Issue 14, February 2008

Home | English | | | UGC | RGC
Think Big . Think Impact . Think Global - RGC Chair Urges Academics
Predicting the Influence of
Crosswinds on Vehicles
and Cable Bridges
Addressing the Injustice of Space and Housing
Globalisation of Popular Culture
Translations Bring Gao Xingjian's Work to Broader Audience
Best Practice for Project Briefings
New Measurement Aids Understanding of Cement Hydration

The Chairman of the Research Grants Council (RGC), Professor Roland Chin has called on Hong Kong academics to extend their approach to research.

"The focus to date has been primary on small, single-investigator research and we have been very successful at this. Many of our researchers have attained world wide recognition as a result of their accomplishment. But it is time for Hong Kong to excel to the next higher level. We could look at the experience of the United States and in some European countries. That means embarking on large and complex problems that require investigation from multiple perspectives and interdisciplinary team work. Such problems usually have long-lasting and global impact."

"Research in Hong Kong has reached a critical junction. We should not get too comfortable with our current levels of achievement; academics must look ahead to the challenges of larger problems. We need research that will put Hong Kong on the map," says Professor Chin.

"Our models of grants are now firmly embedded but we have reached a point where we need to encourage our researchers to become more ambitious and we need to direct funding to bigger and more relevant high impact projects. Making available larger-sized grants for collaborative research by a group of academics, often from different universities within Hong Kong, has been an important development. When a problem cannot be solved single-handed, teams of people, all with specific expertise, will work on a coherent plan with multiple investigations over a longer period to produce high impact result."

This year, the RGC has a budget of HK$650 million to allocate to specific research projects across three categories – (i) General Research Fund (GRF), formerly known as Competitive Earmarked Research Grant (CERG), which funds single-investigator projects for a short duration; (ii) Mid-sized or Collaborative Research Fund (CRF), formerly known as Central Allocation, that support collaborative research amongst researchers and between local universities; and (iii) Joint Research Schemes that

support collaborative research with other countries.

The RGC has been in existence for 16 years and, according to Professor Chin, Hong Kong has made tremendous progress in terms of quality of research and the international recognition academics are achieving as a result of their work.

The RGC began its work in 1991 with a budget of HK$100 million. Today its HK$650 million budget annually supports over 800 GRF projects as well as about 10 larger group collaborative projects.

All grants are awarded on a competitive basis. Professor Chin maintains that this competitive environment is driving both innovation and research quality.

"Competition engenders excellence. The fact that we require researchers to compete for research funding coupled with the peer review process that is handled by international experts, has brought Hong Kong research to a world class level. Quality standards have reached internationally-recognized high-level and the funding from the RGC and its review mechanism has a lot to do with this"

"Innovation can flourish only in an open and free environment. The RGC quite deliberately does not specify topics to researchers. Instead academics are free to study and teach what they believe is important and to propose in whatever areas they may wish to explore."

"At the same time, the community must also value the achievement of Hong Kong's researchers to date and the importance of high quality research and training of research students to the city's future," Professor Chin says.

"And as academics, it is up to us to ensure that we take our work to the community to earn their support, transfer our knowledge to benefit the society, and explain what we are doing and the impact our work can have on people today and on future generations."

Professor Roland Chin
Chairman, Research Grants Council