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Population Size or Passion as the Basis for Research Academic Success?

So, Winnie Kwok-wei PhD, RN

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doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000639
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According to the Hong Kong population by-census, ethnic minorities (EMs) form 8% of the whole population, with a total of 584 383 living here. Excluding foreign domestic helpers, South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, and Nepalese) are the largest group, approximately 15% of the EM population. The number of EM residents has increased significantly over the past 10 years—by 70.8%, from 342 198 in 2006 to 584 383 in 2016 (South Asians from 35 368 to 84 875).1

My team and I have worked since 2013 on several projects focused on the prevention and early detection of cancer among EMs in Hong Kong. When my first EM project was funded, a friend of mine shared her concern about the target population of my research: if my research targeted only EMs, the findings would help a very small group of people, and findings would not generalize to a larger population. Further, she worried that few funding sources would consider EM-related projects as a priority category, and this type of research report might not be accepted by category A journals.

I really appreciated that my friend had shared her concerns so frankly with me. The concerns are, by and large, valid ones given the competitive world of research. The indicators used by academic settings to evaluate the performance of each faculty member include consideration of journal impact factor, the number of citations for each published paper, how the journal impact factor and paper citations rank in the discipline, and the number of awarded external competitive grants. These metrics can create perceptions of extraordinary pressure on nurse faculty and can contribute to self-doubt about one's academic or research focus.

Recently, I attended a presentation in which the keynote speaker suggested that we should find our true passion in life and work on that diligently; this led me to reflect on what my team and I had achieved in the last 5 years. As a result of that reflection, I realized that we had achieved indicators of academic success and impact. We had obtained 10 university and external competitive grants and received several presentation awards related to our EM projects. Indeed, my previous experience helped me to realize that the EM projects were more likely to be funded and recognized than other, non-EM projects. On the practice side, our EM work was also making an impact as one of my team members is from Nepal, and she is both supporting our EM research and making significant contributions to the promotion of cervical cancer screening to village women in her hometown in Nepal.

As we have experience in carrying out various projects targeting South Asians, including Nepalese, we are now planning to seek funding support to carry out research or community projects in Nepal. We are now looking forward to making use of what we have learned from our research with EMs to date including a careful examination of our findings to serve a larger population within Hong Kong and in places other than Hong Kong. It may well be passion for the topic and not the size of the population for the topic that matters.


1. Census and Statistics Department, HKSAR. 2016 Population By-census Thematic Report: Ethnic Minorities. 2018. Accessed June 7, 2018.
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