Review of the Research Grants Council in Hong Kong
Photo by Daniel V Fung/Getty Images
The Research Grants Council (RGC) is Hong Kong’s primary research grant funder. Surveys and focus groups of researchers, panel members and wider stakeholders uncovered many positive views about what the RGC and its associated funding have achieved since its inception.
However, stakeholders expressed concern over the overall value of the funding available, and they identified a number of potential areas for improvement, including focusing on transparency and stakeholder engagement.
Hong Kong has a dual public research funding system, consisting of both a block grant and a competitive grant system. The Research Grants Council (RGC) is responsible for the competitive grant system. The RGC was established in 1991 with the objective of building up research capability in Hong Kong. It is responsible for the distribution of research funding through competitive grants, as well as for advising the Government of Hong Kong, through the University Grants Committee (UGC), on the needs of Hong Kong’s higher education institutions in terms of academic research.
The UGC launched a Review of the RGC, to ensure funding is used and managed efficiently and meets the needs of Hong Kong. The review was headed by a Task Force formed under the UGC. RAND Europe was appointed by the UGC to assist the Task Force in the Review of the RGC (Phase I).
The overall goal of the study was to input evidence into the Review of the RGC (Phase I). In particular, we aimed to do the following:
- Review the portfolio balance of the RGC funding schemes to ensure funding is used efficiently and meets the needs of Hong Kong;
- Review the RGC’s structure (including the composition of the assessment panels/committees and disciplinary committees formed under the RGC) to ensure efficient formulation and management of the funding schemes; and
- Provide information on the standards and good practice in the operation of research funding agencies in other comparable jurisdictions.
The study used a multi-method approach consisting of focus groups, interviews, surveys, an online consultation and document analysis to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the RGC funding assessment and allocation process, and identify areas for future improvement.
- The RGC has established a positive reputation as Hong Kong’s primary research grant funder. There were many positive views about what the RGC and its associated funding have achieved since its inception.
- The overall value of the funding available is a source of concern to all stakeholders. Indeed, there was a lack of agreement as to whether the current value and duration of funding awards are correct.
- The RGC’s decision making is devolved to panels, but the overall aims of the RGC are not well-understood by the sector.
- Participants identified a number of areas for improvement, which included:
- Streamlining the grant application and process, which many feel is overly burdensome;
- Making the grant application and review process more transparent; and,
- Greater engagement on the grant application process and overall funding system.