The Year at a Glance
Foreword from the Chairman
Research Grants Council Activities: 2002
The Research Funding Environment in Hong Kong
The Research Grants Council and its Organisation
How Council-Funded Projects are Monitored and Assessed

The year 2002 was another vigorous and successful one for Hong Kong’s research community. Research funded by the Research Grants Council (RGC) continued to grow impressively, in both quantity and quality.
For the 2002-2003 Competitive Earmarked Research Grant (CERG) exercise, the RGC’s largest and most important funding programme, the number of proposals received was a record 1,698, seeking some HK$1.6 billion in funding.
Of these proposals, 691 were approved and supported by the RGC, with total funding of HK$428 million, a 6% increase over the previous year. Not all quality proposals could be supported; about 500 met the quality threshold but could not be funded.
Such impressive growth was only made possible by an increase in the RGC budget, thanks to very strong support from the University Grants Committee (UGC) and the Government.
However, looking towards the next few years, funding will obviously become tighter amid overall stringencies in public expenditure. The upcoming challenge for the RGC is to become even more vigilant in creating economies and to make the research dollars go even further.
Nobody would argue about the centrality of research in shaping the future of Hong Kong as a knowledge economy and research must be protected even when resources are limited. Indeed, in less favourable times, the need for research to generate new knowledge and invent new ways of doing things is greater than ever.
Academic research in Hong Kong has only a relatively short history and, fortunately, we have been able to build up a vibrant and robust research culture during the nineties when Hong Kong’s finances were in a relatively buoyant state.
But Hong Kong’s research funding base is narrow when compared to that in other developed economies. There is a need for a greater degree of diversity in the system and more funding opportunities will need to be created in the longer term. This is important and requires the concerted efforts of both the government and industry.
For academic research, we must be particularly careful not to be tempted by quick success and immediate results. Very often, we need time and patience to see our investment in research bear fruit and blossom into often unexpected wonders.
Quality research teams with accumulated knowledge and experience need to be assembled and nurtured with steady support to achieve the capacity that would be in the right place when needed. To achieve this, we on the side of the RGC see it as imperative to maintain support across a wide spectrum of research disciplines and subjects.
As part of 2003-2004 funding, a sum of HK$12 million was dedicated to research on SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), a new infectious disease which caused human suffering on a global scale and in particular impacted Hong Kong in an unprecedented manner.
As part of the worldwide effort to combat the disease, Hong Kong researchers were quick to show their leadership in grappling with the scourge and, in the process, made valuable contributions to medical science.
Their achievements brought Hong Kong’s research capability into sharp focus and bore testimony to the territory’s success in competing seriously at the international forefront of research. The incident was vivid proof of how research investment pays off.
It has also proved the value and robustness of Hong Kong’s research capacity which the RGC has helped Hong Kong to build up over the past decade. No one can now doubt that Hong Kong is in the premier league of world research.
The year also saw the award of the first clinical research fellowship. This was a pilot scheme introduced in the CERG 2002-2003 exercise to promote opportunities for clinical research training in Hong Kong.
Although it is only a modest funding initiative and many operational details might need to be further refined in the light of actual experience, the RGC is hopeful that the scheme will in the long run contribute to a more conducive environment for promising young clinicians to pursue a career in clinical research.
Despite the coming budgetary stringencies, the RGC remains firmly committed to helping Hong Kong, through funding of quality research, to realize a better tomorrow. In this regard, funding programmes will be reviewed constantly and, where appropriate, new features will be added to make sure that the programmes cater to emerging needs.
With my gratitude to all who enable academic research to flourish in Hong Kong, I have pleasure in presenting this annual report for 2002.

Kenneth Young
July 2003