Issue No 9: November 2004
Rules on the monitoring and assessment of RGC-funded projects are under constant review to enhance the overall effectiveness of the system. The following Q&As highlight some of the recent changes:
When does a funded project start and when can the project grant be expended?
Having regard to the lead time required for projects to start, with effect from July 2004, the official start date for all newly funded CERG projects will be 1 January of the following year. A Principal Investigator (PI) can choose to start the project and use the grant earlier than this date once the grant is released to the institution as long as the RGC is kept informed, but any deferral beyond 1 January will require special approval from the RGC. In any case, the project grant must not be expended earlier than the project start date.
Is it possible for a change in PI after the project has started?
As a matter of policy, no change of PI will it be approved within the first six months of a project. But a change may be considered in the second half of the first year if (a) the original PI can show that circumstances leading to the request were unknown when the project started, (b) reasons for the change must be genuine and convincing; and (c) a Co-Investigator (Co-I) who has been involved in the project from the start is available and would make a suitable substitute. This change is meant to build in some flexibility called for by the need of institutions for more freedom in staff resources management so that justifiable cases can be considered fairly.
Can a PI on no-pay leave continue to be a grant holder?
The PI of an RGC project grant must be an academic staff member of an UGC-funded institution and, inter alia, have a full-time appointment in, and with salary being wholly funded by, the institution proper. It is therefore apparent that a staff member on no-pay leave is not eligible to hold a project in the capacity of PI. Nevertheless, staff on continuous or a cumulative period of no-pay leave of not more than 183 days within the project period can be exempted from this rule. For a PI on leave longer than this period, the institution may seek the RGCÕs prior approval for change of PI or exceptional approval for temporary waiver of this eligibility requirement if there is strong justification. If both options are not feasible or justified, the project must be terminated.
What is the deadline for submitting a project completion report?
For projects funded in the 2004-05 exercise onwards, completion reports must be submitted to the RGC not later than nine months after the projects approved completion date. Previously, the deadline was 18 months. The timely submission of reports reflects the PIs diligence in managing a project and, as a matter of policy, no new grant will be released to a PI who has a report that is overdue.
If a funded project is running behind schedule, is it possible to secure an extension?
The RGC attaches great importance to the timely completion of research projects, which reflects on the project quality. Extensions to projects granted in the 2004-05 exercise onwards are capped at 12 months. The first six months extensions are scrutinized and approved by institutions, and further six months extensions require strong justifications for RGCs approval. Requests for extension exceeding 12 months will not be considered except under extraordinary circumstances, such as PIs illness, and the maximum allowable extension in aggregate is 18 months. In exceptional circumstances where further extensions beyond 12 months are given by RGC, such periods will also be counted towards the period allowed for preparation and submission of the completion reports.
Applicants (both PI and Co-I) are responsible to ensure that no double funding from different funding schemes or agencies will be sought for the same or substantially similar research project. Breach of this rule or failure to declare similarity of proposals may result in disqualification of the application and may even lead to future applications being rejected in serious cases.
What happens if a PI or Co-I fails to declare relationship between him/her and the nominated reviewers in the application?
The nomination of reviewers in a
grant application is optional, but it is the collective responsibility
of both the PI and the Co-I to make a full and accurate disclosure on
any relationship they may have with a reviewer. Failure to do so will
result in the application being disqualified and may even lead to future
applications being rejected in serious cases. Any change in relationship
between investigators and reviewers must be reported to the RGC.