College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

College Research Excellence Statement

1. The research environment has become more competitive in Hong Kong. Increases in competitiveness apply to grants and publications such that all faculty are now expected to engage in grant work and seek to publish their work in the most prestigious outlets. The purpose of this College Research Excellence Statement is to encourage and develop further high quality research by faculty. It aims to maintain the competitive position of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) and CityU, and is not intended for use for other matters such as personnel decisions.
2. CLASS has an enviable record in research. Overall CLASS was ranked 59th in Social Sciences (and Management) and 95th for Arts and Humanities in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017 (Broad Subject Area). In the 2014 Research Assessment Exercise the Communication and Media cost centre was ranked 1st in Hong Kong and the cost centre for Political Science had the highest percentage of world-class and international research outputs in Hong Kong. CLASS has made progress on grants, but much has to be done particularly on GRF grants where our success rate is well below the average of CityU and the sector.
3. Important characteristics of research in CLASS are its interdisciplinary and international orientations. Faculty are further encouraged to work across disciplinary boundaries, be this within departments or across them. CLASS faculty possess an outward orientation in research and partnerships. The development of joint research projects and relationships with leading universities is encouraged and will be actively supported. As faculty orient themselves towards higher quality research projects can also be focused on longer-time frames and more rigorous research designs. International focus, interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches and more rigorous research designs were all highlighted in feedback from the 2014 RAE panels.


4. CLASS expects faculty to be seeking to publish their work in the best places and to have research outputs in the top outlets in their field. An emphasis on increased research output quality will reduce the total number of research outputs in CLASS, but it should work to ensure better quality outputs that should have a greater impact.
5. Department’s PBPR criteria and standards for research publications for ‘outstanding’ in CLASS all suggest faculty should be publishing or editing in A*/A grade journals, and in book chapters, books and edited books with publishers of similar repute. These expectations are higher for more senior faculty in some Departments. The CLASS Research Excellence Statement endorses the aspirations for all faculty to publish in the top journals in their field. To this end the College Research Excellence Group is promoting journal and publication house lists for RAE cost centres to guide faculty when considering where to best place their research. The strategy for the College is to shift output ratings from 2* to 3* and 4* in the next Research Assessment Exercise.


6. External grant funding is becoming more important as the UGC Block Grant is reduced and more resources are put into competitive schemes such as the GRF. In response to the competitive grant environment the University Research Committee has discontinued internal grant schemes (notably the SRG and the SEED grants). In place of these schemes support will be provided to ‘unfunded GRF/ECS with good ratings’ and other RGC schemes such as the Collaborative Research Fund and Theme-based Research Scheme. The implication of this is that CityU’s internal research funding is now geared towards supporting RGC grants applications, and faculty will not get access to internal research monies unless they are actively seeking funding from the RGC.
7. To assist faculty in making quality applications CLASS has put in place the following mechanisms:
  • Departments now have an internal academic review process for external competitive grants (including GRF/ECS applications) and faculty are expected to make use of this. Faculty are typically expected to submit their drafts for internal review at least one month before the deadline of the research funder.
  • The College will facilitate faculty to take advantage of technical grant writing/copy editing of the external competitive grants proposal by covering the costs of this service. Submission to the College Office is required at least one month before the deadline of the research funder. The College has identified an external service provider.
  • In relation to the GRF/ECS scheme the University also offers funding for expert academic advice on proposals currently stands at HK$2,000, but the amount may change from time to time, and colleagues are again encouraged to make use of this resource. For other external competitive grants, CLASS will also provide funding for expert academic advice.
8. An "external competitive grant" is from outside CityU and involves competition to secure and external peer review of the proposal is undertaken. Succeeding paragraphs provide an illustrative list of grant providing organizations and foundations that meet these criteria. The list is not exhaustive and faculty are encouraged to explore a range of funding opportunities that reflect their interests and expertise.
9. The RGC and its various programmes are a key source of grants, and the ‘gold standard’ for the external competitive grants. Funding schemes here include: General Research Fund, Early Career Scheme, Humanities and Social Sciences Prestigious Fellowship Scheme, Collaborative Research Fund, Theme-based Research Scheme and various Joint Research Schemes with the ESRC (UK), NSFC, ANR (France) etc. There are also a range of opportunities for faculty to gain research grants from the mainland through the Chinese National Science Foundation.
10. The Hong Kong Government also hosts a number of competitive grant schemes. These include the Public Policy Research Funding Scheme managed by the Central Policy Unit, Environment and Conservation Fund, Quality Education Fund. Foundations, trusts and grant giving bodies also provide opportunities for CLASS faculty, examples include: AXA Research Fund (environmental, life and socio-economic risk), British Academy, Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation (supporting research in the humanities and social sciences on Chinese culture and society), and UBS Optimus Foundation (child education, health and safety).
11. The University offers incentive schemes for a number of grants awarding schemes. For example, there is a 5 per cent top up for GRF/ECS, 10 per cent for CRF and 15 per cent for AoEs and TBR. Chinese NSF also attracts a top up. Where a grant carried an administrative overhead a proportion of this will be referred as an incentive scheme in line with RO policies.
12. Faculty in CLASS also need to bear in mind that the scale and scope of an award is also important. For example the British Academy offers some very small travel awards. Such awards would not be considered an externally competitive grant.
13. Faculty in CLASS are also encouraged to seek research grants from other sources, for example through contract research and from donations. Donations are attractive because they can be eligible for matching scheme funds. Contract research has the benefit of serving the local community, and can assist with knowledge transfer. Ideally, contract research and donations should only be accepted where they are likely to result in quality academic outputs. However, competitive peer reviewed grants remain the primary focus of CLASS.

Capacity Building Grant (CBG)

14. The College Research Grant has been replaced by Capacity Building Grant. The aim of this grant is to provide faculty members that are active researchers with grants that provide them with the space to develop further large-scale applications for external competitive grants. Grants are awarded to a team of researchers with a strong track record in a particular area or with ideas to develop a related area of research. The duration of a grant will be 12 months. Grant holders will be expected to apply for external competitive grants within the first year of the grant award and should aspire towards making CRF bids within 2 years of being awarded a CBG grant. The College Research Committee will manage CBG.


15. The College New Researchers Award will be presented to outstanding new faculty members that are within 5 years of the award of their PhD. The College Research Committee will manage the scheme.

September 2017
Richard M. Walker