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The Humanities and Social Sciences Benchmark Project


The Humanities and Social Sciences Benchmark Project: Implementing Benchmark Projects for Individual Subjects to Enhance the Capacity of Humanities and Social Science Research


There are three academic goals that all universities and the Ministry of Education (MOE) strive for: Enhancing the capacity of research, strengthening the cultivation of talents, and facilitating the activities of international exchange. These goals are also considered to be the intrinsic values of universities.


Among several projects that have been promoted by the MOE for achieving these three goals, the most prominent one is the Higher Education Sprout Project that began in 2018. Through the implementation of this project, the MOE discovered that the various specialties in diverse fields not only yield different research results but require customized support.


The most difficult problem is that the features of research, and the ways in which it is handled in the humanities and social sciences, are totally opposite to those of the fields of physical science, technology, and biomedicine, which are able to offer breakthrough highlights in specified periods of time. Additionally, with the general attitudes of society that support the physical sciences over the humanities, it is a long-term challenge to attract resources and talent to the humanities and social sciences.


With regard to this problem, Ms. Wen-Chi Hung, a researcher at the Science and Technology Policy Research and Information Center, National Applied Research Laboratories, noted that unlike National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) subsidies, which are mostly used to support individual researchers, the MOE subsidies generally go to institutions. Although recent trends are aimed at offering equal support for both humanities and science, some experts feel that resources in support of the humanities and social sciences are still insufficient when compared with those provided in support of the physical sciences.


In terms of explaining this situation, compared to the physical sciences, research in the humanities and social sciences usually requires longer gestation periods and wider scopes of exploration to produce valuable and useful research papers; it also requires more time to cultivate research teams that share the same vision. Thus, in the words of Ms. Hung “The fields of humanities and social sciences need longer-term and long-standing resource support.”


For this reason, the MOE has been continuously endeavoring to come up with solutions for these issues.


MOE Solutions to These Issues: Creating 17 Project Subjects


Alongside the Higher Education Sprout Project, in order to continue increasing research energy in the humanities and social sciences, cultivating top talents in each subject, enhancing international academic visibility, in 2021, the MOE promoted the “Higher Education Humanities and Social Science Subjects Benchmark Project” (the Humanities and Social Sciences Benchmark Project, for short) to assist humanities and social science researchers in presenting more research results that contribute to society.


Each Humanities and Social Sciences Benchmark Project runs for two years, and the Phase 2 application evaluation period will begin at the end of 2022. Projects will also be offered grants on an institutional basis, and each institution can apply for one project per subject within the humanities and social sciences. The subsidy for each project is a maximum of NT$ 5 million, with the possibility of an additional subsidy for a doctoral-level researcher, to be applied for with the NSTC.


At the same time, in order to sustain academic research capacity and attend to future talent cultivation, approved projects with significant results can further apply for a Featured Areas Research Center Program under the second part of the Higher Education Sprout Project to further advance research in that field.


The Humanities and Social Sciences Benchmark Project has created 17 subjects for application based on the Taiwan Citation Index—Humanities and Social Sciences (TCI-HSS):


1. Literature

2. Linguistics

3. History

4. Philosophy/Religion

5. Arts

Social Sciences:

1. Anthropology

2. Education

3. Psychology

4. Law

5. Political Science

6. Economics

7. Sociology

8. Communication Studies

9. Regional Science and Geography

10. Management

11. Physical Education

12. Library and Information Science


In 2021, 22 cases were approved as part of the Phase 1 application of the Humanities and Social Science Benchmark Project. These cases encompass a wide variety of subjects and meet the aim of balanced development.


Ms. Hung, the director of the project office, observed from the applications that most institutions applied in subjects in which they had existing advantages; therefore, the Project has displayed the substantial benefits that were expected of it: to assist institutions with integrating talents and resources in order to develop humanities and social science research of higher academic values.


For example, National Chengchi University (NCCU) has long been known for its political science research, and Mr. Chien-Wen Kou, Director of the Institute of International Relations at NCCU, formed a research team that applied for funding from the Higher Education Sprout Project to visit multiple institutions in the USA, Australia, Japan, and Korea. The research team first established an international academic research platform in the International Consortium on Contemporary China Studies, then applied for funding from the Humanities and Social Science Benchmark Project with the project “Strategizing Asian-Pacific Security: US–China Competition, East Asian Changes under Globalization and the Pandemic, and Taiwan.” The project applied for funding to sustain and amplify the effectiveness of this international academic research platform while enhancing the quantity of research and improving their research visibility internationally.


Another example is National Taiwan Normal University. Based on its existing strength in pedagogy, in 2022, organized and led by Dr. Hsueh-Chin Chen, the Dean of the College of Education, the Social Emotional Education Development Center was established jointly by the School of Teacher Education and the Center for Educational Research and Innovation. This Center focuses on researching emotional development in instructors and students and explores how to implement social emotional learning at all stages of schooling. Moreover, it also plans to promote positive psychotherapy through a series of workshops, in hopes of resolving emotional issues that continue to erupt on campuses.


Enhancing Subsidy Efficacy through Application Criteria


The MOE has established clear application criteria for the Humanities and Social Science Benchmark Project in the hope that institutions will have a solid foundation for better development.


In general, there are three main aspects relating to the project of the application criteria for 2021:

1. Physical space: having a specific physical space for participants in the project to carry out research, communicate, and coordinate affairs.

2. International performance: institutionally ranked within the top 100 or 500 institutions worldwide on the QS World Universities Rankings between 2018 and 2020 in the corresponding application subject. (For details, see the “Higher Education Humanities and Social Science Subjects Benchmark Project.”)

3. Academic performance: from 2015 to 2019, at least 30 papers published in the corresponding application subject as indexed in InCites Benchmarking & Analytics (for Web of Science indexes) or SciVal (for Scopus), with relative impact factors over 0.8.

Further requirements are that, between 2015 and 2019, at least 30 journal articles or book chapters be published in the corresponding application subject in the TCI-HSS; and at least 3 monographs or edited collections, or at least 15 book chapters, be published.


In addition to the criteria above, the evaluation criteria of the Humanities and Social Sciences Benchmark Project emphasizes institutional status, which includes the past five years with regard to talent cultivation and acquisition, domestic and international academic research results, international cooperation and exchange results, and contribution to society or industrial development. At the same time, the application must include a description of the important social issues which the project is able to address, a self-evaluation of future development, and a strengths and weaknesses analysis of the project.


The MOE’s promotion of the Humanities and Social Sciences Benchmark Project will be able to resolve the issue of imbalanced resources. Increased research energy in the humanities and social sciences in the Republic of China (Taiwan, R.O.C.) will provide a better environment for top talent to develop and strive to achieve excellence.


Table 2:Key Performance Indicators of the Higher Education Humanities and Social Science Subjects Benchmark Project



Standard of Measurement

Talent Cultivation

Cultivation of graduate and doctoral students

Number of enrolled foreign graduate and doctoral students

Domestic and foreign top talents acquisition

Number of domestic and foreign top talents acquisition (including full-time teachers, program teachers, researchers, and instructors from industry)

Advising students to participate in on-campus and off-campus activities

Creation, exhibition, performance, and competition awards

Academic performance

Papers published

1. Number of papers published domestically

2. Number of papers published internationally

Monographs or book chapters written

1. Academic monographs (including textbooks) edited or written

2. Book chapters

International cooperation and exchange

Out-bound exchanges with international academic institutions

Selection of personnel for visits to foreign academic research institutions for academic research, workshops, or exchange

In-bound exchange, inviting foreign academic research institutions

Number of international top talent in the Republic of China (Taiwan, R.O.C.) on exchange

International research cooperation

Number of cooperative projects with foreign academic research institutions

Societal contribution

Promotion of social responsibility

Number of instructors and students participating in community empowerment activities

Contribution of research results to society

Number of cooperative projects with governmental or private sector entities