According to the latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) results released by the University Grants Committee in May 2021, The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK) stood out for its top performance in research impact in political science. The panel of international experts rated its two Impact Case Studies in this discipline, submitted by the Department of Asian and Policy Studies (APS), Faculty of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (FLASS), at 4-star (i.e. outstanding impacts in terms of their reach and significance). No other local universities achieved a 100 per cent outstanding record for impact in this discipline.
Professor Chou Kee-lee, Chair Professor of Social Policy at APS and Associate Vice President (Research) of EdUHK, is an internationally renowned scholar in social policy. For many years, he has been constantly ranked among the top 1% all over the world in the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) based on number of citations. He has conducted a series of research projects related to income protection, poverty alleviation, and elderly care, generating wide impact on policy formulation, increasing public awareness, and promoting social justice.
These have contributed significantly to social welfare reforms in Hong Kong and informed social policy making, benefiting numerous disadvantaged individuals.
Dr Alex He Jingwei, Associate Professor and Associate Head (Research and Development) of APS, specialises in health policy and social welfare reforms, with a particular focus on the mainland, Hong Kong, and elsewhere in East Asia.
In a report jointly published by the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the Chinese Government in 2016, entitled Healthy China: Deepening Health Reform in China, Building High-Quality and Value-Based Service Delivery, six of Dr He’s research works were heavily cited. This made him one of the very few international scholars recognised as informing the high-profile study that is now helping to shape China’s healthcare policy and provision.
Dr He said: “Together with APS colleagues, I feel absolutely thrilled about the fantastic result. All public policy and political science departments in Hong Kong submitted their research impact cases and merely two were unanimously rated by the international expert panel as outstanding. Both came from APS.”
The achievement had increased the visibility of EdUHK in the local policy research community, he said.
“APS is a very young department and of small size. We certainly have a lot to learn from researchers of other sister universities. Yet, as a department mainly staffed by junior and mid-career academics, the significant achievement in this RAE is particularly laudable and encouraging,” Dr He said.
Since the founding of APS in 2012, the departmental management had strived to create a vibrant research environment, focused on scholarly research that could contribute to the betterment of society. “We have set aside sizable budget to support departmental research funds and encourage researchers to undertake community engagement and policy advocacy,” Dr He added.
Dr He described how Professor Chou and he tackled the preparation of their cases. “It was a lengthy process, but rewarding too. Instead of perceiving it as a sheer administrative task, we took it as a soul-searching journey. Who are we as policy scholars? Is getting published, one after another, the sheer goal of our professional career? What is the value that our research can possibly create for the society?”
“The key challenge was to assemble evidence of impact. Establishing a link between research and impact was easy in natural sciences but much less so in social sciences,” he said, acknowledging that faculty support had also been important in assembling and drafting the evidence.
Dr He remarked that the inclusion of impact in the RAE should be regarded as a positive move, and said, “The entire academic community in the post-COVID era must work harder to reflect on the value of research and how taxpayers' money should be better spent to nurture research that truly brings real impact to the society.”
RAE is an official scheme assessing the research performance and achievement of publicly funded universities. The assessment was undertaken by panels of distinguished experts from reputable overseas institutions as well as local universities, using international benchmarks. For the first time, the RAE2020 has included research impact as part of the assessment, with a view to encouraging research of broader social relevance with high economic and social benefits.