Social Impact Database

Organising scientific research papers and making them easily searchable in a publicly accessible dashboard to demonstrate far-reaching positive social impact.

Client Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
UN SDGs 13 Climate Action 17 Partnership For The Goals
ImpactHong Kong
TechnologiesPHP, MySQL, API

01 Introduction

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is a public research university in Clear Water Bay Peninsula, New Territories, Hong Kong. Founded in 1991 by the British Hong Kong Government, it was the territory’s third institution to be granted university status.

The University Grants Committee (HGC) of Hong Kong conducted their most recent Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) in 2020 to assess the performance of UGC-funded universities. They approached AndAnotherDay to build an impact case study database similar in design to that created for HEFCE in 2014.

The purpose of the application was to advertise the scale, breadth and range of impact resulting from UGC funded research, and was intended to serve users from the following main stakeholder groups:

  • Governments
  • Funders
  • Universities and research offices
  • Corporations
  • IGOs and Non-profit organisations
  • Researchers

The aim was to connect the user with a case study (or set of case studies) that is relevant to a particular topic or question and may be constrained by geography, academic discipline, or type of impact. Ultimately, the case study documents will need to be read by the user to ascertain the precise information required.

02 The Project

The main objective was to build an impact case study database to showcase the 342 public case studies collected during the Hong Kong Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2020.

The impact case study database needed to be a publicly accessible application and associated API that provides users with thigh-level functionality:

  • Search using powerful query and logical operators (e.g. AND, OR), compound phrases, and with wildcard characters.
  • Faceted browsing of the case study database according to different facets, such as the submitting institution, unit of assessment, and type of impact
  • A consistent view of case study documents (including text and images) and links to external datasets where appropriate (e.g. link cited references to their corresponding records in the Web of Science)
  • An application programming interface (API) to supply structured data records in XML and JSON formats according to user specified queries or data facets.
  • Detailed, relevant documentation such that UGC can launch, host and maintain the website.
  "message":"Case studies fetched successfully",
        "title":"3D Speckle Vision from Academic Research to the Real-World",
        "order": 119,
        "impact_china": 1,
        "impact_global": 1,
        "unit_of_assessment": {
          "unit_of_assessment":"UoA 14 - Mechanical engineering, production engineering (incl. manufacturing & industrial engineering), textile technology and aerospace engineering",
          "uoa": 14,
          "uoa_name":"Mechanical engineering, production engineering (incl. manufacturing & industrial engineering), textile technology and aerospace engineering"
        "institution":"City University of Hong Kong",
          "label":"Imaging & Diagnostics",
    "total": 342

The underlying data for the database consisted of the 342 case study documents as HTML files adhering to the same basic DOM structure. Accompanying each one was a metadata file with basic information including the title, submitting institution, and unit of assessment (UoA), and geographic metadata linking them to Geonames entities. Between one and five high-level topics and “Web of Science” journal categories assigned to each case study. A list of cited references in each case study and their associated bibliographic data (including journal, year of publication, document object identifier, external links).

03 Conclusion

The UGC RAE 2020 was delivered on time, on budget and was well received by the university.

Although we developed the database and application with commonly-used, open source tools and programming languages we had to compromise on some features due to the limitations and high security constraints by the university’s IT department. The greatest challenges were configuring the application to work on the their internally hosted server without permission to access it. We worked with the team in Hong Kong to overcome this, with regular meetings, despite the time differences.


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