Hong Kong Research Grants Council (RGC)

Date

2019

Client

Hong Kong RGC

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Making the case for improving the grant funding process.

Ensuring that multi-million pound research funding in Southeast Asia is spent in the most effective way for maximum benefit.

Review and Evaluation | Research Consulting

Research Consulting has a large international footprint and a recent project has seen us assess the work of a major Southeast Asia grants body, helping transform research activities in the area.

Just as no research funding agency is universally admired across the communities it serves, the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (RGC) knew there was the potential to improve the way in which it operates and distributes grants. The RGC was under particular strain due to an unsustainable number of applications being received.

The RGC is responsible for allocating approximately HK$1.6 billion (£150 million) of grant funding, handling more than 4,500 applications, and making more than 1,500 awards, every year. The grants cover disciplines spanning from science to the arts, and cross the spectrum from technology to social sciences and humanities. Improvements that can be made in the research process have the potential, ultimately, to benefit society, locally and internationally.

With this in mind, Research Consulting was asked to identify areas for improvement and recommend ways in which the efficiency and results achieved by the RGC could be enhanced. Our review included the analysis of interviews and focus groups conducted by Research Consulting associate Michael Jubb in Hong Kong and surveys completed by academic staff, RGC committee and panel members, and external reviewers. In addition, we reviewed and analysed evidence from consultations with the secretariat and project working group.

We found there was much to approve in the RGC approach, although, as anywhere else, there was indeed room for improvement. Similar issues and challenges are being faced by research grants bodies worldwide, illustrating how globally interconnected research truly is. Having said that, there were key features of the research environment in Hong Kong which were having a profound effect on how the RGC operates. In the end we identified more than 70 areas, of varying scope, scale and importance, where improvements might be sought. At the heart of our findings was a call for greater transparency and better communications with all members of the research community. In this way, our report is set to help deliver a research grants process that is enhanced in terms of quality, efficiency and effectiveness.

Further Reading