More than 700 applications have been received in the Grand Challenge Fund (GCF) launched by Higher Education Communication (HEC) in February 2020
HEC receives 700 applications for the Mega GCF grant. Supported by The World Bank-funded Higher Education Development in Pakistan (HEDP) project, GCF is a unique research program that aims to encourage university professors to help solve the pressing problems facing the country.
“For too long HEC funded research projects without asking whether they had any impact. GCF is different; its 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. 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,” said Chairman HEC Tariq Banuri in a statement issued here in Islamabad.
In Phase-I (year 20-21), 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 in nine thematic areas, namely 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 themselves 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.