HKU Annual Report 2022

RESEARCH AND INNOVATION 37 36 HKU ANNUAL REPORT 2022 Data is no longer a tool confined to STEM subjects and the University is promoting the application of data sciences across multiple disciplines. APPLYING DATA ACROSS DISCIPLINES NEW INSTITUTES TAKE ROOT UNDER TECH LANDMARK BANNER APPLYING BIG DATA TO CHINA’S HISTORY The Tech Landmark, opening in 2024, will house at least 12 interdisciplinary research institutes and kick-start a much-needed expansion in research space at HKU. But its impact is already being felt. Several institutes have been formed and are actively recruiting and establishing their presence. The most prominent is the HKU Musketeers Foundation Institute of Data Science (IDS), which has received a HK$150 million donation from the Musketeers Education and Culture Charitable Foundation. The IDS aims to be a world-class, interdisciplinary centre that explores frontier research and applications in data science, computing, mathematics and statistics – but also looks beyond traditional STEM subjects to the application of data in wider society. Data science is playing a growing role in non-STEM fields, where the ability to compute and analyse huge quantities of information is yielding new insights. A case in point is HKU’s Quantitative History of China project, awarded HK$67.32 million in 2022 under the Areas of Excellence (AoE) Scheme. Professor Chen Zhiwu, Chair Professor and Cheng Yu-Tung Professor in Finance, is leading the project which will examine four key dimensions of China’s and Hong Kong’s development: ancient roots; culture; state capacity and institutions; and finance, trade and Hong Kong’s rise. The project is built around China’s rich tradition of record-keeping. “One major focus will be digital social sciences and how we can contribute to complex industrial, business and societal issues,” said Vice-President and ProVice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Max Shen, who leads the IDS. “The large-scale databases available across Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area will give us a unique advantage in producing impactful and novel research.” The IDS was formally established in January 2022 in a temporary office in the Graduate House and has been recruiting new talent as IDS scholars on joint appointments with various departments at HKU. It has three research clusters to start with: Fundamental Data Science to develop novel methodologies for analysing Formally established in January 2022, the Institute of Data Science has a temporary office in the Graduate House, with members from all 10 faculties at HKU. Dean of HKU Business School Professor Cai Hongbin (second from right) with some research team members – Project Coordinator Professor Chen Zhiwu (second from left), Professor Lin Chen (first from right) and Dr Ma Chicheng (first from left). large volumes of data; Explainable AI and Human-Machine Interplays to deepen understanding of how AI systems make decisions and improve the power, accuracy and transparency of these decisions; and Smart Society, which will make use of sensors and connected devices to advance research on sustainable development, on resilience and responses to 21stcentury challenges, and on hard and soft infrastructure for data systems and strategies. Three other institutes were announced in 2022 and are in the very early stages of development – the Institute for Advanced Quantum Study, the Institute for Climate and Carbon Neutrality, and the Urban Systems Institute. As with the IDS, they bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines to break down disciplinary boundaries and promote deeper collaboration on issues of global importance. “Uniquely among nations, China has a wealth of historical and archaeological archives covering almost all aspects of society, from politics to business, law and regulation, crime and unrest, family and lineage, culture and customs, religion and social organisation, and science,” Professor Chen said. “The digitalisation of these records offers quantitative historians an unprecedented opportunity to re-examine various aspects of China’s past.” The project has an interdisciplinary and international team that includes members of HKU’s QUANTITATIVE HISTORY OF CHINA: HISTORICAL ROOTS OF RECENT SUCCESS AND FUTURE DEVELOPMENT Culture, Religion and Long-term Consequences State Capacity, Institutions and Development Ancient Roots from Quantitative Perspectives Financial History, Trade and the Rise of Hong Kong 4 CLUSTERS Business School and Faculty of Law as well as scholars from Oxford University, Renmin University of China, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Lingnan University. Members of the team have already published widely on the quantitative history of China, constructed historical databases and held symposia to promote their approach since 2013. The AoE will consolidate their expertise to establish a Centre for Quantitative History at HKU that will coordinate research, enhance teaching and learning, and contribute insights on policymaking and improved business practices. The grant under the AoE Scheme has also been topped up with additional funding from HKU to bring the total funding to HK$74.8 million.