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EdUHK Research Supports Ecotourism Development in Threatened Sichuan Nature Reserve as Highlighted in Research Assessment Exercise

Cheung Ting-on

Dr Lewis Cheung Ting-on, Associate Professor at the Department of Social Sciences

The latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) results of the University Grants Committee in May 2021 show that the unit of assessment (UoA), Geography, which made up more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of the research output of The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK), was judged to be 4-star, “world leading”, or 3-star, “internationally excellent”, in terms of originality, significance and rigour, the highest among the four local publicly funded universities that were entered for this discipline.  

The impact case included a research study by Dr Lewis Cheung Ting-on, Associate Professor at the Department of Social Sciences, which supported the development of ecotourism in the Wolong National Nature Reserve as it recovered from the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province.

Dr Cheung said, “I am very satisfied with the impact case results, as they demonstrate the efforts we have made in supporting ecotourism development in a rural area that was covering from an extensive catastrophic disaster. The results of the impact case also recognise that the policy-informed research that we conducted in the past few years makes a real contribution to the community.”

Dr Cheung was surprised to the excellent results in output as well. “Our geography team has been established for only about five years, since our Bachelor of Education (Honours) (Geography) programme was launched in 2015,” he said. “Our team in this assessment unit is the youngest among all the universities, some of which have had geography departments for decades. Most of our geography colleagues joined EdUHK only in the past six to seven years. They have worked extremely hard to conduct impactful research and apply for grants to produce significant research output with these impressive results.”

“These results provide strong encouragement to keep up our good work,” Dr Cheung added.

Dr Cheung concluded that there were four key points to this success. “First, a cohesive team is a prerequisite for success. Our team members have participated in various research projects and secured funding from both internal and external sources. Second, the UoA coordinator must be familiar with each teammate’s research plan and output. We do this through a number of meetings to select the best research output for the assessment.” 

“Third, funding availability for the team is a key factor. Our team secured more than HK$20 million in funding over the past six years to support our research. This allows us to engage a sufficient number of research assistants to support the team members. Finally, we have a team of excellent geographers who are hardworking and capable of conducting internationally recognised research.”