authorities how UGS usage can be encouraged from the socio-psychological perspective.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/E04/16
Project Title: Structural Modeling, Characterization and Analysis of New Receptor-Ligand Systems: Applying Computational Methods in Molecular Binding Affinity Analysis
Principal Investigator: Dr WANG Dan (Caritas)

Recently, with the rapid development of computer techniques, computational studies have become an indispensable alternative in bioinformatics, healthcare informatics and cancer research. Among these studies, binding-affinity analysis for a receptor-ligand system, which closely relates to enzyme inhibitor potency estimation, is an appealing and important representative. However, current studies mostly focus on reversible binding systems and lack investigations of irreversible or hybrid ones. Major reasons include the evolved binding mechanism and increased modeling complexity of such systems. Besides, the higher computational complexity in system dynamics simulations and affinity calculations can also be a practical difficulty in these studies.

To tackle the difficulties regarding computational modeling, characterization and analysis of new receptor-ligand system structures, we initiate this project. In this project, we will rise to the challenges including simplification of evolved binding mechanisms, reasonable modeling and characterization of new systems, and efficient calculation and analysis of molecular binding affinities.

Our straightforward idea for system simplification and modeling is outlining a structure based on its atomic information and using building blocks to represent the irreversible binding-site variants. Computational characterization of the binding mode in a new receptor-ligand system will be subsequently implemented. In this step, we will develop novel feature-extraction methods relying on free energy calculation and decomposition, interface shape/volume estimation and binding-site motion analysis. Examples of such computational characterizations will be shown in this project, and these characterization alternatives will lead to efficient calculations of binding affinity in a new receptor-ligand system. We will combine the alternatives into an integrated software/program suite, which can encourage users to select different models based on specific requirements or within various application scenarios. Finally, a post-analysis will be conducted for a situation where a group or crowd of system variants are involved. We will utilize well-validated methods for supervised or unsupervised learning of these system samples, and will thus make predictions of newcomers or variants. This analysis will also join the software/program suite for multi-purpose analyses or studies. Moreover, the whole software/program suite will be adapted at the end of this project, to provide compatible interfaces with other broadly-used software of molecular modeling, molecular dynamics simulations and structural analysis.

With the success of tackling above challenges, the proposed project will encourage the development of cancer studies and structure-based drug design. Also, it will output useful publications and software/program suites that can benefit researchers and fresh users. In addition, this research project will provide valuable and practical experiences for undergraduates to improve their analytical/programming skills and to apply them to a specialized project or field.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/H06/16
Project Title: Language use and attitudes towards it by teachers and students in Chinese as a second language classrooms in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Dr WANG Danping (THEi)

This project explores the complexity of language use in classrooms teaching Chinese as a Second Language (CSL) to ethnic minority students in Hong Kong schools. Research on the challenges faced by CSL teachers and students has clearly found that the one-size-fits-all monolingual classroom language policy is not well-suited to multilingual CSL students with limited Chinese proficiency, and has consequently resulted in demotivation and anxiety in learning Chinese. Furthermore, research based on the theoretical premises underpinning multilingual education has demonstrated the importance of students' home languages in second language learning. A small body of research has found that, in reality, teachers and students used Chinese, English and students' home languages in the classroom for achieving diverse teaching and learning purposes. To date, however, our knowledge of CSL teachers' and students' classroom language practices and their attitudes towards classroom language policies remain scant.

This study is designed to provide both naturalist and explanatory data to enrich our understanding of CSL classroom language use. Adopting a mixed method research design, this study will employ multiple data-collecting methods, and develop existing research frameworks to analyse quantitative and qualitative data. As this is a pressing educational agenda item, the study intends to operate on a two-year basis on a small scale in order to provide classroom research-based evidence to CSL stakeholders as soon as possible. For this reason, 20 CSL teachers will be invited to open their classes for observation and participate in semi-structured interviews. Moreover, CSL students in the 20 teachers' classes will be invited to complete an open-ended questionnaire.

The primary outcome of this study will be a diverse array of first-hand data that will lead to a holistic and in-depth understanding of language use in CSL classrooms and participants' attitudes towards classroom language policies. In this way, the study has the potential to offer directions for policy and curriculum development in order to implement appropriate language programmes for CSL students. Furthermore, the research also addresses fundamental theoretical questions in terms of the relationship between one's home language and target language in language education. In this sense, the study will also have a broader significance within the field of foreign language teacher education research related to the development of pedagogical innovations in multilingual classrooms.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/E03/16
Project Title: Sentiment Analysis based on Multi-source Social Network Data
Principal Investigator: Prof WANG Fu-lee (Caritas)

Sentiment analysis aims to extract sentiment-related information from text automatically. Although most sentiment analysis is concerned with the detection of opinions from reviews, there is increasing interest in the affective dimension of the social network. The abundant social network data include comments on media published in YouTube, Flickr and Last. FM, in addition to discussions of politics, sport and the news in blogs. Analysing sentiment in this broad class of text is valuable because it can aid the discovery of sentiment-related patterns, such as gender differences and successful communication strategies. However, analysing social network data using traditional sentiment analysis methods is problematic for several reasons.

The first issue is the preprocess of short text which is prevalent in social networks. The second issue is how to deal with noisy labels. Due to the fact that it is hard to control the authenticity and quality on the social network, spotting potentially malicious users and detecting noisy labels are critical to sentiment analysis. The third issue is that emotion perception is very personal and could vary from one person to another, that is, different users may have different attentions, perspectives or abilities when labeling documents emotionally. Thus, sentiment analysis is not only text-related but also user-dependent. The fourth issue is that the sentiment embedded in social networks often has intrinsic dynamics. Capturing such dynamic characteristics of sentiments is critically important for the successful development of various social services, such as public opinion monitoring and social event detection. Last but not the least, the application of sentiment analysis in recommendation systems, stock price prediction and other domains deserves further research.

In light of these considerations, we firstly expand short documents in social networks by extracting the most similar words from the whole corpus. Secondly, we develop de-noising models to identify noisy sentimental labels. We consider the following two constraints in our models: (i) the simplicity of assigning the sentimental category to a document by users under any contexts, and (ii) the authority of a user in assigning sentimental categories to documents across various domains. Thirdly, we extract the sentiments from the social network comprehensively and accurately by jointly modeling the users, text and labels in the latent topic model. Fourthly, due to that the spread and evolution of an event will affect the general public's sentimental responses (including the category and intensity of sentiments), we propose an event-based framework of dynamic sentiment analysis. Finally, we explore the application of sentiment analysis in other domains.

This project is concerned with sentiment analysis based on multi-source social network data, which will not only tackle the challenging research problems triggered by noisy labels, varied user emotion perception and sentiment evolution in multi-source social network data, but also shed light on computational social science, natural language processing and other areas. To evaluate the effectiveness of our model, algorithm and framework, we plan to collect diverse social network datasets from Twitter, Sina Weibo, MySpace, BBC Forum and so forth. Based on sufficient social network data, user opinions could be sensed, evaluated, and even predicted in a certain circumstance.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS24/E01/16
Project Title: Design and Implementation of an Induction Program to Encourage Teachers to Adopt Mobile Phone-based Student Response System
Principal Investigator: Dr WONG Adam Ka-lok (PolyU SPEED)

Student engagement is crucial to achieving learning outcomes. If all students give answers to quizzes or polls in class, the teachers can discover excellent ideas or misconceptions. However, when the teacher calls on volunteers to answer a question, there may not be much useful feedback to the teacher. It is because only the most confident students will volunteer to answer questions and engage in discussions. Therefore, the teacher only obtains feedback from a few students who are likely to know the correct answers. This problem is more serious when the students are Chinese. Many researchers have investigated the use of digital technology in the classroom to improve student engagement and collect feedback from all students instantaneously. In particular, many researches focus on the benefits and challenges of using SRS (Student Response System) inside the classroom. Most of these researches on SRS involve students using small portable devices known as clickers. The clicker is of the size of a small remote control. It typically has a numeric keypad and no screen display. The clicked-based SRS operates on proprietary software provided by the vendor of the clickers. The smart mobile phones today provide virtual keyboards for text entry and have graphics display. Therefore, mSRS (Mobile phone-based SRS) is easier to use and more likely to be accepted by teachers and students. However, there is very little research on mSRS. More importantly, there is no research on the factors that affect the teacher's motivation to use mSRS. It is self-evident that students cannot benefit from it unless the teacher is ready to accept the system and knows how to use it well. According to a preliminary survey conducted at the author's institution, no teacher has adopted mSRS in their teaching. Therefore this research aims to help those teachers to adopt mSRS, and to fill the gap in knowledge about mSRS.

To achieve the aim above, this research is divided into certain stages. Firstly, it will find out the teachers' concerns in adopting the mSRS in their teaching. Secondly, based on those concerns, it will design and implement an induction programme that will help teachers to adopt mSRS in their teaching. Thirdly, after the teachers used mSRS in different subjects, the perception of the students on mSRS will be measured based on extending the proven framework of the TAM (Technology Acceptance Model). Finally, it will find out the correlation between the performance of the students and their usage of the mSRS. The variables that may affect the correlation will also be studied. They will include class size, subject nature and demographics of students such as gender and age.

The significance of this research is that it will provide an understanding of the factors that affect teacher's adoption of mSRS. Then other local higher education institutions can use these factors to devise suitable methods to motivate and facilitate their teaching staff to use mSRS so that the students can become more effective learners in the classroom.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B16/16
Project Title: Consumer Carbon Label: Development of Supply Chain Product Carbon Footprint and Consumer Carbon Index for Beverage Merchandise
Principal Investigator: Dr WONG Eugene Yin-cheung (HSMC)

The importance of reducing products' carbon footprints has been raised in various World Economic Forums, with an emphasis on mitigating carbon emissions along the whole supply chain in the life cycle of a product. Mapping a product's carbon footprint at organisation level is not an effective means of reducing its carbon emissions; instead, it is vital to measure the carbon emitted throughout the product's life cycle, across the various organisations in its supply chain. More complex and comprehensive analysis is required to map a product's carbon footprint along its supply chain than at organisation level. Carbon labels attached to products enable consumers to make more environmentally friendly choices between products in the same category. These important concerns are expected to motivate companies to proactively address the adverse effects of greenhouse gases on the world's climate. Compared with their counterparts in Europe, consumers and manufacturers in Hong Kong are far less aware of the need to reduce products' carbon footprints. How much carbon is emitted during the production of a beverage product, such as a can of soft drink or a bottle of mineral water, in Hong Kong? How are carbon emissions affected by the recycling of water bottles and various other forms of soft drink product packaging? How aware are the consumers about the information provided on products' carbon labels, and what are their attitudes towards carbon-label information when purchasing grocery products in supermarkets? In the project, therefore, the carbon footprints of beverage products will be determined and a novel methodology for this product carbon footprint measurement will be developed. The carbon emissions at the major stages of the life cycle of each product from raw-material cultivation to disposal and recycling will be evaluated. Consumers' awareness and acceptance of beverage products with carbon-emission data will be analysed. The willingness of individual consumers in Hong Kong to use product carbon labels when purchasing beverage merchandise will be evaluated. The findings of this project will increase students' awareness of the value of analysing carbon emissions from the supply chain throughout the life cycle of a consumable product. The product carbon footprint measurement methodology and application platform developed in the study will help industry practitioners to calculate carbon emissions and optimise their production processes to reduce the amount of carbon emitted at each stage. The results of a comprehensive consumer survey will reveal the extent of Hong Kong consumers' awareness of carbon labels and their attitudes towards using carbon-label data, offering an important index for long-term longitudinal comparison of consumers' carbon consciousness. Overall, the proposed supply chain product carbon footprint methodology, the carbon label and the results of analysing consumers' carbon-related behaviour will advance research on the beverage industry and increase consumers' awareness on carbon-labelled beverage products.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E04/16
Project Title: Study of the performance of asphalt with high-volume plastic waste for highway pavement in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Dr WONG Ho-fai (THEi)

In Hong Kong, over 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated per day. The plastic waste degrades very slowly and occupies large volume of landfill space. Leaching of toxic additives from plastic wastes, like plasticizer, to the environment would potentially lead to contamination of ground water and harmful to the ecosystem. Incomplete incineration of plastic wastes may create toxic emissions, like sulfur dioxide, sulfide and dioxin. In view of the situation, Environmental Protection Department (EPD) promotes a sustainable waste management strategy for future development of Hong Kong, which emphases on 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. The primary goal of the proposed research project is to investigate the use of recycle plastic waste as an asphaltic enhancing material for road pavement through a comprehensive study.

The research project is proposed:
(a) to study the effect of high volume content of plastic waste (particularly PP and/or PE) on modified asphaltic binders for applications of road pavement in Hong Kong;
(b) to study the durability of plastic modified binder under heavy traffic load and ambient road operation conditions in Hong Kong;
(c) to improve the pavement properties and to mitigate the urban waste problem by the use of plastic waste as a modifier in the pavement; and
(d) to review the recyclability of plastic modified asphaltic binder as subsequent road pavement material.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS13/B05/16
Project Title: A Monetary History of Hong Kong, 1871 - 2015
Principal Investigator: Dr WONG Kin-ming (Chu Hai)

This project looks at the monetary history of Hong Kong from 1871 to now, using modern economics as a guide. Hong Kong has a complex, and yet much neglected, monetary history: from the silver standard to the sterling standard, from the dollar standard to free float, and then a currency board system linking Hong Kong dollar to the US dollar since 1983. Even under the currency board system, there were numerous institutional changes. We try to make sense out of this long and winding process.

We compare the economic performance of the Hong Kong economy under these different systems, and, using the technique of vector autoregression, we study how the monetary system is related to the dynamics of the economy. The technique also allows us to find the counterfactual of adopting a different system in a particular period.

This project is mainly a quantitative study of the past, but the lessons we learn from it may shed light on where the monetary system of Hong Kong will go in the future.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/E03/16
Project Title: Secure Cloud Database System using Communication-Efficient Multi-Party Computation
Principal Investigator: Dr WONG Wai-kit (HSMC)

Cloud relational database system is gaining popularity recently. Users store their data in the cloud database managed by a third party service provider. While there are many benefits for users to use cloud database service, data security is concerned. Users do not want to let the service provider see the plain data, which are valuable and sensitive, e.g., customer data.

This project aims to construct a secure cloud database system using multi-party secret sharing model. There are multiple service providers. Each data item is split into shares and each service provider holds only some but not all shares. Without knowing all the shares kept by other service providers, a service provider cannot derive the plain value of any data item. Security can be formally proven.

Secure multi-party computation involves heavy communication between service providers. To make the system practically efficient, the above communication overhead must be reduced. We use two approaches to address this issue in this project: (i) We use a novel parameter abstracting function to facilitate communication such that service providers just exchange a function in query processing. Then, service providers can generate the necessary parameters for computing the (same) operations on all records; (ii) We use parameter caching such that service providers cache certain parameters in previous operations so that no communication is required to process the same operation in the future.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E11/16
Project Title: Enhanced biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons and energy harvest from field contaminated marine sediment by coupling sediment microbial fuel cell with nitrate induced biostimulation
Principal Investigator: Dr YAN Yuk-shing (THEi)

Petroleum hydrocarbons contaminated marine sediment is a widespread environmental issue of the globe, in which it is caused from years of pollutant accumulation and adversely affects the aquatic life. In order to improve the sediment quality, continued attention has been directed towards applied researches for the removal of petroleum hydrocarbons from marine sediment. Compared with physical and chemical remediation methods, an increasing trend of applying in-situ bioremediation is observed, as it is considered non-invasive and relatively cost-effective. By stimulating the growth of denitrifying bacteria, the addition of nitrate has been found to suppress odor and to facilitate the biodegradation petroleum hydrocarbons in sediment. However, preferential degradation of certain fractions of petroleum hydrocarbons by nitrate induced biostimulation has been observed.

In the last decade, sediment microbial fuel cell (SMFC), which is a device used to extract energy from sediments, has been unearthed the power for biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons. A comparison was recently made between SMFC and nitrate induced biostimulation on petroleum hydrocarbons degradation in sediment, and it was found that these two technologies achieved better degradations in different fractions of petroleum hydrocarbons. In view of the distinctive strengths of SMFC and nitrate induced biostimulation in petroleum hydrocarbons degradation, it is tenable to expect a higher bioremediation efficiency if petroleum hydrocarbons contaminated sediment is subject to an integrated bioremediation system of the two technologies. In order to advance the current sediment bioremediation technologies, the objectives of this study are:
(1) to develop an effective remediation technology enhancing the petroleum hydrocarbons degradation efficiency by coupling SMFC with nitrate induced biostimulation;
(2) to develop a sustainable bioremediation technology enabling a stable and high electricity production from marine sediment in the course of bioremediation; and
(3) to increase the level of public acceptance towards sediment bioremediation by developing a sustainable technology not only for petroleum hydrocarbons removal, but with features of electricity production and odor suppression.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B25/16
Project Title: Motivating Loyalty Program Members toward Reward Pursuit: A Cross-Cultural Perspective
Principal Investigator: Dr YANG Xin (HSMC)

Aided by the unprecedented rate of globalization and digitalization, loyalty programs have penetrated most industries as well as cultural and national boundaries. However, drop-out rates of loyalty programs have averaged over 75% (Wiebenga and Fennis 2013). This research aims to study how to motivate members from different cultures toward reward pursuit. Both controlled experiments and field experiments will be employed to explore the interactions between cultural backgrounds and loyalty program features. This research will yield novel theoretical insights into loyalty program design and will empower marketers to effectively manage loyalty programs across cultures.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B03/16
Project Title: Acquirers' Transparency and Market Reactions to M&As in Emerging Markets - Evidence from China
Principal Investigator: Dr YIP Wing-yue (HSMC)

This empirical study will examine the effects of acquirers' corporate transparency on an important long-term investment activity, mergers and acquisitions (M&As) in emerging market, using data from China. Empirical support for the effects of information environments on M&A activities is usually drawn principally from previous U.S. studies investigating how a target's information environment influences M&A performance. To the best of our knowledge, there is little evidence on whether the acquirers' information environment affects the achievement of M&A benefits.

This gap in the literature may be due to the differences in the institutions in developed and emerging markets. The market-based institutions in developed markets reduce agency problems and restrict management's opportunistic behavior, allowing shareholders to focus primarily on evaluating the targets' information to interpret the potential of the combined entity. As a result, the target's transparency is of greater importance in the success of M&As in developed markets. In contrast, agency problems in emerging markets are severe due to inferior institutions, and acquiring firms' transparency may thus play a more important role in M&A benefits because (1) it may influence how investors interpret the implications of M&As and (2) it may deter an acquirer from engaging in value-destroying M&As.

This project will fill that gap by providing empirical evidence on the effects of acquirers' corporate transparency, broadly defined as the widespread availability of credible firm-specific information to outsiders, on market-perceived M&A efficiency, as measured by the acquirers' M&A synergy. We will also investigate whether institutional settings around acquirers matter by (1) examining how different institutions in different Chinese provinces affect the association and (2) conducting a comparative analysis of two of the most significant economies in the world, China and the U.S., which are characterized by vastly different institutions. Furthermore, we will study how internal corporate governance interacts with the association.

We believe that this research warrants investigation because M&As are often the largest investments that firms ever undertake, and they may lead to significant changes in capital resource allocation and shareholders' wealth. The project will extend the prior accounting, corporate governance and finance literature. In particular, our findings should be useful to policymakers in emerging and transitional markets. Finally, the project will involve building a database of the world's most influential markets, China and the U.S., for future research opportunities, and will provide useful illustrations for teaching that will expose students to the real-world implementation of financial reporting and its capital market consequences.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS13/B01/16
Project Title: Corporate Social Responsibility, Income Distribution and Social Welfare
Principal Investigator: Prof YU Eden Siu-hung (Chu Hai)

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) integrates social, environmental and consumer consequences of business activities undertaken by a company. The CSR activities have attracted substantial attention from both firms and general public around the world. It is well established that the goal of a firm existence is to maximize shareholders' wealth. However, in view of the increasing recognition of the relevance of the seemingly non-profit aspects of business activities, the objective function of a socially responsible firm can be expressed as weighted average of its profits and other concerns arising from the social and environmental impacts of the firm's activities upon the society. There is an ample literature on the behavior and financial performance of CSR firms. However, the income distributional effect of the firms' CSR activities in an economy-wide, general equilibrium setting remains hitherto under-explored.

As evident in the mankind history, serious income inequality has caused economic and political instability. The issue of income inequality has long been the concerns of academic researchers and policy makers. It has been recently observed that income inequality is worsening, as the world's richest 1% of the population will control over 50% of the global wealth in the future. The widening gap of wage and non-wage income can lead to social conflict, thereby adversely affecting economic growth and regional stability. In light of the serious consequences of income inequality, numerous studies have been conducted to investigate what have caused the increasing wage inequality between skilled and unskilled labor. It has been found that widening wage inequality can be attributed to "skill premium" arising from several factors including skilled-biased technologies, globalization, market distortions (e.g., unemployment, trade barriers in the form of import tariffs and export taxes), inflows of foreign unskilled workers, and political and institutional factors. Furthermore, non-wage income disparity arises from capital ownership and tax differentials etc.

Firms engaging in CSR activities aim to improve their financial performance while help sustain the development of the economy. However, the literature shows that there are mixed results concerning the relationship between CSR and the firm's financial performance. These results lead to the following research questions: Do firms' CSR activities truly benefit the firms and the society as a whole? In particular, do these firms contribute to rendering the society more equitable? This research project aims to answer the above and other related questions of academic and policy interest by resorting to both theoretical and empirical analyses.

Utilizing a general-equilibrium framework with goods and factor markets, we will study the links from firms' CSR activities to income distribution by examining both the short-run and long-run impacts of such activities upon the following key variables: wage rates of skilled versus unskilled labor, the capital rental rate, and social welfare of the economy. We conjecture that in the short run, the CSR investment may raise capital rental rates, thereby worsening the wage inequality between skilled and unskilled labor. However, in the long run, CSR activities can lead to a narrowing of wage gap between skilled and unskilled labor due to the increase in firm concentration ratio in the industry via the exit of marginal firms. The theoretical findings related to the conjecture will be derived analytically and tested empirically using developed and developing countries data.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/P02/16
Project Title: On the Uncertainty of Value-at-Risk of Individual Risk
Principal Investigator: Dr YUEN Fei-lung (HSMC)

Quantifying risk is essential for risk management, control, calculation of capital requirement and other decision making processes. Risk measure is the way that we use to indicate the numerical amount of risk of a financial position. Roughly speaking, it is the loss under an extreme adverse condition which only happens with a small probability. By controlling the risk measure and setting up an adequate reserve capital, the company can avoid taking excessive risk and withstand the adverse condition with a higher chance. One major difficulty of using risk measure on risk management is that the actual distributions of the risks are not known and we can only obtain the estimated results. It is known as the problem of uncertainty. In order to obtain a more robust risk measure which is adequate even under extreme conditions and with estimation errors, the risk measure can be found under a stressed condition to illustrate the effect of uncertainty. Existing researches mainly focus on modelling the dependence structure between different risks. The uncertainty of estimating an individual loss does not attract enough attention.

In the proposed project, we will set up an uncertainty model for one of the most influential risk measures, value-at-risk (VaR). It is commonly used in various financial institutions for risk management and regulatory purposes. Both the mathematical and financial properties of the uncertainty on VaR will be studied. The nature of stressed scenario will also be identified for different types of risks.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/M05/16
Project Title: Air purification and carbon sequestration by urban park trees in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Dr ZHANG Hao (THEi)

It is generally accepted that urban vegetation improves air quality and thereby enhances the well-being of citizens. They play a decisive role in achieving a sustainable city. However, beyond landscaping aesthetics and recreational purpose, park designs which are based on their ecosystem services always received limited concerns in Hong Kong. It is not only due to the lack of awareness, but also insufficient local scientific evidences in the provision of ecosystem services by urban forests. Therefore, the present study aims to quantify air pollutant attenuation and carbon storage in urban parks and gardens.

This study proposes to incorporate field survey, laboratory test and modeling methods to understand the role of urban vegetation in Hong Kong on atmospheric quality and carbon sequestration.

On-site measurements including tree inventory and park survey will be conducted on parameters like tree dimensions, health, light exposure, ground cover composition and available planting space at 10 selected urban parks in Hong Kong. Species diversity for trees will be calculated and presented by Shannon-Wiener index (H), evenness index (J) and Importance Values (IV) of each species. The value will be compared and analyzed between study sites.

Apart from tree inventory, 10 most abundant tree species will be selected for further analysis of particulate matter (PM) accumulation on leaf surface in the laboratory. Leaf sampling will be used for quantifying pollutants deposited on leaf surfaces. Average plant biomass and carbon sequestration are also calculated for each common species. Insight will be provided to improve our understanding of the role of individual tree species in maximize these benefits.

The i-Tree Eco model, also known as the Urban Forest Effects (UFORE) model will be used to quantify the ecosystem services in the urban parks and gardens, with the incorporation of local environmental data such as hourly air pollutant concentrations and meteorological data. The quantified ecosystem services will be converted into momentary values, in order to provide the public and town planners a clearer concept of the ability of air purification and carbon sequestration by urban parks. Any important factor will also be identified to determine the capacity of urban parks for air pollution attenuation and carbon storage.

Suggestions and recommendations can be subsequently made on future tree species selection and urban park designs. Urban designers could base on the suggestions to maximize the ecosystem services of urban parks so to achieve a more environmentally sustainable future. The determined effectiveness of urban parks and gardens as providers of ecosystem services will help to allow accurate assessment of their value in future policy making.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E10/16
Project Title: Study on the transient response performance of liquid desiccant dehumidifier and regenerator under the coupling effect of different control algorithm
Principal Investigator: Dr ZHONG Dan (THEi)

The quality of the indoor environment has raised increasing concern as people spend most of their time in buildings. At present, a pleasant indoor environment still depends greatly on the large consumption of fossil fuels. This is especially in Hong Kong, where around 90% of electricity is consumed by buildings. Recently, it has been reported that the liquid desiccant air-conditioning system could be a potential substitute of the traditional air conditioner to improve energy utilization efficiencies in buildings. The new system is particularly suitable for hot and humid regions, such as Hong Kong, as the energy used for dehumidification is relatively higher.

However, one problem has discouraged its greater use. Compared to the traditional air conditioner, the control system of liquid desiccant air-conditioning system is more complicated. Its inadequate control scheme has prevented its widespread. To guarantee effective and stable operation of the liquid desiccant air-conditioning system, it is important that the transient response performance of the dehumidifier and regenerator be predicted accurately. However, this is difficult because there are very few studies on the dynamic operation and transient response performance of the dehumidifier and regenerator, especially with a multi-factor coupling effect. In addition, the coupling study of heat, mass and flow is not comprehensive and many assumptions have to be made in the calculation. Because of the absence of accurate predictions, appropriate guidelines for the control system design and operation cannot be put forward.

Therefore, this project aims to establish a reliable dynamic model for the dehumidifier and regenerator, and to investigate their transient response performance numerically and experimentally. Numerical models based on the CFD method will be developed for simulating the heat and mass transfer process, with consideration of the velocity field. Experiments will be conducted to analyse the effect of a single factor or multi-factors. Then the new model will be improved with the incorporation of the experimental results. The improved model will be used to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the effect of various factors and different conditions. Measures to optimise the control system design and operation will be put forward. Practical guidelines for the design and operation of the control system will be presented for engineering applications.