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Research Development Fund Policy

Effective from 1 September 2022

1. Introduction

Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) is a research-led University. The University recognizes that high-quality research leads directly to greater research-led teaching quality and to an enhanced student experience as well as to an improved institutional standing in world and national rankings. To transition over time from a fully research-led institution to a research-intensive institution is a key strategic goal. To support the achievement of this aim, to support the research performance of new hires from the start of their employment at XJTLU, and to enable staff to produce research of the highest possible quality, the University has established a Research Development Fund (RDF). The key aims of the RDF are to foster a supportive and dynamic research environment; to empower newly-appointed staff in the processes of developing their first or most recent research projects; to help to develop research with impact for audiences within and beyond the academy, and to create pathways that lead to the award of competitive external funding.


2. General Framework

a) The RDF will support and help to develop projects that have the potential to produce excellent research with impact that significantly enhances knowledge and understanding.

b) The RDF aims to provide new academic staff with an opportunity to apply for a start-up fund to kick-start their research upon joining XJTLU.

c) The RDF is opened to academic staff during their first three years of employment at XJTLU.

d) RDF is viewed as a catalyst funding source. Applicants are expected to leverage external funding in part on the back of their RDF success and/or to deliver other research outputs.

e) XJTLU full-time academic staff members can be awarded RDF funding once while employed at XJTLU.

f) The maximum duration of an RDF project is limited to three years. For exceptional cases, request for extention can be sent to the Research Management Office (RMO).

g) The maximum funded amount for an RDF project is normally RMB 100,000. Budgets of more than RMB 100,000 will be regarded as exceptional.

h) RDF applicants should meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Applicants should be XJTLU full-time academic staff and within the first three years of their employment with the University;
  • Applicants should normally have a PhD degree. Should this not be the case, applicants need to provide two reference letters from scholars in the same field of research who hold senior academic titles. Applicants also need to provide evidence of his/her previous research output.

i) Funding applications for a teaching-related research project should normally be directed to the Teaching Development Fund. Equivalent start-up possibilities will be guaranteed such that all new hires have access to this form of catalyst funding.


3. Applications and Review Process

a) There will normally be two application rounds in each academic year, with deadlines set on March 1st and September 1st respectively.

b) Applications received after the deadline will be deferred to a subsequent round.

c) Applications should be submitted through the Research Administration System (RAS). An example of the information required on the RAS to apply for RDF can be found in Appendix C.

d) Applicants, while working on their project proposals, are supported by a carefully-designed ‘sandpit’ culture where appropriate to ensure that every support needed (especially for early career researchers) is provided. This formative environment will also help to develop grant writing skills for future.

e) Applications will be reviewed by a panel of reviewers appointed by each School/Academy. The School/Academy panels will evaluate applications according to pre-defined criteria including, though not necessarily limited to, academic rigour, originality, potential to generate further external funding, and the presence of pathways to social impact broadly-conceived. Appendix A of this Policy provides further information about the criteria used to prioritise applications.

f) Feedback from School/Academy panels will then be reported to the Chair of University Research Committee (or designee) for endorsement. 

g) The outcome of each application will result in a “Fund”,“Revise and Resubmit“, or “Reject”. Applications resulting in a “Revise & Resubmit” can only be resubmitted in a subsequent round of RDF application.

h) Reviewers’ feedback on RDF applications will be collated and sent to the applicants along with the announcement of the outcome.


4. Guidelines for project budgeting

Budgeting for the project should be conducted based on the need of the proposed research project, on the principle of ‘value for money’, and should be in line with university regulations.

Budgeted expenses should fall within the following three categories:

  • Equipment
  • Operational Expenses
  • Labor Expenses

Appendix B in this policy provides detailed instructions on project budgeting.


5. Project Completion

a) The Prinicipal Investigator (PI) should submit the RDF completion report with supporting documents for research outcomes within 3 months after the completion date (An example of the information required for the completion report in RAS can be found in Appendix D). Failure to submit the completion report by the agreed deadline may result in negative impacts on APR ratings given that the RDF project will itself constitute a SMART target for its duration.

b) Outcomes of the RDF in the form of journal publications should acknowledge the RDF project in the publication as the first acknowledgement. Electronic copies of publications (including conference papers, journal papers, book chapters, etc.) should be submitted as supporting documents along with the completion report.

c) A presentation of the research project is expected to be conducted in front of an audience of peers in the department/school/academy through research seminars before the submission of the completion report.

d) The completion report will be reviewed by the school panel and validated by the University for endorsement. The result will be categorized as “Outstanding” , “Satisfactory” , or “Unsatisfactory”. Exemplary projects typically will be kept for demonstration purposes at a future stage.

e) The PI should claim all project expenditures within 3 months after the completion date. The remaining funds will be returned to the University 3 months after the completion date.


6. Termination of Employment of the Principal Investigator (PI)

a) Where a PI’s employment at XJTLU ceases before the funded project is fully completed, the funded RDF will normally be terminated rather than transferred to another staff member. If there is a Co-I and good reason to transfer and see completion happen this will be considered by the School/Academy in a small review group led by AD-R&I or equivalent role holder.

b) The PI will be expected to write an annual progress report on the funded project and submit it to RMO where duration exceed one year.

c) Expenditures associated with the project must cease as soon as the RMO is notified that the PI is leaving the University.


7. Relevant Policies and Procedures

All research projects conducted under the auspices of XJTLU must adhere to and comply with University regulations and policies. The following university regulations and procedures can be referred to during the RDF application and implementation processes.

  • XJTLU Policy on Ethical Conduct in Research
  • Procurement Management Policy
  • Fixed Asset Management Policy
  • MITS-0006 - Core Services - IT Assets Policy
  • Policy for Travel and Reimbursement
  • General Policy on Non-full time Staff Management
  • Non-full-time Research Assistant Administrative Policy


Appendix A – Review Criteria of RDF applications (as below)
Appendix B – Guideline on the project budgeting (as below)
Appendix C – RDF application form (separate document)
Appendix D – RDF completion form (separate document)


(Last Review Date: 18-Aug-2023)

APPENDIX A: RDF Application – Review Criteria

1. Background

As a research-led University, XJTLU strongly believes in academic research as a catalyst for improvement, leading to enhanced learning experience for our students, greater impact of the University on society, as well as better recognition in world and national rankings. In order to provide our faculty with the best springboard to develop their research portfolio, the University has created the Research Development Fund (RDF), which aims to provide newly appointed faculty with the resources to quickly and effectively engage with research activities.

The list of criteria here under will be used by reviewers to assess RDF applications. These will also be shared with applicants to inform their preparation of application materials.

2. Review Criteria for RDF applications

a) Significance, originality and creativity
• The project should deal with an important question and will have advanced or have substantial impact on the body of knowledge in in the specific field(s) of research.
• Research aims are feasible, focused, and clearly stated.
• The context and background for the research, and the extent to which the proposed research builds on what is known and contributes to it should be explained. Relevant current national and international research must be adequately cited.
• The project is innovative, original, and creative.

b) Methodological and theoretical robustness
• The connection between research aims, conceptual framework and research strategy should be relevant. Choices of research strategy and methods (collection, record, and analyses) should be adequately justified.
• Limitation of research and the potential audience of the research findings are clearly identified.
• Compliance with ethical and legal principles is essential.
• Research timeline must be realistic.

c) Research credibility and dissemination
• A dissemination and output strategy is clearly and realistically outlined, including top international journals, publishers, conferences, patents, etc.

d) Budget
• Expenses: The overall budget is sensible and adequate for the research proposed in accordance with the principle of value for money.

e) Overall quality of proposal
• The degree of compliance with the application guidelines (for instance, in line with the required word limit).
• Quality of contents, presentation, writing and referencing.



Appendix B: Guideline for RDF project budgeting

1. Equipment

Equipment refers to the costs related to the purchase or trial manufacturing of special equipment, upgrading of existing equipment, as well as leasing equipment from third parties during the process of project implementation. Computing instruments and equipment, and software can be itemized under equipment cost.

2. Operational Expenses

Operational expenses can cover the following items:

• Consumable expenses: refer to the costs related to the purchase, transportation, loading and unloading, and sorting of raw materials, auxiliary materials and consumables that are consumed during the process of project research.

• Testing/computation/analysis expenses: refer to the expenses related to fees paid to third parties (including the internal units with independent accounting) for testing, measuring and processing purposes during the process of project research.

• Reference/information dissemination expenses: refers to journal publication fees, literature search fees, professional communications fees, expenses for patent applications and other intellectual property related matters.

• Travel expenses: refer to domestic and international travel expenses incurred in relation to tasks including scientific experiments, scientific investigations, field trips, academic exchanges; Travel expenses can also include costs incurred in relation to the organization of seminars and workshops for this research project.

3. Labor Expenses

Labor expenses refer to the payments to the non-full-time research assistant during the implementation of the project as well as the costs incurred from hiring experts for consulting purposes.

Note: funding normally cannot be requested to cover the following:

• Publication fees of Open Access Journal

• Attendance at academic conferences – these can normally be requested through School/Academy budgets

• Purchase of books – these are normally met from the library budget

• Premium Computing equipment and accessories- computing equipment purchased through RDF funding should be selected based on functional needs. In cases where premium brands/models (e.g Apple, Surface) are required to fulfill functional needs in the research project, a justification should be provided.


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