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  Invitation of Applications for the Second Round of the
Theme-based Research Scheme

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Research Grants Council (RGC) Chairman Professor Roland Chin said that the vetting of
the first round of the Theme-based Research
Scheme had been successfully completed. Six projects have been funded on the basis of their academic excellence, and are relevant to the strategic importance of the long-term development of Hong Kong.

Four of the six awarded projects revolve around the theme of ‘Promoting Good Health’. They include ‘The Liver Cancer Genome Project: Translating Genetic Discoveries to Clinical Benefits’; ‘Massively Parallel Sequencing of Plasma Nucleic Acids for the Molecular Diagnostics of Cancers’; ‘Personalized Medicine for Cardiovascular Diseases: From Genomic Testing and Biomarkers to Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Platform’; and ‘Cell-based Heart Regeneration’. The other two projects – ‘Challenges in Organic Photo-Voltaics and Light Emitting Diodes – A Concerted Multi-Disciplinary and Multi-Institutional Effort’ and ‘Transforming Hong Kong’s Ocean Container Transport Logistics Network’ – are on the respective theme of ‘Developing a Sustainable Environment’ and ‘ Enhancing Hong Kong’s Strategic Position as a Regional and International Business Centre’.

89 preliminary research proposals were submitted to the RGC, said Professor Chin.
After screening by overseas experts, 22 proposals were shortlisted for submission of full proposals. These proposals were first subjected to peer review and then assessed by a panel of overseas experts, and 15 were invited for final interviews. ‘The entire selection process from assessment of preliminary to full research proposals and the interviews were conducted by qualified overseas academic experts. This ensured the selection of high quality projects through a fair, impartial and professional assessment.’

Final interviews were held over a two-day period by an assessment panel comprising over 20 overseas academic experts on the three themes. Interview for each project lasted for 45 minutes, including a 10-minute
presentation by the project team, a 30-minute question-and-answer session and a 5-minute round-up. When all the interviews were completed, the assessment panel voted on each project, and six projects were granted research funds.





Being a local academic himself, Professor Chin did not participate in the voting to avoid conflict of interests. During the assessment, the panel considered several key factors for the decision, which include whether the research project was beneficial to Hong Kong; met world-class standards; contained sufficient innovation; possessed the potential of making a big leap in impact in the respective field; and the collaborative aspect such as whether group members formed an ideal team to tackle the research problem and whether they were put together to create synergy.

Professor Chin remarked, ‘The six awarded projects all meet world-class standards, and some are world leading. Applicants who have not been selected have received constructive comments from the assessment panel so they can make improvement in future applications to enhance their proposals. This also demonstrates the positive feedback of the selection process.’

According to Professor Chin, each project selected for the Theme-based Research Scheme had a funding period of five years. The RGC has established a Major Projects Steering Committee, which will supervise the Monitoring and Assessment Panel of each project. The panel will conduct a site visit to assess the research progress after the project has started two years. Unsatisfactory progress may result in discontinuation of the project with a wind-down period of 12 months.

Professor Chin added that the second round of the Theme-based Research Scheme is now open for applications. Applicants with quality research proposals which have not been successful in the first round are encouraged to re-apply.

In addition, the new fellowship scheme for outstanding investigators from the Humanities
and Social Sciences disciplines, as well as the Early Career Scheme are also open for applications, academics are highly encouraged to apply for these grants.