700 plus applications received by HEC for GCF

Bureau Report

ISLAMABAD: More than 700 applications have been received for the Grand Challenge Fund (GCF) launched by Higher Education Commission (HEC) in February 2020. The GCF is a unique research program that is supported by the World Bank’s funded Higher Education Development in Pakistan (HEDP) project. Its aim is to encourage universities’ faculty to help solve the pressing problems being faced by the country.

Chairman, HEC, Prof Dr Tariq Banuri while commenting on the huge response from faculty regarding GCF, said: “For too long HEC funded research projects without asking whether they had any impact, the GCF is different; it’s very ethos is to assess the quality of research on how it will contribute to socio-economic development in Pakistan, how it will help solve the problems that confront us, and how it will support our communities, our businesses, our farmers, and our government agencies in making decisions that improve the lives of ordinary citizens.”

“The GCF is a very competitive grant. The success rate is no more than 3 or 4 percent. Grants will go through a peer-reviewed evaluation by high level committees. We do expect papers to be published in the best journals. But we also expect to see results on the ground,” he added.

According to HEC officials, in Phase-I (2020-21), 25 proposals will be selected out of over 700 submissions. The maximum duration of each grant project is three years, and the maximum grant amount is Rs 150 million. In this phase, the challenge statements (i.e., problems to be solved) have been kept relatively broad.

These are 9 thematic areas in GCF: Food Security, Water Management and Sustainability, Sustainable Energy, Sociology and Philosophy, Development Economics, Urban Planning, Climate Change and Environment, Information Technology and Telecom and Innovative Governance and Reforms.

To ensure high quality of research, 32 research intensive universities from across Pakistan are identified by HEC, who will be the key partners in GCF. Faculty members from these universities have been asked to collaborate with faculty members from other universities, both within and outside Pakistan, as needed. The proposals will go through a rigorous cycle of evaluation and review by specialized panels of experts. To ensure the transparency of the evaluation process, the reviewers have been asked to declare any potential conflict of interest.

Anyone who has a potential conflict of interest has to recuse himself/herself from the panel. Also, in keeping with best practice internationally, the detailed comments will be kept in confidence. Both accepted and rejected proposal applicants will be intimated by HEC.

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