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FAQs

General
Eligibility
Regulatory Approval
Grant Review Process
Funding Priority
Allocation and Release of Funding
Monitoring On-going Projects
Completed Projects and Dissemination of Research Findings

 

 

General

1.

What is the operational timeframe of the Health and Medical Research Fund?

 

In general, the Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF) calls for applications in the fourth quarter of the year. The closing date for the 2016 HMRF Open Call Exercise is 31 March 2017 (18:00 HKT). Peer review is conducted in April-July. The Grant Review Board meets in August-September to make funding recommendations which are deliberated and endorsed by the Research Council in October. The funding decision will be available in November. Potentially fundable grants will have 3 weeks to address the Grant Review Board/referee comments. The principal applicants must resolve all outstanding issues before signing of agreement.

2.

Who decides the result of funding?

 

The Research Council makes a decision on funding the proposed research projects based on recommendations received by the Grant Review Board.

3.

Will administrative costs / overhead fees be allowed?

 

Administrative costs/ overhead fees are not supported by the Health and Medical Research Fund according to current policy.  However, they will be considered on a case-by-case basis for commissioned studies under special circumstances.

4.

The Research Grant Council seems to support basic research while the Innovation and Technology Fund supports more downstream applications. Where does the Health and Medical Research Fund fit?

 

The Health and Medical Research Fund has many differences from the Research Grant Council and the Innovation and Technology Fund. For example, the Health and Medical Research Fund is open to all researchers in public, private and academic sectors. The Health and Medical Research Fund focuses on supporting research that can be translated to clinical practice/policy formulation and therefore should be attractive to clinicians.

5.

Do applicants need to identify which research area they are applying to (i.e. health and health services research, infectious diseases, advanced medical research)?

 

The applicants are required to identify the research areas they are applying for as well as the specific thematic priority(ies) to be addressed by the research proposal. Please refer to the Secretariat’s website and enter the reference code of the most relevant thematic priority in the Application Form. Researchers should keep under continuous review the question of whether the work has potential wider application, taking appropriate action in accordance with the administering institution’s procedures for the protection and exploitation of research findings.

6.

Will the research area applied for make a difference to the success rate?

 

No. All applications will have an equal chance of funding. Scientific merit and translational potential are the key criterion for success. There is no quota on the number of applications that will be supported under any research area.

7.

The usual duration of proposed projects is 24 months. Is it possible to extend the project duration?

 

There are 2 parts to this question:

1) Can I submit an application for a project that lasts longer than 24 months?

2) If I experience a delay in my ongoing project, can I request for extending the project duration beyond 24 months?

For Part (1), applications for projects proposed to last longer than 24 months will be considered. The need for the longer duration should be clearly explained and justified.

For Part (2), for ongoing projects experiencing delays, prior approval for extension is required from the Secretariat. The principal applicant should submit a written request for an extension to the Secretariat describing clearly the cause of the delay, the proposed remedial actions, and the revised timeline. No additional funding will be granted for extended projects.

8.

Can funding from the Health and Medical Research Fund be used to hire research students?

 

Research students are usually supported by other government funding sources. Any costs associated with a research student supported by other funds (e.g. University Grants Committee/Research Grants Council) are not allowed.

9.

What is the previous success rate of the Health and Medical Research Fund?

 

The overall success rate depends on the quality of research proposals received each year. Thus, the figure varies every year. The success rate averaged over the last three years is about 21%.

10.

Clinical staffs in public hospitals are heavily occupied by clinical work. It is difficult for them to engage in research work. Any advice?

 

We encourage clinical staff with sound and innovative ideas which may contribute to a quality research project to bid for the Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF). They may team up to share their effort and expertise, and seek necessary assistance from universities to facilitate their research work. Such staff may also be interested in the HMRF Research Fellowship Scheme.

11.

What is the penalty for misconduct under the Health and Medical Research Fund?

 

The Research Council (RC) does not tolerate scientific misconduct, which will lead to disqualification of the application. In the event of research misconduct found during the course of ongoing projects, the RC will withdraw funding support immediately and the administering institution/principal applicant must refund the grant to the Government. In particular, plagiarism is not tolerated during the preparation of the grant application. All project team members should be well aware of their participation in the project. The Management of Track Records of Applicants can be downloaded from our website.

12.

What is the Research Fellowship Scheme?

 

Research Fellowship Scheme aims to support researchers or professionals in their early to mid-career to enhance their skills in health and medical research. Fellowship applicants should be nominated by tertiary institutions funded by the University Grants Committee. The funded grant will cover: (i) a local or overseas training course/attachment relating to health services or public health, in particular public health policy topics; and (ii) a research project relating to the proposed training.  The vetting will take into account the capability of the applicant and his/her performance at the interview, the support by the mentor and administering institution, the importance of the training proposal and its relevancy to the proposed research project. The proposed research project will be evaluated on its scientific merit, local relevance, translational potential/value, value for money of the proposals, research ethics and track record of the applicant. In general, the Research Fellowship Scheme calls for applications annually.

13.

Should I inform the Secretariat that I have submitted a similar proposal to another fund after submission of an application to the Health and Medical Research Fund/Health Care and Promotion Fund?

 

At any time before the announcement of the funding decision of the Health and Medical Research Fund application, applicants are required to notify the Secretariat immediately about:

(a)     any other similar or related application submitted to other funding agencies in addition to those listed in the Electronic Application Form; and

(b)     the fund decision of any other similar or related applications once available.

Non-disclosure or under-disclosure of similar proposals will lead to severe consequences including but not limited to disqualification from the current application round, debar from grant applications and marking of the track record of the applicants. The principal applicant shall be held primarily responsible for the conduct of the project. The track records of all applicants will be taken into account when considering applicants to any of the health-related funds administered by the Food and Health Bureau. The Management of Track Records of Applicants can be downloaded from our website.

14.

What is the difference between projects under and above HK$100,000? Why is it specified in the Application Form?

 

This is mainly an administrative consideration. The finances of projects over HK$100,000 must be independently audited upon project completion and an audit fee should be included in the budget accordingly. Despite this difference, projects under or above HK$100,000 are all evaluated based on the same criteria.

 

Eligibility

1.

Can I submit an application as a private individual without being employed by an administering institution?

 

No. Individuals not employed by any administering institution are not eligible for application.  Funding will be allocated to the administering institution if the application is approved. The administering institution is jointly responsible for the conduct of any proposed research with the principal applicant.

2.

I am inexperienced in applying for research grants. Any advice?

 

The Grant Review Board will consider the experience and qualifications of the principal applicant when assessing a grant application. Priority will be given to principal applicants with demonstrable research experience. You are advised to seek the participation of experienced co-investigators to provide a better chance of success for the proposed project.

3.

Will new researchers be disadvantaged in the process?

 

While the track record of the project team is taken into account during the assessment process, the scientific merit and translational potential of the proposal are the major consideration. We encourage new blood in the local research community to submit grant applications as capacity building is also the objective of the Health and Medical Research Fund.

4.

I'm not a clinician. Could I set up a multi-disciplinary project team to apply for the Health and Medical Research Fund grant?

 

The principal applicant of a Health and Medical Research Fund project is not restricted to clinicians. If the proposal is a non-clinical study, the applicants should state clearly how the research findings may be translated to impact on public health/health services and/or clinical practice. The project team should also consist of clinical experts as collaborators for relevant studies as necessary.

5.

Will consideration of small scale / start-up research be less favoured?

 

The yardstick of assessing proposals is the same for all applications large or small. Scientific merit and translational value are always the major consideration.

6.

Will a proposal that is not strictly a research project, such as development of tools for medical use, be acceptable?

 

Projects purely on development of tools are usually not supported. Validation of the tool in a clinically relevant setting should be included for the project to be considered for support.

7.

Under the advanced medical research theme, would it support a study that aims to, say, identify genetic risk factors of a neurological disease, or its outcome to treatment?

 

Advanced medical research involves the development and use of new techniques, technologies and treatment paradigms to improve human health. A study that aims to identify genetic risk factors of a neurological disease, or its outcome to treatment would fall under the remit of the Health and Medical Research Fund. You may further refer to the currently adopted thematic priorities of neuroscience and clinical genetics. Please refer to the Guidance Notes for Research Grant Application for relevant definitions on neuroscience and clinical genetics.

8.

Will research involving animal studies be supported under the new advanced medical research theme?

 

Research involving animal studies will not be excluded provided that the proposed studies generate outcomes that bring direct impact on human health. Proposals with translational potential would have additional merit. Proposals involving animals should follow the ARRIVE criteria for reporting.

9.

Can applicants based overseas submit proposals?

 

No. The principal applicant shall be based in a Hong Kong institution throughout the project period and be employed by the administering institution at the time of submission of application.

10.

Can visiting scholars submit applications?

 

Visiting scholars are eligible to apply for funding as principal applicants provided that: a) they are in their post at the closing date for applications, and b) they intend to remain in their post for the proposed duration of the project.

11.

If the project has been supported by other funding before, can I apply for the Health and Medical Research Fund funding to support further studies arising from the outcome of the earlier project?

 

Proposals building on earlier research will not be rejected if they contain new ideas, designs and objectives, with high potential for generating public or clinical impact or cost savings.

12.

Can I submit more than one application to the same application round?

 

No. Each principal applicant is allowed to submit one application only (either a new or a resubmission of application). It also means that each principal applicant shall not hold more than one funded grant in each Health and Medical Research Fund open call.

13.

Can I submit a proposal that is already under consideration by another fund to the Health and Medical Research Fund?

 

Applications already submitted to another funding agency may be submitted for consideration by the Health and Medical Research Fund in parallel provided that full disclosure of the parallel submission is made in the Health and Medical Research Fund application. The funding decision of the other fund should be relayed to the Health and Medical Research Fund Secretariat immediately when it is available. Double funding of projects is strictly prohibited. In principle, the first offer of funding should be accepted.

14.

If a clinical trial project has been partially sponsored by another source, e.g. industry, can I still apply for the Health and Medical Research Fund to support the aspect which is not covered by the existing funding?

 

Projects supported by the Health and Medical Research Fund should be standalone work with well-defined deliverables. Supplementary sponsorship must be fully justified. Applicants shall state clearly any supplementary support from other sources, including but not limited to monetary, investigational new drugs/devices, reagents, consumables and rental of equipment.

 

15.

Can I submit a proposal that was rejected by the Health and Medical Reserach Fund/Health Care Promotion Fund or another funding agency?

 

(a) Applications declined on the ground of misconduct by the Health and Medical Research Fund/Health Care and Promotion Fund or any other research funding organisation will not be considered.

(b) Applications rejected in a previous application round of the Health and Medical Research Fund(i.e. no grading or rated “1”) as having minimal impact on health, methodological flaws, being incomplete or outside of the funding scope must be submitted as a new application with extensive changes or improvements made to the rejected application and with full justifications. Resubmission of the rejected application is not accepted.

(c) Submission of research proposal previously declined by other funding agencies (local or overseas) other than the Health and Medical Research Fund may be considered. Principal applicant should provide (i) all comments raised by the funding agency; (ii) the principal applicant’s responses to address these comments; (iii) the revised proposal with highlights of changes made; and (iv) detailed explanation and justifications if no change is made in the research proposal.

16.

Can I resubmit a proposal that was not supported in earlier open calls of the Health and Medical Research Fund?

 

Grant applications not supported in earlier open calls of the Health and Medical Research Fund/ Health and Health Services Research Fund / Research Fund for the Control of Infectious Diseases may be resubmitted under the following circumstances:

(a) Applications rated “3” provided it has been revised to address all reviewers’ comments in a structured and consistent manner.

(b) Applications rated “2” provided it has been substantially revised to address all reviewers’ comments in a structured and consistent manner.

17.

Can I submit applications written in Chinese?

 

As we make extensive use of overseas experts to provide thorough peer review, it is not possible to consider proposals written in Chinese at this time.

18.

I am a staff of Government Bureaux/Department, can I submit an application?

 

Individuals and Government Bureaux/Departments are not eligible to apply as principal applicants but their participation as Co-applicants is acceptable.

 

Regulatory Approval

1.

Should regulatory approvals (e.g. ethics / safety) be included with the application?

 

Regulatory approvals are a necessary component of the application. A copy of the regulatory approvals should be included with the application if they are available. If they are not available by the closing date the principal applicant should indicate in the application that regulatory approval is in progress. Funding will not be released to successful applications unless valid regulatory approvals are in place. While the various regulatory committees determine whether or not regulatory approval is required, the primary responsibility for seeking relevant approval rests with the principal applicant.

2.

Application for ethics approval/ evidence for accessing third-party data take time, any advice?

 

Provision of the ethical approvals / evidence for accessing third-party data during the submission of applications is not required. Principal applicants should submit such approvals / evidence within 12 weeks (or as specified by the Secretariat) after the announcement of funding decisions. Failure to do so will result in withdrawal of grants.

3.

What is meant by a "recognised" ethics committee?

 

A recognised ethics committee includes those established under the purview of academic institutions, public and private hospitals, Department of Health, and Hospital Authority.

4.

I need a Clinical Trial Certificate from the Department of Health. Any advice?

 

Principal applicants conducting clinical trials, in particular those involving the use of Chinese medicine, are strongly advised to confirm the need of a Clinical Trial Certificate/Medicinal Test Certificate from the Department of Health as early as practical (preferably during the submission of applications to the Health and Medical Research Fund) to avoid delay in project commencement. If a Clinical Trial Certificate/Medicinal Test Certificate is required, failure to present a valid certificate within a specified deadline will result in withdrawal of the grant.

 

Grant Review Process

1.

Who decides the result of funding?

 

The Research Council makes a decision on funding the proposed research projects based on recommendations received from the Grant Review Board.

2.

Will the Grant Review Board have different panels to assess different applications?

 

Yes. Applications will be reviewed by referees with appropriate expertise in a stringent two-tier peer review process.

3.

How can I be assured that the External Referees are qualified to review my proposal?

 

In the two-tier peer review process, the reports provided by external referees (1st tier of the peer review process) are further deliberated by the Grant Review Board (GRB), (2nd tier of the peer review process). External referees are selected from our extensive database (currently ~5,000 experts) for their specific expertise in the area under study. GRB members have a broader range of expertise. The funding recommendation is based on extensive discussion and consensus building considering the external referees' reports, specific GRB members' reports, scientific merit, thematic priorities, local applicability, translational potential, value for money, research ethics, etc. Applicants are encouraged to nominate overseas referees whom they consider appropriately qualified to comment on their proposals, although the final decision in referee allocation rests with the Research Fund Secretariat.

4.

When and how will I know if my application is approved?

 

Principal applicants will be notified of the result of their applications by mail approximately 9 months from the closing date of application. Principal applicants can also view the funding results through the electronic Grant Management System (eGMS) at https://rfs.fhb.gov.hk/eGMS/.

 

Funding Priority

1.

How are the thematic priorities of the Health and Medical Research Fund determined?

 

The Research Council determines the thematic priorities for each research area in consultation with stakeholders of the health and medical sector (e.g. Centre for Health Protection and other units of Department of Health, Hospital Authority, Colleges of the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine).

2.

Will the thematic priorities be changed frequently?

 

The thematic priorities are reviewed and updated at regular intervals. They will be announced concurrently with the open call for applications, and will be publicised on the Research Fund Secretariat website.

3.

How are thematic priorities used?

 

The thematic priorities highlight the areas that the Health and Medical Research Fund would like to support. Thematic priorities are set by the Research Council with input from the Bureau’s scientific advisors. They are used to stimulate research in important areas. In addition, thematic priorities are increasingly used to prioritise funding. Nevertheless, the scientific merit and translational potential of each proposal are the primary criteria of funding success.

4.

How is funding apportioned across the different research areas/themes?

 

There is no pre-defined funding allocation or quota for any of the research areas (health and health services research, infectious diseases, advanced medical research).

 

Allocation and Release of Funding

1.

Where can I find the specific terms and conditions of the funding award?

 

Successful proposals are governed by a contractual agreement setting out the terms and conditions under which the funding award is made and the rights and responsibilities of the parties to the agreement. Agreements must be signed by the principal applicant and representatives of the administering institution and Hong Kong SAR Government. An agreement template is available for review on the Secretariat’s website. Projects cannot commence unless a duly completed agreement is in place.

2.

What will happen if I cannot start the project as committed in the Application Form?

 

Approved projects are expected to commence within a specific time period or the grant will lapse. Principal applicants should seek prior approval with full justifications from the Grant Review Board Executive to delay the start date. The offer of grant will be withdrawn if the project does not commence within 6 months of the grant approval date.

3.

Can I request the approved grant to be allocated to my personal bank account?

 

No. The approved amount will only be allocated or reimbursed to the administering institution which should have a proper audit trail in place.

4.

What is a frozen account of a funded project?

 

If the outstanding issues have not yet been resolved, the project account will be frozen. All claims for reimbursement will be put on hold until satisfactory progress of the project has been made.

 

Monitoring On-going Projects

1.

How is the progress of funded projects monitored?

 

The progress of funded projects is monitored regularly via annual interim report, final report and dissemination report and ad hoc queries raised by the Secretariat throughout the project. Site visits may be conducted to inspect the progress and administrative aspects of the project.

2.

What will happen if the interim report is overdue?

 

An interim report shall be submitted in writing within 2 months of the first anniversary of the commencement date. If the interim report is overdue, your account will be frozen and claims for reimbursement will be put on hold. The Research Council reserves the rights to terminate the grant due to unresolved overdue reports.

3.

Under what circumstances do I need to seek prior approval from the Research Council?

 

‧  any change of substance in the objectives and methodology of the project;
‧  any change of the principal applicant, co-applicants and the administering institution;
‧  any change of the approved budget total for each category (Staff, Equipment, Other Expenses) of the grant given in the Application Form or the accumulated overspending of an item within a category exceeds (a) 10% of the budget of that item or (b) the ceiling for that item as set out in the grant policy;
‧  any change of the type of project staff under approved Staff budget given in the Application Form;
‧  any change in the duration / commencement date / end date of the project must receive the written consent of the Government in advance.

4.

Do I need to report to the Research Council any dissemination of research findings/new findings?

 

Yes. The Research Council maintains a database of research output that will be taken into account when considering future applications submitted by the principal applicants.

5.

Do I need to report the publication of funded projects or filing of a patent application?

 

It is required in the agreement that: (a) the interim report should contain a list of Intellectual Property Rights obtained, a list of peer-reviewed publications (with copies of reprints), and a list of manuscripts submitted for publication or in preparation which have resulted directly from the project. (b) Invention or patent arising out from the project is co-owned by the Government and the administering institution. Therefore, consent from the Government must be sought before submission of patent application.

 

Completed Projects and Dissemination of Research Findings

1.

I encounter difficulties in completing the project. What shall I do?

 

Please approach the Research Fund Secretariat as soon as you encounter difficulties. We will refer your concerns to appropriate experts for their opinion and look for alternatives to reduce the risk of incomplete projects.

2.

Can I submit final reports later than the due date?

 

Principal applicants should submit final reports on or before the due date. Late submission of reports will adversely affect the track record of applicants. Final reports are the evidence of research output that will be taken into account when considering future grant applications.

3.

How are the outcomes of completed projects measured?

 

Apart from the final report, dissemination report and other activities on reporting project deliverables to stakeholders and/or general public, principal applicants of funded projects are required to complete an impact evaluation form two years after completion of projects. The evaluation assesses and quantifies various aspects such as knowledge generation, career advancement, and engagement with the public, financial benefits such as royalties generated by the research, and ultimately impacts on health policy, health service delivery and improvement in public health.

4.

Will the Research Council inform the principal applicants before the publication of dissemination reports?

 

Yes. The Research Fund Secretariat will seek the principal applicants' consents before publication.

5.

What is my involvement in publishing/distributing dissemination reports?

 

To close the research cycle, principal applicants are requested to assist in publishing dissemination reports by submitting a draft with the final report. Dissemination reports will be distributed to the wider community.