Most research projects to miss out on funding

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 February, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 February, 1994, 12:00am

LESS than one-third of research projects at tertiary institutions will receive government money, despite a pledge to boost funding.

A record number of applications have been made by the seven tertiary institutions for the next financial year to cover studies ranging from biology and medicine to humanities and social sciences.

The Research Grants Council's four subject panels are vetting the applications, with results by June.

The council has submitted a proposal to the Financial Secretary requesting more than $210 million to fund the 704 research projects, which total more than $740 million.

This is more than double the 336 requests this year amounting to $286 million. The Government then made available $156 million.

Governor Chris Patten pledged in 1992 to increase funding for the 1994/1995 year by more than 35 per cent, thus leading the council to lift individual quotas set for each tertiary institution.

Despite the increase in funding, critics say research still relies greatly on private donations.

Professor Joseph Lee Chuen-kwun of the Chinese University wants more government funding for the relatively new science of biomedical research, which has been successful in its application towards cancer and AIDS.

He said although the council supported the projects, the amount it gave was too small.

A lecturer in Hong Kong University's education department, Pang I-wah, said more money was needed to cover the increasing number of studies and to attract good research assistants.

''A graduate is usually paid around $11,000 a month for working as a full-time research assistant, but they can earn about $15,000 as a teacher,'' he said.

The turnover rate of assistants was high.

He cited the example of research on the relationship between parents and teachers on the Home-School Co-operation Committee which had been contracted out to the university.

Dr Keith Johnson, researching the Government's language policy, said his work had been bogged down because of the lack of funding.

''For very practical educational related research, the council tends to feel it should be funded by the Education Department. But the department does not set aside any money to back outside research of this kind,'' Dr Johnson said.

However, research council secretary Nigel French, also the Secretary-General of the University and Polytechnic Grants Committee, said the increase in the next year was significant compared to the $100 million of 1991/2.

He said the council had no prejudice against basic and applied research, but if the study was for the benefit of a government or private body, it should be funded by that organisation.

Dr Johnson called on the Education Department to contract out studies on the effectiveness of its policies to ensure objectiveness and openness.

''Research conducted by the department will not be open and objective enough,'' he said.

His call was echoed by Education Commission chairman Rosie Young Tse-tse who said the department should identify topics for research and contract them out on a regular basis.

But Assistant Director of Education (Planning and Research), Man Tse-fong, said he did not see any need to change the present practice.