Dr Charles Che-leung Kwong
Associate Dean,
School of Arts and
Social Sciences

Be Curious, Be Disciplined: Interview with Dr Charles Che-leung Kwong

Curiosity motivates intellectual exploration, consequently leading to innovative insights, and inventive ideas and findings, which have an impact. All researchers need curiosity, which allows them to deliver knowledge that advances the progress and well-being of our society. Dr Charles Che-leung Kwong, Associate Dean and Associate Professor in the School of Arts and Social Sciences, has shared with us how his enduring intellectual curiosity led him to venture into the scholarly terrain of Hong Kong public policy — with significant results.

Last year, Dr Kwong achieved success in securing the full amount of the funding proposed for his project, entitled ‘Feasibility Study of Old Age Pension Scheme in Hong Kong: An Employee’s Perspective’ in the Central Policy Unit’s Public Policy Research (PPR) Funding Scheme. The project investigated the willingness of employees or citizens to pay a preset tax rate for the introduction of a monthly pension for all Hong Kong permanent residents reaching retirement age. Dr Kwong’s findings suggest that residents across different classes are much more concerned about retirement than policy-makers thought. ‘The result is quite unexpected,’ Dr Kwong said, and ‘it shows the importance of rethinking preconceived notions, clearing up misunderstandings, and going beyond existing frameworks.’

Dr Kwong’s expertise and previous publication record is centred on mainland China, so it took him a few months to produce this proposal about local public policy after extensive reviews of previous research on the topic; and he detected a need to conduct an up-to-date, contextualized and applicable study in response to social debates and controversies. Dr Kwong believes that the nature of this issue-based, policy-oriented, and practically-conceived project was valued by, and echoed the concern of, the PPR, resulting in the success of his grant application. He urged junior researchers interested in the PPR Funding Scheme to learn from successful applicants in the past, and forge links between their own research interests and the larger concerns at the public policy level.

In other words, it not only takes curiosity, but also effort and discipline to produce research which is innovative and has an impact. Dr Kwong commented that he has a broad and long-standing interest in disciplined reading, which is however across disciplines, ranging from history and philosophy to his expertise in economics. He has a regular study schedule, reading current issues of journal articles, taking notes and forming new research questions after office hours at the OUHK. He attributes his disciplined and daily scholarly routine to his past experience in performing rigorous research under the guidance of noted scholars, such as Prof. Edward Kwan-yiu Chen and Prof. Steven Ng-sheong Cheung, in his student years.

Dr Kwong finally advised junior researchers at the OUHK to be ‘research active’ at an earlier stage in their careers. He noted that it is advisable they attend conferences to receive serious feedback from established scholars to improve their knowledge of the field and enhance the publishability of their work — and that they may work step by step, first publishing in conference proceedings, which may be turned into book chapters or journal articles. Dr Kwong concluded by saying that a curious mind and a disciplined mentality are what all researchers need.



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