Faculty Development Scheme (FDS) - Project Abstract

Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/B03/18
Project Title: Book-Tax Tradeoff Theory and Corporate Acquisition Payment Methods: Evidence from China
Principal Investigator: Prof CHAN Koon-hung (Caritas)

The main objective of the proposed research is to investigate whether tax avoidance based on the book-tax tradeoff theory is associated with and influences the choice of corporate acquisition payment methods in Merger and Acquisition (M&A) transactions. Specifically, we test the applicability of the book-tax tradeoff theory in a new context, that is, whether it can explain the relationship between tax avoidance and the choice of corporate acquisition payment methods. The proposed research will be the first attempt to explore this relationship.

Corporate acquisitions are often extremely large and important transactions. While research has shown that tax can be an important determinant of M&A activities, no research has been identified that investigates whether the level of tax avoidance as explained by the book-tax tradeoff theory relates to the choice of an acquisition payment method. Our proposed research intends to fill this gap in the literature. If a significant relationship between corporate tax avoidance and the choice of acquisition payment method can be established through the framework of a sound theory, the proposed research will have important implications for shareholders to assess their wealth, for corporations to allocate their resources and for tax authorities and public policy makers to formulate policies that address M&A transactions.

Since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013 which necessitated business expansions and the industrial upgrading of Chinese companies, M&A activities have tripled in China. These activities involve mainly domestic entities, but the number of outbound M&As is increasing, and these can involve many Hong Kong entities. While the majority of the acquisitions involve non-SOEs from numerous industries, SOEs have also become more actively engaged in such activities in recent years. The increase in M&A activities by Chinese firms in overseas markets suggests that our research findings from China are relevant to other economies.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/H01/18
Project Title: Imagination of Cityscape: A Study on Post-1997 Hong Kong Young Writers
Principal Investigator: Dr CHAU Man-lut (THEi)

Hong Kong cityscape and the city itself have been gradually changed and transformed since the handover in 1997. A group of writers who started to publish their first book after 1997, namely the "post-1997 Hong Kong young writers", have grown up in the city since they were born. They have witnessed and experienced the changes. Their works can reflect how they feel and think towards the city. Yet, studies of this group of writers are still in its infancy. A closer look and a comprehensive study should be carried out in order to understand their structure of feelings – is it different from what is shown in the works of writers from older generation? There are three main objectives for this project. Firstly, it aims to provide a detailed analysis of how "post-1997 Hong Kong young writers" imagine the city by looking into their fiction. As much related researches are concerned with individual writers, this research intends to fill in the gap by examining their works comprehensively. Secondly, this research will analyze their structure of feelings by using the theories of space and place. It also gives voice to the writers' unique experiences and current feelings towards the city by conducting interviews. Thirdly, this project aims to provide a thorough study on this group of writers for future use, either in the writings of Hong Kong literary history or in generating more critical studies on these writers. It will also examine the possibility of using this similar framework to analyze prose and poetry. In short, upon completion of this project, we will arrive at a better understanding of (1) how the "post-1997 Hong Kong young writers" imagine the city; (2) their structure of feelings and whether it is different from writers of the older generation; and (3) how their fiction represents urban space and body space.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/M02/18
Project Title: Exploring the use of native leguminous plants in mitigating soil quality of man-made slopes
Principal Investigator: Dr CHAU Ngai-lung (THEi)

The hilly topography of Hong Kong consists of a considerable proportion of man-made slopes to support urban development. Recently, ecological greening of these landscapes has been advocated to enhance the values of urban forest. Huge efforts have been paid on the selection of appropriate plant species while the importance of mitigating infertile soil substrates of slopes is usually ignored. This poses a barrier to the prolonged vegetation growth. Urban soil management becomes crucial in promoting plant and soil diversity and enhances environmental services to the city.

The use of leguminous plants have long been proved effective in mitigating the degraded soil. In the past, several exotic legume tree species were planted on soil slopes while their effectiveness in mitigating soil physico-chemical and microbiological properties are seldom addressed. Their capabilities in improving soil quality is worth investigation to quantify their benefits to the urban landscapes. Some native leguminous plants, not limited to trees, naturally colonize soil slopes and indicate a certain adaptability to the urban landscapes. Their abilities to green the slopes and improve soil quality can be assessed. Therefore, more leguminous plants can be recommended to widen the selection of plant species in ecological greening.

The proposed project will consist of three studies. These will include the determination of changes of soil physico-chemical and microbiological properties of slopes revegetated by the current leguminous plants. A planting trial involving the use of available native leguminous plants will be conducted to assess the feasibility of growing them on soil slopes and the associated benefits. The naturally colonizing leguminous plants will also be identified and examined for their adaptability and capabilities in mitigating the degraded soil. It is believed that findings of the proposed project can provide comprehensive information to quantify the role of urban vegetation in soil quality and offer useful suggestions to improve urban soil management.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B06/18
Project Title: Doubts on Natural Rate of Unemployment: Evidence from Asian and OECD Countries
Principal Investigator: Dr CHENG Ka-ming (HSMC)

The global financial crisis, triggered by the collapse of US subprime mortgage market in 2008, has resulted in persistent and high unemployment rates in many countries all over the world. High unemployment is a major concern of the government since it has a serious negative impact on economic growth and leads to many social problems in many countries. In many countries, the unemployment rates tend to stay persistently at a high level over time rather than returning to a normal level, natural rate, after a short period of time. People cast doubt on the presence of natural rate of unemployment in those countries. There has been an ongoing debate among theorists of natural rate, structuralist and hysteresis for many decades. A wide spectrum of linear, panel and non-linear unit root tests has been developed to test the hysteresis hypothesis against the alternative natural rate of unemployment hypothesis. However, empirical results remain inconclusive.

This study aims to revisit the nature of unemployment dynamics in selected Asian and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries by employing a novel nonlinear unit root test, that is truly general for all transitional stationary autoregressive models, developed by Park and Shintani (2016). The purpose is to detect the presence of natural rate of unemployment, hysteresis in unemployment due to economic shocks and the possibility of a natural rate shift due to structural changes. The findings of this study may shed light on the policies aim at boosting the employment of an economy.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/H06/18
Project Title: Vocational Identity, Career Development and Graduate Adjustment: A longitudinal study of sub-degree students in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Dr CHEUNG Raysen Wai-leung (Shue Yan)

Vocational identity is the conscious awareness of oneself as a worker, a major developmental task for young people. From a process perspective, a vocational identity is developed through exploration of different career options and commitment to a career choice. More advanced levels of vocational identity, expressed in higher levels of career exploration and commitment, are linked to greater psychological well-being and career development. Research to assess and identify different vocational identity statuses is gaining ground in the West (e.g., Porfeli, Lee, Vondracek, & Weigold, 2011), but is relatively unexplored in Hong Kong and Mainland China. We believe that testing and assessing vocational identity status assessment among sub-degree students in Hong Kong will contribute to career theory building.

In terms of practice and policy, we will address a key issue in Hong Kong: sub-degree students' career development and graduate adjustment. With an aim to enable 60% of secondary school leavers to access higher education, the government initiated the expansion of sub-degree programs in 2000. Intakes for self-financing sub-degree courses rose almost tenfold over the past decade, and the participation rate in postsecondary education for the 17-20 age group doubled to 66% by 2006/07 (Wan, 2011). However, increasing employment difficulties of sub-degree graduates are reflected by the substantial salary drop of sub-degree holders in the past 2 decades (Zhao, 2016). In October, 2017, the Education Secretary established a Special Task Force on Review of Self-financing Post-Secondary Education, as announced earlier by the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Government. Reviewing into the future development of sub-degree programmes is included into the frame of reference of the task force. By examining their vocational identity, we aim to inform their transition into workplace and to promote "developmentally appropriate" interventions with reference to their vocational development status.

This study will utilize quantitative and qualitative methods. A quantitative, three-wave longitudinal study will be a major component. Phase one will involve the collection of quantitative data from eight hundred sub-degree students from different institutions at the start of their graduation year to validate the Vocational Identity Status Assessment (e.g., Porfeli, Lee, Vondracek, & Weigold, 2011). The second phase will take place approximately five months later and will involve a follow-up quantitative study of participants' career development and job search prior to graduation. Phase three will trace the academic or employment adjustment of students six months after graduation. We shall test if students with more advanced identity statuses have better psychological and career outcomes. Moreover, to promote service mapping in relation to vocational identity status assessment, we propose to conduct a focus group study during phase two to generate ideas on how to tailor appropriate career services for different groups.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/B13/18
Project Title: Investigating Impacts of Problem Ownership and Ascription of Responsibility on Sustainable Consumption Behaviour
Principal Investigator: Mr CHU Kevin Wing-ki (OUHK)

The high value placed on economic prosperity and growth puts enormous pressure on the environment and ecosystem. With the tremendous growth rate of the economy, environmental deterioration resulting from the over-consumption of natural resources is anticipated. If mankind pursues its irresponsible consumption patterns, the depletion of the ozone layer, water pollution, acid rain and desertification will be the inevitable consequences of environmental degradation. For decades, sustainability has been a concern for both governments and businesses. As a result, a growing number of companies have integrated sustainability into their business operations and an increasing number of environmentally friendly (EF) or 'sustainable' products have entered the market. For example, consuming EF or organic products that are produced without using synthetic chemicals is expected to have minimal impacts on the environment. In recent years, governments have also tackled global warming through multilateral negotiations, regulations and legislations. Despite the efforts of both businesses and governments, many consumers do not translate their positive attitudes towards environmental protection and their growing environmental consciousness into their actions. Many studies in the fields of environmental psychology and marketing address this attitude-behaviour gap, also known as the green gap.

To fill the green gap, most research attempts to profile green consumers investigate the relationships between beliefs, attitudes, social norms and behaviours and identify motivational drivers. However, few studies analyse the attribution of causes and responsibilities for environmental problems to governments and businesses and its potential impacts on individual green consumption behaviour. Therefore, this proposed project will aim primarily to investigate the perceived ability and level of responsibility of businesses and governments to tackle environmental problems, and how these can motivate people to act pro-environmentally. Second, this study will explore why and how people's beliefs and attitudes towards businesses and governments about their environmental responsibilities contribute to the current patterns of green consumption behaviour, which in turn will shed light on the motivational and practical complexity of green consumption behaviour.

First, the proposed study will provide recommendations to policymakers, public relations practitioners and marketers to develop messages on the roles of businesses and governments to engage individuals in pro-environmental acts. Second, the study will inform all sectors on the current green consumption patterns of educated youths – whether they dispose, reuse, recycle used objects and/or purchase sustainable products. Finally, the qualitative data collected will provide insights for theorising potential interrelationships between different types of green consumption behaviour.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/P01/18 (Withdrawn)
Project Title: Longitudinal Item Response Techniques with Applications to Education and Psychosocial Interventions
Principal Investigator: Dr CHU Man-ying (HSMC)


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS13/H07/18
Project Title: Political Identification and the Idea of Loyalty: A Study of the Master Poet Chen Gongyin of Lingnan during the Ming-Qing Dynastic Transition
Principal Investigator: Dr DUNG Chau-hung (Chu Hai)

Chen Gongyin (1631-1700) is one of the well-known Master Poet Trio of Lingnan active in the late-Ming-to-early-Qing period, the other two being Qu Dajun and Liang Peilan. Highly praised by such well-established literary critics as Peng Shiwang, Wang Shizhen and Zhu Yizun, Chen's poetry has been regarded as a greatly valuable subject of literary studies. Chen experienced the destruction of China under the Ming Dynasty, during which his father, concubine-mother, and three brothers were killed by the invading Qing-Manchu army, with the whole family practically wiped out. Then he was thrown into prison for over 200 days because of entanglement in the Three Feudatories' Rebellion. Chen suffered arguably the most terrible tragedy among those adherents of the fallen Ming Dynasty. Yet he has often been regarded as merely one of the ordinary Ming-adherents, or even just one of the neglected Ming-adherents living in the backwater Guangdong areas. Therefore, Chen the poet has received little attention as a greatly representative witness to the historical upheaval during the dynastic transition. That is why Chen's political identification and his idea of loyalty deserve in-depth studies on the part of scholars.

This study proposes to explore the theme of Chen Gongyin's political identification and his idea of loyalty. It aims to examine the political ideas in the full body of his poems in the following seven aspects: the shaping of Chen's idea of loyalty; his dual sorrow: destruction of the nation and death of the family; his desire for restoring the Ming rule; terror and panic in prison during the Three Feudatories' Rebellion; burden of livelihood and fear of suspicion in life after prison; Ming-Loyalist's complex seen in poems for socializing and odes to various objects; and differences in political identification among the Master Poet Trio. The proposed study features an in-depth study of the change in Chen's idea of loyalty before and after his imprisonment, of his poems in relation to the historical upheaval during the dynastic transition, and of the differences in political identification among the trio poets, namely Chen himself, Qu and Liang. As to the methodology, the study will adopt a "poetry-history inter-verifying" approach, plus the Diaspora theory of Edward W. Said, and the exploration of the poetry-politics relations as well as poetry-poet relations, so as to shed light on Chen's thoughts and ideas with respect to the historical changes in his time.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS13/E04/18
Project Title: Intelligent assessment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) based on gaze-posture-movement tracking fusion: principle, algorithm and system
Principal Investigator: Dr FU Hong (Chu Hai)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects 8–12% of children worldwide. ADHD has serious consequences for the student's overall academic success, emotional well-being, attitude, and behavior. Timely assessment of ADHD is essential for proper intervention and treatment. Current ADHD assessment is based on descriptive instructions, which is subjective and with low efficiency. Recent studies on eye tracking and ADHD show that it is a promising way to enhance ADHD assessment by making use of advanced IT technologies. However, only the eye movements were investigated in these studies, while the body posture and movement are not involved, which are significant in revealing the hyperactivity aspect of ADHD. Moreover, little active interactions were taken into account. Actually, children with ADHD display fine and gross motor problems, often expressed as handwriting difficulties. Handwriting is a complicated activity, which needs the coordination of hands and eyes, so the synchronous study on the visual and upper body movement during writing is essential to understand the mechanism of ADHD, so as to give systematic and objective assessment, for timely and proper intervention. Therefore, there is a need to develop a proper digital system to measure the fine eye movement, body posture and stroke movement simultaneously, to study the mechanism of ADHD, and to perform effective and objective assessment based on digitalized information.

In this proposal, we are planning to have a comprehensive study of the ADHD's behavioral mechanism with the consideration of upper body movement and fine visual information, and further contribute an intelligent assessment of ADHD. The proposed system captures information including gaze point, written works and upper body movement. The difference between the upper body posture and visual information recorded from individuals with and without ADHD would be studied. To achieve the above objectives, four essential issues will be addressed in this project: (i) integration of gaze-posture-movement tracking system; (ii) fine gaze tracking; (iii) fusion of eye gaze, upper body posture and written stroke movement; (iv) intelligent assessment of ADHD with machine learning algorithms. The digitalized system will be implemented with a head-mounted eye-tracker, a pen tablet and two cameras. The algorithms for fine eye tracking and body posture capturing will be developed. Then a joint gaze-posture-movement analysis will be carried out to figure out the patterns and correlations of children suffering from ADHD. Finally, a classifier will be trained to perform intelligent assessment of ADHD.

The outcomes of the project will provide an alternative for ADHD assessment with digital devices and intelligent algorithms. With this system, an automated, objective and intelligent assessment can be done easily, with simple guidance of a clinical technician, which makes it efficient to identify the children with ADHD and therefore to conduct timely intervention. The finding in joint data analysis will disclose the mechanism of ADHD and will potentially bring up significant practical implication for educators and therapists to intervene children with ADHD. 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 Developmental Dyslexia and Development Dysgraphia.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/H13/18
Project Title: Destined for Conflict? An Implicit Theory Approach to Relational Motive and Dispute Resolution Practices
Principal Investigator: Dr FU Ho-ying (HSMC)

In recent years, Hong Kong has played a much more significant role in facilitating dispute resolution among business firms from China and overseas countries. Among various forms of resolution, much effort has been put to promote the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) practices, i.e. using third-party procedures such as mediation and adjudication. One major movement in ADR education recently is to promote having the ADR procedures, sequence, terms and conditions explicitly spelt out in a contract before activities of the concerned nature officially start. This is generally referred to as Dispute Resolution System (DRS). Despite its usefulness, the use of DRS is not common in Hong Kong. In this proposal, we aim to explore factors that would enhance or inhibit the adoption of DRS by business managers. Specifically, we explore how the nature of people's belief about conflict affect their tendencies to use DRS and how people consider its impact on their relationship with the business counterparts. This program of research will provide significant theoretical and practical implications for relationship and conflict management, team work and cross-border businesses collaboration. We will test our predictions through a set of studies using different samples and methodologies.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/H13/18
Project Title: Creativity in popular music: A study of music-making practices in the busking scene and the YouTube scene
Principal Investigator: Dr HO Wing-ki (OUHK)

The rise and fall of Hong Kong's popular music from the 1970s till today is now a familiar narrative. As the Cantopop industry developed in the 1970s, climbed to its most glorious days in the 1980s, then experienced its decline since the mid-1990s, today many might doubt whether the industry still has a sustainable future. The future of Hong Kong's popular music is probably contingent on the creativity of local music. Where is the creativity of popular music to be found? Indeed, some music industry practitioners have pointed out that the diversity and creativity of Hong Kong's popular music today might have flourished even more vibrantly than in the so-called golden era of Hong Kong pop. If the performance of the professional industry is not the only indicator of musical creativity, is it possible we can find other more organic sources of creativity elsewhere? The proposed study attempts to shift the lens from the more commercialized and industrialized aspect of Hong Kong's popular music to the more bottom-up and organic music-making practices, namely those in the busking scene and the YouTube scene. Both street music performances and music-making on YouTube have stirred some public discussion in recent years. The study aims to understand the music-making practices of these everyday talents across the online and offline settings and assess their creative potential.

The study has four specific objectives. First, it is intended to describe the features of the music-making practices of the musicians in the local busking scene and the YouTube scene. Areas to be looked into include their repertoires, aesthetics, cultural sensibilities, and social interactions with the audiences and other musicians. Second, the study seeks to assess the relationship between music-making and creative identity. The author is interested in knowing how these music-makers would describe their own creative identity and perceive Hong Kong on the benchmark of a creative city based on their music-making and performing experiences. Third, the study will analyze the connections and contradictions in the music-making practices in the online and offline spaces. Finally, the study attempts to explore the possibilities of collaboration between these amateur musicians in the participant community and the professional corporate organizations for the betterment of the local music industry.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS17/M04/18
Project Title: An investigation of semantic and associative encoding in schizophrenia using event-related potential
Principal Investigator: Dr KUO Michael Chih-chien (TWC)

Schizophrenia is a psychiatric condition characterised by hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking, impaired social engagement and deficits in emotional responses. People with schizophrenia frequently experience deficits in cognition, and in particular, a dysfunction in episodic memory. Although reports have described abnormal brain activation when people with schizophrenia perform a memorisation task, little is known about the temporal course of cognitive processes associated with episodic encoding in this group. Using the event-related potential (ERP) technique and a subsequent memory paradigm, the proposed study will investigate the effect of semantic and associative memory strategies on memory performance and examine the cognitive processes of memory formation in people with schizophrenia. Semantic strategies involve the processing of meaning or information that can be applied to a given context. Associative strategies involve processing relationships between at least two stimuli. Both semantic and associative strategies promote a deeper level of information processing and have helped to improve memory performance in people with schizophrenia. A minimum of 25 participants with schizophrenia diagnosed by DSM-V and 25 comparison participants without any psychiatric disorders will be recruited. There will be three conditions: baseline (i.e., not using any strategy), semantic and associative. The participants will study and memorise Chinese characters, followed by a recognition memory test. The semantic strategy condition will require the participants to judge whether a member of a Chinese character pair is related to the animal category. The associative strategy condition will require them to view Chinese character pairs and judge whether they are strongly associated. A better understanding of cognitive processes and potential deficits in schizophrenia could contribute to theories of memory dysfunction and help to design more effective treatments in the future.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/H05/18
Project Title: Traditionalism, Regime Support and Democratic Legitimacy in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Dr LAM Wai-man (OUHK)

This research investigates social and political traditionalism in Hong Kong people's political identity and values and their regime support, and whether these factors influence democratic legitimacy in Hong Kong. The examination of social traditionalism will focus on people's attitudes to (1) social stability, (2) social conflicts and harmony, (3) social pluralism, (4) individual interests and groups' collective interests, and (5) their evaluation of the current Hong Kong situation on these aspects. The investigation of political traditionalism will consist of (1) people's criteria of political legitimacy, (2) people's attitudes to (a) the roles of government and political leaders, (b) government accountability and responsiveness, (c) political liberalism and equality, (d) authoritarian alternatives, (e) individual interests and national interests, and (3) their evaluation of the current Hong Kong situation on these dimensions. Regime support will be measured by the extent of Hong Kong people's support for the incumbent government, whereas democratic legitimacy will be studied by examining the suitability of democracy for Hong Kong and its priority over other political forms (Chu 2013: 8-10; Welsh and Chang 2015: 456).

The researchers will conduct a household survey using the core questionnaire of the Asian Barometer Survey (ABS), which is a cross-national survey of political values undertaken in 19 Asian polities. The ABS taps the political attitudes of people on various political dimensions, including democracy, traditional values, alternative political forms, other value questions, and how they evaluate the political and economic performance of the current regime. Methodology wise, this research will use confirmatory factor analysis, a method to test hypotheses and build theories by fitting the variables for a structural equation model, to analyze the relationships of social and political traditionalism, regime support and democratic legitimacy in Hong Kong. The data collected will be compared with the findings of the previous waves of surveys done in 2001, 2007, 2012, and 2015.

In addition to the household survey stated above, the research will conduct qualitative interviews with 20 young activists and eight focus group discussions with ordinary young people of different ages, educational levels and occupations in Hong Kong. The qualitative part will delve into the political values and visions of the young respondents, and allow us to have a clearer and more in-depth understanding of their views about the research questions.

The research will generate three refereed journal articles. The first article will analyze the overall model of social and political traditionalism, regime support and democratic legitimacy. The second one will compare the changing social and political traditionalism in Hong Kong over time across the findings of the different waves of ABS, and across different age categories and political identities. The third one will investigate the democratic legitimacy in Hong Kong in comparison with other Asian participating regions, which will allow us to examine theories on social and political traditionalism, regime support and democratic consolidation.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/M01/18
Project Title: Molecular Responses of Fish Gills Experimentally Exposed to Ichthyotoxic Dinoflagellate Karenia mikimotoi
Principal Investigator: Dr LEE Wang-fat (OUHK)

Karenia mikimotoi is a well-known species of fish-killing microalgae. Blooms dominated by this species are often associated with massive fish and shellfish kills around the world, which have significant economic impacts on the fish farming and shellfish industries. Both mainland China and Hong Kong have suffered greatly from K. mikimotoi blooms. Recently, the blooms have occurred almost every year in mainland China and were responsible for massive mortalities of abalones in Fujian in 2012. The economic losses attributed to the blooms amounted to at least US$300 million. K. mikimotoi has also been regularly detected in Hong Kong waters in recent years. In 1998, a massive and disastrous algal bloom of K. mikimotoi in Hong Kong waters was responsible for economic losses of more than HK$0.3 billion. In 2016, K. mikimotoi blooms caused massive kills of more than 200 tons of fish in several local fish farming zones.

Despite the serious impacts of these algal blooming events, the exact fish-killing mechanism of this algal species is still poorly understood. Most studies conducted on the fish-killing mechanism of this species have been speculative, and none of them seems to have identified the primary mechanism for its toxicity and fish-killing action. No molecular studies at the gene and protein levels have aimed to identify the underlying molecular pathway in fish exposed to K. mikimotoi.

The proposed study will investigate the molecular responses of fish gills (in vitro and in vivo) to exposure to K. mikimotoi. Gill tissues from medaka and fish gill cell lines after exposure to K. mikimotoi will be analysed using proteomic technologies. Both gel-based and non-gel-based comparative proteomic approaches will be used to determine and identify differentially expressed proteins. Understanding the molecular responses of fish gills will help to understand the cellular regulation and possible pathways in fish exposed to the fish-killing algae, and should contribute to the eventual development of a proactive strategy for preventing fish-killing incidents. In the long term, successful completion of this project will have significant implications for local, mainland China and even international fish farms and shellfish industries.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/B01/18
Project Title: Are city tourism destinations prepared for the touristification of their intangible cultural heritage?
Principal Investigator: Dr LEE Yee-sum (OUHK)

The intangible cultural heritage of an area can uniquely position it as a tourism destination and fuel a lucrative tourism industry. However, because the literature on heritage management is primarily place-focused, a limited theoretical understanding of the relationship between intangible cultural heritage and tourism development is noted. Mass and unplanned tourism can harm city destinations by promoting inauthentic tourist encounters and cultural commodification. Thus, tourism planners need to develop strategies in preserving the intangible cultural heritage for tourism consumption. These strategies will require several threads of investigation, including how to develop effective strategies for capitalising on the use of intangible cultural heritage for tourism development, how to present intangible cultural heritage as a tourism product and identifying the roles of different stakeholders in the touristification process. The proposed project will use a knowledge management approach to understand the process of touristifying intangible cultural heritage sites in city destinations and examine how intangible cultural heritage can be leveraged to enhance tourism planning and development. A case study of Cantonese opera will be conducted using grounded-theory and a qualitative methodology. The findings will have significant theoretical and practical implications for tourism-related teaching, learning and policy planning.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/H01/18
Project Title: Origins of the grammar of Chinese Pidgin English
Principal Investigator: Dr LI Michelle Kin-ling (Caritas)

From the 18th to the mid-20th century, Chinese Pidgin English (CPE) was used to enable communication between Chinese and foreigners at different parts of China and Hong Kong. Despite its historical and linguistic significance, systematic research on CPE is still lacking. This project aims to investigate the origins of the grammar of CPE and construct a corpus comprising of data from diverse historical sources. The corpus will be the first of its kind, offering CPE data written in both the Chinese and English language. The quantity and diversity of sources make the corpus a valuable resource for generating new ideas on CPE as well as contact languages in general. This research focuses on the development and characteristics of two grammatical constructions in CPE: the light verb makee construction as in (1) and for as a complementation marker as in (2).



make trade 'to trade'
makee die 'to die'
must make go chop chop for see dat doctor man. (Tilden 1831-32: 764-65)
'(You) must go to see the doctor quickly.'

Both the light verb makee and the complementation marker for are common in pidgins and creoles; however, their origins still require more investigation, especially the light verb makee. This project addresses their grammatical characteristics and the languages and factors involved in their formation. It is hoped that results from this project can generate new discussions on the genesis of pidgins and creoles. Chinese Pidgin English is one form of the outcome of Chinese-English bilingualism. Results obtained from this project have potential to explain similar contact situations, such as Cantonese-English code-switching and contemporary English variety spoken in Hong Kong. This impact of this project can be manifested in different ways. The CPE corpus serves as an important resource for systematic documentation of the pidgin, paving the way for future projects. The availability of an electronic corpus also allows other researchers to access CPE data. The project could also cast new light on different facets of Chinese-English bilingualism.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/E01/18
Project Title: Ocular behaviour, construction hazard awareness and an AI chatbot
Principal Investigator: Dr LI Rita Yi-man (Shue Yan)

According to the latest statistics released by the Labour and Welfare Bureau, the construction industry records the highest accident rates in Hong Kong. Amongst the nine fatal industrial accidents in 2018, eight came from the construction industry. As many accidents are caused by a lack of safety awareness, it is vital to consider some viable approach to improve that. Likewise, while the development of artificial intelligence is in full throttle, the construction industry is falling behind the curve. Thus, we aim to study the factors that affect the safety awareness and the application of artificial intelligence to enhance it.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B03/18
Project Title: Too Busy to Help? Recent Evidence on Multiple Directorships and Firm Performance in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Dr LIU Junxia (HSMC)

Independent directors with multiple board appointments have been regarded as potentially unable to devote sufficient time and energy to their duties. In a consultation paper released in November 2017, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) expressed concerns about overboarded independent non-executive directors (INEDs) and proposed a new disclosure requirement for directors who will be holding their seventh or more listed company directorship. Are INEDs with multiple directorships too busy to help? Is "seven directorships" the tipping point for serving on multiple boards? This project will examine the effect of INEDs' multiple directorships on firm performance, using a sample from after the 2012 regulatory change for INEDs in Hong Kong.

We will address three questions. First, we will examine the effect of INEDs with multiple directorships on firm performance under the new regulatory regime. Director busyness signals director quality (quality hypothesis). However, holding too many board positions can make independent directors over-committed and thereby compromise their ability to effectively monitor management on behalf of outside shareholders (busyness hypothesis). While findings from the U.S. market suggest that multiple directorships are negatively associated with firm value, we would expect a generally positive performance effect in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong stock market is dominated by firms with concentrated ownership. Agency problems between controlling shareholders and minority shareholders are more likely to be prevalent. Controlling shareholders' substantial involvement in the selection and appointment of independent directors may imply that INEDs with multiple directorships are less likely to be effective monitors. However, their expertise, experience, and connections likely make them excellent advisors. Thus, we would expect the quality hypothesis for busy directors to be more pronounced in Hong Kong.

Second, we will investigate how director characteristics affect performance in multiple directorships. Large geographical distances between a director and firm headquarters may exacerbate an independent director's busyness, as attending meetings in various locations consumes more time and energy and increases the costs of gathering information. Directors with multiple board appointments may value each directorship differently and distribute their effort unequally based on the relative prestige benefits that a board offers, which are correlated with firm size. Directors with more connections have better access to information, enabling them to offer higher-quality advice to firm management. Directors' connections (particularly political connections) help firms obtain necessary resources at a lower cost, and thus improve firm performance.

Third, we will identify the channels through which INEDs with multiple directorships detract from or improve firm performance. We are interested in whether busy directors are more likely to attend board meetings, whether the frequency and magnitude of related party transactions tend to be lower in firms with INEDs serving on multiple boards, and whether busy directors help firms gain preferential treatment from the government or banks, such as easy access to external debt financing.

The findings from this proposed project should be of interest to regulators, boards of directors, academics, and students.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS13/E02/18
Project Title: Meteorological Visibility Estimation by using Particle Swarm Optimization and Neural Network
Principal Investigator: Prof LO Wai-lun (Chu Hai)

Meteorological Visibility is a measure of the greatest distance at which an object near the ground can be recognized under a bright background. The uses of the Visibility can be used as safety indicators for road, sea and flight traffic. Furthermore, visibility can also be used as an environmental parameter to monitor weather or pollution condition.

The conventional digital image estimation methods for visibility is based on the manual extraction of images' features and the meteorological laws calculation. Past research has found that the evaluation accuracy of this approach is influenced and affected by the image quality and different kinds of noise. Since it is difficult to extract all these factors manually and involve them into a certain equation for visibility estimation, intelligent approach should be used to extract the useful factors for visibility estimation.

Preliminary research work has been done to develop an algorithm for visibility estimation by using webcam images. Effective area is extracted from digital images which forms the input for a pre-trained Convolutional Neural Network (CNN). Features are then extracted based on single variable correlation. A Generalized regression neural network (GRNN) is then designed for visibility estimation based on deep learning methods. The selected weather photos with ground truth provided by Hong Kong Observatory are then used to train an Artificial Neural Network so that visibility can be estimated. The results of the preliminary research work show that the method with deep learning feature is applicable for visibility prediction and it can give an accuracy higher than that of the traditional hand-crafted features method. However, the effective area is extracted by using expert judgment instead automatic extraction methods. The set of feature vectors are also chosen from CNN by single value correlation values. The digital image for training neural network are based on Webcam capturing, it cannot provide details information for training as the image resolution are relatively low. Furthermore, the ground truth visibility values are provided by Hong Kong Observatory and the observing sites are fixed by HKO.

In this proposed project, a Visibility Monitoring System (VMS) with hardware visibility meter and High Resolution Digital Camera will be developed to monitor the visibility variations at the chosen site. The data obtained from VMS will act as reference models or ground truth data for Neural Network training. An intelligent method will be developed to extract the effective area from the digital image captured by the high resolution Digital Camera. The image matrix of the effective regions will act as the input to a pre-trained Neural Network named AlexNet network. Based on the multiple correlation and the Particle Swarm Optimization methods, an intelligent method will be developed to extract a smaller set of features values from the feature values generated by the Alexnet. The features vectors together with the measured visibility values will acts as a referenced model for ANN training and visibility estimation. Simulation results and the estimated visibility will be compared with the data measured by standard visibility meter.

It is expected that the proposed intelligent Meteorological Visibility Estimation methods can outperform the algorithm derived by our preliminary research. The overall research outcomes of this project can contribute to the area of environment monitoring and sustainable technology.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/M08/18
Project Title: Care providers' experiences of managing challenging behaviours of persons with intellectual disabilities in residential care: A qualitative vignette study
Principal Investigator: Dr LOW Lisa Pau-le (Caritas)

The aim of this study is to explore the experiences of care providers in managing challenging behaviours of persons with intellectual disability and who are living in residential care services. A descriptive qualitative approach based on the use of non-structured direct observations and vignette interviews. Conveniently-selected residential care services for persons with disabilities from four non-government organizations will be approached. Maximum variation convenience sampling will be used to recruit care providers from the residential care services. The final sample size will depend on the numbers required to reach data saturation. Direct unstructured observations for each residential care services, and audio-taped recorded vignette-based interviews are the data collection methods to be used. Latent content analysis will be used to analyze the observation and interview data. Dedoose data analysis software will be used. The findings will provide data on the types, events and interactions that can trigger off challenging behaviours for persons with intellectual disability and residential care services. Responses of the staff and their management of different types of challenging incidents and events will also be described. This study acknowledges that care providers are an asset to any organizations and focused attention should be given to address their needs and concerns when they have to confront and handle a range of challenging behaviours of persons with intellectual disability.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS12/H02/18
Project Title: Toward understanding English academic writing experiences of students in self-financing institutions in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Dr LU Hangyan (Centennial)

In university studies, writing plays a crucial role. Teachers determine students' grades to a large extent by evaluating whether students can write to meet the requirements of the academy. However, for many undergraduates studying in self-financing institutions in Hong Kong, which are not at the highest end of the academic stream, they dislike academic writing in English. In addition, students in these institutions bring complex experiences to their English academic writing with their diverse linguistic, cultural and institutional backgrounds. For example, a business student - who is from a family with no English language background and who spends much time working with Cantonese-speaking colleagues who communicate with him in sub-standard English - could take the standardization of English requirement in academic writing less seriously. Therefore, unlike most previous studies on students' academic writing that focused on skill deficiencies, the current research seeks to situate students' academic writing in contexts and asks less judgmental questions about what is going on when they engage in various written assignments for school. Specifically, questions in 3 dimensions (e.g., operational, cultural, and critical) will be asked in exploring the experiences. Findings from the study will have immediate benefit in term of increased understanding of the ways in which students respond to the challenges of academic writing in English and to their perceptions of the best ways forward in developing these skills. As such it will offer practical guidance of the development of academic writing programs which are truly responsive to student needs. The findings could also be of great interest to the wider academic community, both in terms of better understanding of the interface between the various dimensions of academic writing and more practically, in the development of appropriate support for students with diverse linguistic, cultural and institutional backgrounds such as international students.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/E05/18
Project Title: The Impacts of Heterogeneous Maintenance Actions on Aircraft Routing Problems in regard to Airline Operations Reliability and Profitability
Principal Investigator: Dr MA Hoi-lam (HSMC)

Maintaining smooth airline operation is critical in the airline industry. In 2015, disruption costs due to flight delays amounted to about US$25 billion worldwide and the average delay was about 47 minutes, as reported by Frankfurt-based consulting. In 2017, only in July, the numbers of flight delays already reached 226842, 191956, and 198221 in Asia, Europe, and the U.S respectively. Flight delays are usually caused by various circumstances that are beyond the control of airlines, such as severe weather conditions. However, as reported about 25% of flight delays are in fact due to maintenance issues, which can be improved by better optimization of aircraft routing problems (ARP).

Most of the existing papers assume all aircraft require a fixed and identical maintenance time and with the same maximum number of flying hours. However, nowadays, many airlines (e.g. Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines) are implementing a new maintenance practice that breaks down the 'A' check into many small packages. Therefore, some of which can even be conducted between two connected flights to maximize aircraft utilization, and this practice dramatically increases ARP complexity. Moreover, maintenance risk associated with different maintenance actions will also be considered. Maintenance risk in practice depends on the maintenance action and the age of the aircraft. It may induce different levels of risk in flight delays and cause disruptions.

The objective of the proposal is to propose (i) a new Cascade Neural Network approach to estimate the maintenance time required for and analyze the maintenance risk associated with each package using historical maintenance data, and (ii) a new column generation based methodology that incorporates the time and risk of heterogeneous maintenance actions so that the advantages of this new airline maintenance practice can be maximized.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS11/H04/18
Project Title: Social worker turnover and organizational career management in social work organizations of Mainland China
Principal Investigator: Dr MO Yuen-han (Caritas)

At present, research studies on organizational effort in handling turnover problems and in retaining social workers have been lacking in Mainland China. The high social worker turnover is caused by the low social status and poor professional identity of social workers, poor management in social work organizations, and an imperfect social welfare system. Organizational career management in social work agencies, however, remains a significant yet little understood area. Organizational career management (OCM) refers to various activities employed by an organization to promote the career development of employees, develop staff's potential, and retain employees. OCM consists of different dimensions such as the provision of training courses, mentoring, supervision, job rotation, line management support, performance appraisal, and career planning. Therefore, this study is to explore how organizational career management can be theorized further as to how it can be extended or adapted for the social work context in Mainland China. A mixed-method approach will be adopted includes quantitative survey, in-depth interviews, document review, and site visits. The theoretical contribution will be identifying the missing components of organizational career management in the social work sector and suggesting the development of a theoretical framework for social work organizations.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/M08/18
Project Title: Radial Basis Functions Method for Medical Imaging Problems
Principal Investigator: Dr NG Kei-shing (OUHK)

The number of deaths due to cancer has steadily increased over recent decades. In Hong Kong, approximately 60% of cancer patients are treated with external beam radiotherapy treatment. Success in accurately localising the target region (tumour) and avoiding damage to the nearby healthy organ (organ at risk, OAR) is crucial to control tumour growth and minimise the side effects in the patient. The recently developed image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) has improved outcomes. To optimise the effectiveness of IGRT, an efficient tumour segmentation and image registration procedure is required to delineate the clinically critical objects visualised by computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) during the radiation treatment process. The whole process is tedious, time consuming and experience dependent.

An effective computational algorithm for the accurate reconstruction of medical images from CT or MRI will help to utilise the split graft process and shorten the operation time for patients.

This proposed project will attempt to develop a new mathematical model and efficient computational algorithm for medical image segmentation and registration. The numerical solution depends on the complicated irregular shape of the organ. Thus, the use of the recently developed meshless computational methods is advantageous compared to most existing mesh-dependent numerical methods, such as finite element methods. To assist the radiotherapists and clinicians to improve their daily use of IGRT in radiation treatment, this proposed project will incorporate the meshless computational algorithm into the existing numerical package on IGRT for practical implementation.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/H06/18
Project Title: Trajectories, Strategies, Practices of Second-generation Hong Kong Transnational Families
Principal Investigator: Dr NGAN Lucille Lok-sun (HSMC)

This research seeks to explore the migration trajectories of second-generation Hong Kong transnational families in relation to their motives, strategies, practices, challenges and outcomes. After securing foreign passports and attaining overseas tertiary education, many second-generation immigrants who emigrated to western shores before the 1997 hand-over of Hong Kong to China have resettled in Hong Kong and are forming their own families. Having transitioned to parenthood, findings from our previous FDS study (UGC/FDS14/H09/14) indicate that they are planning to leave Hong Kong yet again, with their children. While migrants' circulatory movements and their family ties have been increasingly addressed through a transnational perspective, there has been limited focus on the migratory trajectories of second-generation transnational families, as a group. The lack of focus on them is partly because they had not come of age until recently but more so it can be attributed to the common assumption that their return to Hong Kong is the completion of the migratory journey. The significance of our study lies in revealing the scarcely known trajectories of second-generation Hong Kong transnational families in process – as they happen. We will explore notions of home and belongingness and also the range of factors within the spheres of employment, family life and children's education that are affecting their migratory trajectories. Furthermore, we will examine local and transnational strategies that are utilised to pursue family projects and how gender relations are played out in the migration process. Our fieldwork will involve in-depth family case studies of second-generation Hong Kong transnational migrants that are residing Hong Kong and also families that have departed to Australia and Canada.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/B08/18
Project Title: Do Insiders Exploit the Market Expectation Errors in Value/Growth Stocks?
Principal Investigator: Dr SHEN Jianfu (HSMC)

Insider trading is a worldwide phenomenon in capital markets. Insiders, including directors, officers, chairmen of the board and principal shareholders, may use their inside information to earn abnormal profits. The literature documents that insider trades convey valuable content to the market, and outsider investors can earn significant returns by mimicking insider trading patterns. It has also been found that insiders are contrarian investors who can time the market, i.e., buying stocks with low market valuation and selling stocks with high market valuation. The specific source of insider information, however, has not been fully investigated. The proposed study will argue that insiders have superior knowledge of the fundamental values of their own stocks, and trade on market mispricing if stock prices deviate from the fundamental value.

Unlike previous studies of insider trading, the proposed research will test whether insiders exploit market expectation errors in value/growth stocks. It is well documented that value stocks outperform growth stocks in markets around the world. However, it is still unclear whether the premium on value stocks can be attributed to financial risk or to market mispricing. Recent studies find that the return effect from value/growth strategy concentrates on stocks with an incongruence between fundamental value and market valuation, which supports the mispricing-based explanation of the value premium. The deviation is caused by the expectation errors of outside investors, as they are too optimistic (or pessimistic) about past stock performance and underweight recent financial statement information. As insiders are in the best position to observe the fundamentals of their firms, this study expects insiders to exploit market expectation errors in value/growth stocks.

The study will test three major hypotheses related to insiders' exploitation of market expectation errors. The first test will aim to confirm that insider trading concentrates on stocks with expectation errors. Insiders should buy more value stocks with strong fundamentals than with weak fundamentals, and sell more growth stocks with weak fundamentals than with strong fundamentals. The second test will explore the information contents of insider trades on stocks with and without expectation errors. The market responses and abnormal profits associated with insider trades should be significant in mispriced stocks, but may be insignificant in stocks without expectation errors. The last test will investigate whether information asymmetry between insiders and outsiders affects insider purchases and sales. Insider trading may be more pervasive in firms with severe information asymmetry and limits to arbitrage on mispricing.

This study will yield several policy implications for regulators of insider trading. Insiders' exploitation of expectation errors may drive stock prices back to fundamentals, which improves market efficiency in some sense. However, the role of information disclosure in insider trades is less important in firms with transparent environments. The insider trading is less likely to appear when the information is quickly impounded into stock price. The Hong Kong stock market is growing year by year, attracting investors from around the world. The proposed research will shed light on insider trading patterns and give suggestions on policies for reducing insider trading.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/H05/18
Project Title: Outdoor space design in public rental housing estates to promote ageing in place in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Dr SHI Shulin (THEi)

Similar to many other cities in the world, Hong Kong is facing serious problems of an ageing population. Such problems will become more serious in the next half of the century. Hong Kong government has long been paying special attention to the ageing population in society and encouraged ageing in place. Although broadly proved as beneficial to the well-being of the aged people, outdoor spaces with natural elements have not been studied comprehensively for catering ageing problems in Hong Kong. A good point for breakthrough could be outdoor spaces in public rental housing (PRH) estates. On the one hand, PRH estates developed by the Hong Kong Housing Authority and Hong Kong Housing Society commonly reserve a relatively large proportion of site areas as open space for greening and recreational purposes. At the same time, they are major providers of rental residences to the aged people who cannot afford a private one in Hong Kong. These aged people usually have limited resources to improve their quality of life. Therefore, outdoor spaces within PRH estates could be critical to maintain or even improve their quality of life and further contribute to their ageing in place.

In this proposed research, PRH estates with proportions of an aged population that represents prospected scenarios will be selected. In these estates, outdoor spaces will be further selected and studied with a special focus on their relationship with aged residents. Based on the findings, spatial and landscape features that turn out to be the most important to aged PRH residents will be selected for further focused study. Outcomes would be specified and quantified recommendations on outdoor space design to enhance ageing in place, applicable to PRH or other types of residential estates, or even the general public open spaces. These will not only benefit Hong Kong society in a forward looking way, but would also be inspiring for other cities which are also facing ageing problems and would like to promote ageing in place.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/H16/18
Project Title: A Hybrid Approach to the Translation of Government Press Releases: Integration of Translation Memories and Neural Machine Translation
Principal Investigator: Dr SIU Sai-cheong (HSMC)

Bilingual (English-Chinese) communication between the Government and the public has been important in Hong Kong, given (1) the equal status of English and Chinese as the official languages of the city and (2) the presence of non-Chinese speaking ethnic minority communities. However, government press releases, which are published by different government departments and agencies, are sometimes available in English or Chinese only. We may consider the use of neural machine translation (NMT) systems, the state-of-the art machine translation engines, to provide the automatic translation of press releases, but the output could be of low quality and would require manual editing before it can be made available to the public.

This project therefore serves as a pioneer attempt to explore ways to enhance the automatic English/Chinese translation of press releases by proposing (1) the integration of translation memories into NMT and (2) the development of specialised NMT, as opposed to NMT for general texts.

This project will help develop a better understanding of the following areas which have largely been under-researched: (1) the computer-aided translation of government press releases and (2) possible ways to enhance the quality of their machine translation. The deliverables will in turn facilitate the Government's bilingual communication with the public by making quality bilingual government materials more readily available with the assistance of better translation technology. The findings could also be (1) applied to other governmental or international organisations where multilingual communication is in high demand and (2) adapted to the computer-aided translation of other specialised texts such as financial and legal documents.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/M07/18
Project Title: Investigating the Potential of Using Probiotic Bacteria in Making Traditional Chinese foods with Health-Promoting Effects and Reduced Carcinogenicity
Principal Investigator: Dr SZE Eric Tung-po (OUHK)

Gastric carcinoma (GC), nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) and esophageal carcinoma (EC) are three of the most common cancers in southern China and Hong Kong, but they are rare in Western countries. Because of the endemic clusters amongst Cantonese people, these types of cancers, particularly NPC, are widely regarded as 'Canton tumours'. According to a survey conducted by the Department of Health and Hospital Authority of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), GC, NPC and EC were the fourth, ninth and tenth most fatal cancers, respectively, in Hong Kong in 2012. About 1200, 900 and 400 new cases of GC, NPC and EC respectively, occur each year. Human genetic variations might be to blame for the extraordinarily high incidences and mortality rates of these cancers, but epidemiological and etiological studies have also attributed the causes to dietary habits and environmental factors.

Consumption of fermented foods, such as sufu, douchi and sauerkraut, has been part of the traditional Chinese food culture for centuries. The intake frequency of these foods was found to be unexpectedly high in children amongst the lower strata of society in mainland China and Hong Kong. The presence of carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds in these foods is believed to be one of the culprits behind the high incidences of cancers. These compounds are ubiquitous in high-protein fermented foods and are derived from biogenic amines (a group of carcinogenic precursors) formed via the decarboxylation of amino acids by certain bacteria. Because these fermented foods are ripened by bacteria, the microbial flora in fermentation starters are crucial factors in determining the level of biogenic amines and thus the resulting foods' carcinogenicity. However, a common practice of manufacturers is to apply the previous batch of fermented food as the starter for upcoming batches in an uncontrolled environment, which changes the microbial composition of the starters from batch to batch. Owing to a lack of quality control and standardization, the microbial composition of fermentation starters varies among manufacturers, and it is difficult to monitor and assess the impact on health upon consumption. We therefore hypothesize that a controlled ripening process with probiotic bacteria, which are living microorganisms that confer health benefits, can minimize or even eliminate the adverse health effects of these fermented Chinese foods.

In this project, potential probiotic species will be purchased commercially and/or isolated from samples acquired from the market. The probiotic properties of the isolated potential species will be characterized. In addition, fermented food samples will be produced in-house with these isolated potential species, and their carcinogenicity to cause Canton tumours will be examined in vitro. Moreover, the levels of biogenic amines in these in-house fermented foods will be evaluated.

A pilot study conducted by the research team has demonstrated the levels of certain biogenic amines have been suppressed in the in-house douchi samples ripened solely with probiotic species in specific fermentation conditions.

The findings of our investigation of the potential use of probiotic species in manufacturing some common traditional Chinese fermented foods will aid in the formulation of fermentation starters that can produce safe or even health-promoting fermented foods, which would change the public conception of these foods. This would not only benefit the fermented food industries, but will also minimize the risk of Canton tumours in susceptible populations in southern China and Hong Kong.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS15/B01/18
Project Title: Discovering the financial and economic meanings behind housing block trades
Principal Investigator: Dr TANG Chi-ho (Shue Yan)

As shown in Demographia (2017), Hong Kong homes are the least affordable in the world for the 8th straight years. To tackle the problem of unaffordability and build up a housing ladder, the government explicitly stated in the Policy Address its attention to take a series of measures, such as increasing land supply, implementing extraordinary stamp duties and offering a 'Starter Homes' programme. Nevertheless, critics have argued that the government lacks a comprehensive view of the housing market and hence that the policies are implemented in a piecemeal manner.

Moreover, while a body of literature has studied the lower end of the housing market (e.g., public housing and sub-divided housing), investigations of higher-end housing are relatively rare. Therefore, our project will complete the full picture of the property ladder by investigating block trade transactions in the Hong Kong housing market. This will help the government to design appropriate housing policies that balance the living needs of low-, middle- and high-income groups.

The proposed study will be important in several ways. First, it will suggest a new housing investment strategy. Traditional housing investment involves 'buy and hold' strategy, but 'short selling' is impossible. Our project will suggest that block trading creates extra returns for investors. Second, the project will study this unique market by computing the block trade premium. By using transaction-level data, it will mitigate the problem of aggregation bias, and hence provide a clearer picture of the housing market. Third, it will investigate the developers' strategies related to housing supply. Because the number of wealthy families is increasing, developers are targeting the high-end market in their recent residential projects by selling 'block trade units'. The 'block trade units' usually incorporate better designs and are limited in supply. Thus, by carefully tracking house trading activities in Hong Kong, our understanding of its high-end housing will be enhanced.

Based on a transaction-level dataset compiled by the investigators, this project will attempt to shed light on three important research questions: (1) Is the occurrence of block trade transactions related to the attributes of real estate developments, including the location and the developers' construction strategies? (2) Are block trade transactions profitable? (3) Are block trade activities related to the dynamics of the macro-economy? The research will be useful for formulating comprehensive housing policies and will be suitable to teach in econometrics and wealth management courses.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/P02/18
Project Title: Model Selection with High Dimensional Incomplete Data
Principal Investigator: Prof TANG Man-lai (HSMC)

High dimensional data analysis has become increasingly frequent and important in diverse fields; for example, genomics, health sciences, economics and machine learning. Model selection plays a pivotal role in contemporary scientific discoveries. There have been a large body of works on model selection for complete data. However, complete data are often not available for every subject due to many reasons, including the unavailability of covariate measurements and loss of data. The literature on model selection for high dimensional data in the presence of missing or incomplete values is relatively sparse. Therefore, efficient methods and algorithms for model selection with incomplete data are of great research interest and practical demand.

For model selection, the information criteria (e.g., the Akaike information criterion and the Bayesian information criterion) is commonly applied, and it can be easily incorporated with the famous EM algorithm in the presence of missing values. Generalized EM algorithm has also been developed to update the model and the parameter under the model in each iteration. It performs Expectation step and Model Selection Step alternately, converges globally, and yields a consistent model in model selection. However, it may not always be numerically feasible to perform Model Selection Step, especially for high dimensional data. Therefore, a new method for model selection with high dimensional incomplete data is greatly desirable. Our proposed algorithm in this project will hopefully yield a consistent model in general missing data patterns and have numerical convergences. Moreover, our proposed method is expected to perform efficiently variable selection in linear regression, generalized linear models and model selection of graphical models.

Due to the convenience of its implementation by using standard software modules, multiple imputation is arguably the most widely used approach for handling missing data. It is straightforward to apply an existing model selection method to each imputed dataset. However, it is challenging to combine results on model selection across imputed data sets in a principled framework. To overcome the challenge, many advanced techniques are developed for variable selection problem, such as the group lasso penalty to merged data sets of all imputations, the strategy of stability selection within bootstrap imputation, and random lasso combined with multiple imputation. These techniques are feasible for high-dimensional data with complex missing patterns and have achieved good performance in simulation studies and real data analyses. However, as far as we know, it is very surprising that there is no imputation method for graphical models. An imputation-based method for graphical model selection is greatly desirable. In this project, we investigate bootstrap multiple imputation with stability selection. We expect the proposed method can deal with general missing data patterns.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS24/B02/18
Project Title: Smart Tourism and Destination Image: Moderating Effect of Theory of Mind (ToM)
Principal Investigator: Dr TAVITIYAMAN Pimtong (PolyU SPEED)

Smart tourism destination is described as an innovative technological plan to facilitate tourists' interaction and increase the quality of tourists' travel experience (Gretzel et al., 2015a). Smart tourism is increasingly becoming a popular tool for tourism enterprises in many cities worldwide. Tourists consume, shop, and participate in many excursion activities and services through smart phones/devices and applications. Tourists can access travel information before, during, and after their trips; this provision improves the service quality among tourism providers, the government officials, and tourists. Moreover, such smart facility enhances the positive image of a destination and retains tourists' visitation and recommendation (Kock et al., 2016; Papadimitriou et al., 2014).

Many studies focus on smart tourism applications (Buhalis, 2000; Buhalis & Amaranggana, 2014; Gretzel et al., 2015c; Koo et al., 2017). However, prior research soliciting the opinions of tourists on smart tourism remains insufficient (Wang et al., 2016). Moreover, limited studies have affirmed the effectiveness of smart tourism destination from the theoretical psychology aspect (cognitive and affective evaluation and psychological characteristics). Therefore, the objectives of this project are to: 1) explore tourists' behaviors on smart tourism application; 2) evaluate the moderating effect of cognitive and affective components on the relationships between tourists' behaviors on smart tourism application and overall destination image; 3) analyze the effect of tourists' overall destination image and behavioral intention; 4) investigate the interaction effect of tourists' psychological characteristics on the relationships between overall destination image and behavioral intention; and 5) provide managerial recommendations to the relevant stakeholders.

This project can significantly benefit the academia and the tourism industry. It offers two academic contributions. First is the increased integration of smart tourism destination into the literature bodies, considering that existing literature on smart tourism lies on the conceptual and application focus (Gretzel et al., 2016; Li et al., 2017). The proposed theory of mind (ToM) in relation to smart tourism destination can build a theoretical perspective of tourist psychology in tourism. Second is incorporating the concept of"smart tourism," with "ToM," "overall destination image," and "behavioral intention" to test for theoretically direct and moderating relationships among them (Kock et al., 2016; Papadimitriou et al., 2014). Moreover, the project's industrial contributions are as follows: First, tourism enterprises can mindfully practice these findings to offer efficient travel information and services via smart tourism applications. Second, this project will permit the feasible plans of public and/or private partnerships and cooperation on the repositioning of tourism destinations (Qu et al., 2011).

A 2 x 2 between subjects factorial design study will be executed. Target population includes international tourists who visited Hong Kong with the levels of smart tourism application usage. The sampling framework will include proportionate stratified sampling and systematic random sampling in this study. Multivariate statistical analysis (Confirmatory Factor Analysis and Structural Equation Modeling) will be performed to evaluate the causal relationships among constructs and to comprehend the objectives.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/B07/18
Project Title: An Empirical Study on Relationship between IPO Prospectus Readability and IPO Underpricing
Principal Investigator: Mr TSUI Christophor Sai-kit (OUHK)

We will examine the relationship between the readability, tones and ambiguity of the initial public offering (IPO) prospectus and IPO underpricing in Hong Kong from 2010 to 2016. First, we will develop computer programs to calculate a plain English index to determine the tone and ambiguity of the prospectus. Underpricing is a function of the closing price of the first trading day and the offering price of the new stock. We will then perform a regression analysis on underpricing with prospectus readability, prospectus tone, prospectus ambiguity, underwriter reputation, firm age before listing and a dummy variable (MAINBOARD).


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS25/E01/18
Project Title: Investigation on effects of biodiesel blends on gas- and particulate-phase light duty diesel vehicle exhaust emissions
Principal Investigator: Dr WANG Bei (THEi)

Among the renewable energies, biodiesel, is considered as one of the viable transport fuel alternatives for diesel vehicles. The use of biodiesel as vehicle fuels in lieu of petroleum-based diesel can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and therefore arrest global climate changes.

Currently, there are three local biodiesel manufacturers in Hong Kong. However, petroleum-based fuels still serve as the major motor fuels in Hong Kong nowadays, whereas the usage of alternative motor fuels such as biodiesel lags behind many other countries. The most updated study investigating the feasibility of biodiesel usage as transport fuel in Hong Kong was conducted more than ten years ago (Leung, 2003). Therefore, there is an urgent need to comprehensively investigate the exhaust from vehicles using biodiesel blends in Hong Kong.

This project utilizes the chassis dynamometer at Jockey Club Heavy Vehicle Emissions Testing and Research Center in Hong Kong to investigate the effect of biodiesel blends on the gaseous and particulate matter emissions from the light duty diesel vehicle in different driving conditions. The results obtained from this new project will be helpful to determine the effect of biodiesel on exhaust emissions and ultimately effects on health and air quality.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/E06/18
Project Title: Generalised Needs-based Product Configurator Design
Principal Investigator: Dr WANG Yue (HSMC)

Product configurators are considered to be critical toolkits for customised product design and have been successfully implanted in various companies, such as Dell, BMW and Nike. This configure-to-order process requires customers to possess the necessary domain knowledge of the product. However, customers may not have the appropriate expertise with unfamiliar products. Due to customers' lack of domain knowledge and unawareness of latent preferences, they may only express needs in vague and imprecise language. A research gap thus exists.

This proposal will develop a generalised needs-based configurator to overcome these challenges. We will leverage natural language processing techniques to interpret ambiguous and probably ill-defined customer needs sentences and map them to well-defined product configurations through a two-step approach. Using the massive amount of product review data from e-commerce website, we build a mapping from reviews to product configurations using deep learning techniques. Then the model will be adapted to a new mapping from customer needs to product configurations by using the relatively small amount of customer needs data. Through this process, a more user-friendly product configuration process will be designed.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS14/E07/18
Project Title: Three-echelon Collaborative Slot Allocation Planning for Liner Shipping Revenue Management Under Uncertain Demand
Principal Investigator: Dr WONG Eugene Yin-cheung (HSMC)

In the highly competitive maritime ship liner business, ship liners continuously encounter mismatches between supply and demand and intense price-cutting actions by their rivals. Most liners actively improve utilisation of mega-vessels and form alliances to lower their operation costs and enhance their service network. International liners run long-haul services with vessel slots to be used with shipments from multiple trade lanes, with the slot management considering multiple loading and discharging ports, shipment yields and empty repositioning from the perspective of local, regional and global slot planning operations. Hong Kong, with the role of providing high–value-added maritime services, is transforming to assist liners to operate and plan the loading and discharge of thousands of containers in various ports from regional and global perspectives. This involves vessel slot planning, phasing in and out of vessels in a service loop, container fleet management, service network planning and yield management. Current slot planning operations in liners only provide feasible solutions without optimising the yield of each service trade lane. Previous academic studies focus only on vessel allocation and slot planning of a single service loop on a single trade lane and thus unable to reflect and solve the real situation, which requires cargo shifting amongst multiple service loops due to possible cargo overload and port omission. There are also long-haul services that seek to utilise space by delivering short-haul shipments on the vessels' open spaces. A novel three-echelon collaborative slot allocation planning model operating with the dynamics among local, regional hub and global scales on container loading and discharge at various vessels in multiple ports. The model will assist trade traffic planners in communicating with regions for slot management and in maximising slot usage and yield, especially in the revenue leg. The importance of a vessel allocation tool also ensures that cargo dimensions and weight fall within the cargo payload capacity and verified gross mass requirements. This cargo selection and allotment could prevent vessels from sailing with excessive weight, which can result in vessel damage, excessive fuel usage and the emission of unnecessary environmentally unfriendly greenhouse gases. Maritime ship allocation planning enhancement and optimisation in daily operations will also be adopted in teaching to improve students' knowledge of complex maritime operations and advanced simulation tools.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/H07/18
Project Title: The Development of Kindergarten Practitioners' Professional Identity under the Free Kindergarten Education Policy in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator: Dr WONG Ming-sin (OUHK)

In September 2017, the long-anticipated Free Quality Kindergarten Education Scheme (FQKES) finally replaced the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme (PEVS) which had been implemented for 10 years in Hong Kong. Even though the free kindergarten policy signifies the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government's commitment to kindergarten education and partially releases kindergartens from the pressure of the intense market competition resulting from the PEVS, it also brings about more stringent direct governmental control to the private sector. The strengthened authoritative discourse has introduced new complications to the sector, wherein parents have been the dominant voice. This research project will investigate the professional identity development of Hong Kong kindergarten practitioners, including both principals and teachers, who are caught between the different expectations of the government and parents, against the current policy environment.

A mixed-method approach will be employed to ensure the results reflected the voices of the kindergarten practitioners and allow a more nuanced understanding of their identity development under the new policy. To identify the attributes of professional identity that are relevant to the current context of kindergarten education reform in Hong Kong, individual and focus group interviews will first be conducted with principals and teachers of four half-day and four whole-day kindergartens, randomly selected from all FQKES kindergartens in Hong Kong. The results will then inform the development of a large-scale questionnaire survey that aims to determine how Hong Kong kindergarten practitioners generally define themselves and their relationships with the government and parents under the FQKES. Stratified random sampling will be employed to recruit a representative sample of 10% of all FQKES kindergartens in the 2019/20 academic year in Hong Kong. All principals and teachers of the sampled kindergartens will be asked to complete either a self-administered Principal or Teacher Questionnaire. These questionnaires, which contain both questions common to the two questionnaires and questions that uniquely reflect the concerns of the two groups, will allow quantitative analyses of the overall situation in Hong Kong and address the commonalities and distinctions in the views of different kindergarten practitioners. To take an in-depth look at the experiences of these kindergarten practitioners and explore their perceptions of factors affecting their professional identities, the principals and teachers of 15 kindergartens, purposely sampled based on their responses in the survey, will be invited to take part in focus groups/individual interviews.

The empirical evidence generated by this proposed project will have important implications for early childhood education policies and the professional development of kindergarten teachers and principals in Hong Kong. Findings will not only expand our understanding of the professional identity development of educators in the face of a new funding and governance model, but will also provide solid references for the theoretical discussion of how to go about reforming and universalising early childhood services, which are often voluntary and devolved in nature. The study will likely have far-reaching impacts in the fields of educational policy, sociology, and economics.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS24/B05/18
Project Title: Effect of Corporate Social Responsibility Practice on Social Media Crises in Travel Industry
Principal Investigator: Dr WUT Tai-ming (PolyU SPEED)

Companies are facing crisis everyday unlike before. One could post his or her opinions and reports the news on social media like Facebook. Some posts are incomplete and not entirely true. It affects seriously on corporate reputation, especially companies using online as one of media for sales and advertising. Travel industry is one of the industries using online heavily in their daily operation.

How to protect corporate image in today digital world is a big challenge for almost every chief executive officer. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) seems to be one of the obvious solutions since it could enhance corporate image in long term. However, CSR has to be used with care in order not to be seemed as window dressing. In this study, the timing of using CSR is studied.

Underlying motive of doing CSR is an important strategic business decision. The fitness between CSR practice with travel agency company's business operation will be examined. Killing the rumor is the key job on crisis management. Corporate clarification is probably not to be welcome by netizen because of its self- serving purpose. Third party could be one of the favorable endorsers in the role of clarification process. Possible creditable sources like a scholar, a regulator, a key opinion leader and a netizen will be compared.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS16/M02/18
Project Title: Seasonal Succession of Microalgae and Their Relationship with Environmental Factors in the Sources of Hong Kong Drinking Water
Principal Investigator: Dr XU Jingliang (OUHK)

Today, the major source of drinking water in Hong Kong is the Dongjiang River in mainland China, which contributes up to 80% of the raw water for the local potable water supply. The rest is collected from local rainwater catchments. Therefore, the quality of the drinking water is heavily determined by the water quality of the Dongjiang River. In recent years, the Dongjiang River has faced severe water pollution stresses due to the rapid urban and industrial development along its hinterland in Guangdong Province. Microalgae are deeply linked to water quality and serve as a biological indicator. The water quality, especially the nutrient levels, determines the variety and abundance of microalgae. Moreover, the dominance of certain toxin/odour producing microalgae not only affects the quality of the raw water, but also creates severe problems for the subsequent water treatment. Although the quality of the various freshwater bodies is monitored by the relevant government agencies in Hong Kong and Guangdong Province, systematic research on the sources of Hong Kong drinking water from the upstream of the Dongjiang River to the local water reservoirs is still lacking. Our previous study showed that two blue-green microalgal species, cyanotoxin producing Microcystis sp. and odorous compound producing Anabaena sp., were among the dominant microalgal species found in two local reservoirs which both mainly contained Dongjiang water (DJ water); but they were not among the dominant ones along the Dongjiang River, which had higher nitrogen and phosphorous nutrient levels than the two reservoirs. Therefore, except from the nitrogen and phosphorous, there should be other decisive environmental factors which contribute to the massive growth of these two blue-green microalgal species. In this study, the seasonal succession of microalgal community together with the major environmental variables along the Dongjiang River and in six reservoirs (three mainly contain DJ water and other three mainly contain rainwater) will be investigated for two years, so as to identify the major environmental factors contributing to the development of toxin and odor producing microalgal species. The results gained from this study can provide important information not only to the government agencies in both Guangdong and Hong Kong for better management of the raw water resources, but also to other freshwater resources management agencies who are facing similar water pollution problem all over the world.


Project Reference No.: UGC/FDS13/E06/18
Project Title: Coupled material point method and discrete element method modeling for debris flows
Principal Investigator: Dr YANG Yi (Chu Hai)

Debris flows are the most destructive type of geoharzards that are often observed in mountainous areas. They can occur with little precursor and flow down with extremely high velocity and long runout distance, which cause severe damage to life and property. Although extensive researches have been carried out worldwide to study different aspects of debris flows, the fundamental initiation and propagation mechanisms of debris flows are not yet fully understood. Existing theoretical models and numerical approaches are not captured all the key features of debris flows, especially for the large deformation and phase transition analysis.

Often, a continuum description of their rheological properties is required, as predicting the dynamics of every individual grains would exceed the best computational capabilities. However, continuum-based predictions critically rely on effective parameters such as effective viscosity and effective diffusivity. It is therefore necessary to establish reliable and accurate models rationalizing how these parameters depend on the grain properties and on the flow conditions. In this proposal, a hierarchical multi-scale modeling scheme is developed by combined Material Point Method (MPM) and Discrete Element Method (DEM) for modeling debris flows. The macroscopic behavior is modeled by using MPM, which is suitable for large deformation treatment, and each macro material point is linked with a representative volume element (RVE) consisting of a granular assemblage. The deformation information obtained by MPM is applied to the RVE as the boundary conditions, while the Cauchy's stress and kinetic stress calculated by DEM are reflected to MPM for the next step. This MPM-DEM multi-scale modeling strategy abandons any constitutive assumptions as required in MPM, and facilitates effective cross-scale interpretation and understanding.

The objective of this study will be achieved through three tasks: (1) a newly coupled MPM-DEM approach for simulating granular mass flows from two dimension (2D) to three dimension (3D) will be developed; (2) a fully coupled hydro-mechanical MPM is proposed to evaluate the fully saturated debris flows, and then a combined hydro-mechanical MPM-DEM will be developed from 2D to 3D; (3) develop the task 2 hydro-mechanical MPM-DEM from fully saturated soils to partially saturated soils. Meanwhile, the proposed MPM-DEM coupled method will be validated by physical model tests to be conducted at the Tsinghua University, and the results are applied to simulate the debris flows in Hong Kong to assist in developing strategies for debris flow risk mitigation. The outcome of this research will be a significant advancement of the knowledge of debris flow, from 2D to 3D, from fully saturated to partially saturated, from the initiation to the progressive large strain deformation, from grain scale to macro scale. This improved fundamental understanding can provide a theoretical basis for addressing the increasing debris flow problems in Hong Kong.