General Research Fund/Early Career Scheme

General Comments

  • It is noted that the overall quality of the proposals as well as the number of applications have further increased this year.
  • There are comments that the re-submission is a good opportunity for Principal Investigators (PIs) to respond to criticisms and improve in future submission.

Application Stage

  • It is noted that some PIs did not disclose their involvement in the past or on-going projects that are related to their proposals. PIs are reminded to strictly follow the RGC’s guidelines in declaring related projects, proposals, papers and publications in the proposals. Non-disclosure of related research work in the proposals would be subject to disciplinary action.
  • There are concerns about the substandard preparation of the Pathway to Impact Statement. Instead of unique statements, many of them tended to simply include the project abstract in this section. PIs are reminded to demonstrate how deliverables would achieve impact beyond journal publications and conferences in a realistic manner. Universities are also encouraged to provide suitable guidance to PIs in writing effective Pathway to Impact Statements.
  • It is noted that some PIs kept submitting proposals each year with only incremental research advancement compared to the previous proposal. Besides, some re-submitted proposals only included very few changes compared to the previous one. PIs are recommended to consider the review comments carefully when preparing the resubmission. They are also encouraged to submit proposals with sufficient novelty.
  • It is noted that some junior researchers included their PhD supervisors as Co Investigators in the proposals. Junior researchers are encouraged to conduct research more independently.
  • PIs should provide strong justifications for requests for relief teachers in the proposals.
  • PIs are encouraged to conduct a feasibility study for their proposed experimental research if the entire proposal rests on the establishment of a new experimental paradigm.
  • Specifically on research projects that involve clinical trials, PIs should provide more details on the methodology of such trials in the proposal.
  • Universities are encouraged to conduct a more detailed vetting on the budgets of PI’s applications. For instances, budgets with large amounts allocated to travel for visits should be reduced; budgets requesting for all 3 years Research Assistant (RA) or engagement of multiple counts of RAs and RPgs should only be approved if the detailed justification provided is sound and reasonable; travel budget for research collaboration would not be granted under normal circumstances.
  • There are concerns that some proposals are prematurely prepared. For instance, there are proposals with unrealistic project objectives, lengthy and repetitive project titles, poor conceptualization and methodology, etc. Universities are encouraged to review the proposals prior to submission and provide workshops to their faculty members on proposal writing and budget / timeline planning. PIs are also advised to seek support from other faculty members with successful applications.
  • It is noted that some PIs may have not thoroughly read the scheme guidance notes and Panel’s Guidelines, which are available on the RGC website, when preparing research proposals. PIs and Universities are encouraged to refer to the relevant RGC Guidelines when preparing funding applications and project reports.

Project Management Stage

  • There are concerns about the substandard preparation of mid-term progress reports of some on-going projects. PIs are reminded to submit the reports on time and be clear when there are any research barriers that the PI encountered during the reporting period.
  • It is noted that there is a growing trend of requesting for project extension. PIs are reminded to adhere to their original project schedule as far as possible and only seek project extension when necessary. Universities are encouraged to exercise their judgement and only recommend justifiable cases to the RGC for consideration. PIs are also encouraged to consider an achievable timeline and project duration in their applications.

Project Completion Stage

  • PIs are reminded not to include papers that had been published or accepted before the start date of the project in the project reports.
  • It is noted that some PIs included irrelevant publications / research outputs in the project completion reports and some did not acknowledge the RGC funding in their publications. PIs are reminded that claiming irrelevant research outputs as direct outputs of the project is considered unethical. The rating of the project may be downgraded if irrelevant work is included in the project completion report.
  • It is noted that some PIs did not include related published papers or results in the completion report, leaving the Panel without grounds to rate the project. PIs are encouraged to include journal submission histories, outcomes such as decision letters or emails from editorial boards, and any other results in the completion report. This would help the Panel fully evaluate the success of the funded research.