Penn China Research and Engagement Fund

Launched in March 2015, the Penn China Research and Engagement Fund (CREF) is a five-year, $10 million competitive matching research/event funding program. CREF supports Penn faculty- and staff-led activities that advance the interdisciplinary study, teaching, and engagement of China. Managed by Penn Global's Global Initiatives division, the Fund supports projects across all twelve schools.

CREF delivers a diverse range of interdisciplinary experiences for Penn's community both on- and off-campus, including:

  • Events and workshops led by CREF project leaders at venues such as Perry World House in Philadelphia and the Penn Wharton China Center in Beijing
  • Interdisciplinary research projects managed by Penn faculty, staff, postdoctoral Fellows, Ph.D. candidates
  • Published books, papers, and articles
  • Undergraduate programming such as freshman seminars and summer study opportunities
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CREF Spotlight
Targeted Stroke Therapy Project

CREF's Targeted Stroke Therapy project, led by Renyu Liu (pictured right with his project's publicity banner), developed and publicized “Stroke 1-2-0” - a new system to help identify, improve treatment outcomes for, and save lives of stroke victims. Stroke 1-2-0 was officially adopted by the Chinese Stroke Association, featured on Chinese television, and its first publicity video gained over 100 million views on social media.

About CREF

Visit the pages linked below to learn more about CREF, how to apply for CREF funding, quantitative CREF impact, and CREF Supporting Initiatives.

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Fund Objectives

Launched in March 2015, the Penn China Research and Engagement Fund (CREF) is a five-year, $10 million competitive matching research/event funding program. CREF supports Penn faculty- and staff-led activities that advance the study, teaching, and engagement of China. Managed by Penn Global on behalf of the Office of the Provost, the Fund supports faculty members across all twelve schools.

The primary goals of the fund are:

  1. To develop new, as well as strengthen existing, institutional and faculty-to-faculty relationships with Chinese partners.

  2. To support outstanding research projects from across the University that are poised to make significant contributions to their field.

  3. To increase the study and understanding of China at Penn and create opportunities for meaningful student engagement.

  4. To highlight the Penn Wharton China Center as a preeminent space in China for knowledge exchange and professional consultation.

Through the Penn China Research and Engagement Fund, we seek to deepen and strengthen Penn’s China engagement with the goal of creating sustainable impact for the Penn community and beyond.

assignment

How To Apply

Application Requirements and Criteria

The Penn China Research and Engagement Fund supports activities that advance the study, teaching, and engagement of China. Managed by Penn Global on behalf of the Office of the Provost, the Fund supports faculty members across all twelve schools

Applications must be submitted by a Penn faculty member or senior administrator, must provide some form of matching funding or support equal to the amount requested from the Fund, and should engage the Penn Wharton China Center either as an event venue or outreach partner.   

CREF looks for proposals that include a clear plan for sustainable, long-term impact.  In addition, CREF encourages proposals that:

  1. Enhance the study, teaching, and engagement of China at Penn;

  2. Involve participants from multiple disciplines;

  3. Build durable partnerships between schools and centers at Penn as well as between Penn and external entities;

  4. Are relevant to policymakers, business leaders, and other external constituencies;

  5. Demonstrate availability and commitment of matching sources of funding and support.

Beginning in 2019, CREF will prioritize proposals that involve researchers, practitioners, and external partners from multiple disciplines; help raise Penn’s profile, visibility, and impact with respect to the study, teaching, and engagement of China; and convene both China and non-China specialists to examine issues or questions of significance to China and the world at large.

Application Process

Interested applicants should submit a brief statement of interest via the Provost's Office online application portal that 1) describes the objectives and key components of the proposed project or activity; 2) outlines how it contributes to research, teaching, or policy engagement with respect to China; and 3) briefly states how the proposed project or activity meets the CREF evaluation criteria described below. Short-listed submissions will be invited to develop a full proposal in consultation with Penn Global. 

The 2019 Call for Proposals has now closed. 

Prospective applicants are also encouraged to reach out to Penn Global with questions via email at global@upenn.edu or by phone at 215-898-5675. 

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CREF Impact

CREF has funded 30 projects that have generated over $3 million in other funding, including from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and private companies in China. In addition, CREF projects have generated over two-dozen publications on topics ranging from linguistics to medicine to the management of China’s aviation sector. Just as important, CREF projects have generated plenty of visibility for Penn in China.   Professor of Anthropology Deborah Thomas’s project “China in the Caribbean and the Caribbean in China,” for example, was featured on CCTV. An Artificial Intelligence and Robotics summer camp led by Assistant Professor of Computer and Information Science Jianbo Shi was also featured in articles in the financial publications Yicai and Yuanshihui.

CREF HANDOUT
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Supporting Initiatives

Penn Global China Policy Dialogues

Virtually every area of research and teaching across Penn, from dentistry to history, now has a China dimension. The Penn Global China Policy Dialogues help members of the Penn community engage with China in a deeper and more meaningful way. The Dialogues give Penn community members the opportunity to hear from leading thinkers on China and its role in the world from an interdisciplinary perspective.

The general format of the Dialogues is an informal, off-the-record lunch discussion with Penn senior faculty and administrators, followed by a public lecture. The Dialogues are held in cooperation with other entities at Penn including the Center for the Study of Contemporary China. 

During the Fall 2019 semester, the Dialogues brought to campus two distinguished visitors to help contextualize current tensions between the United States and China, and how these tensions are shaped by and influence fields ranging from business to biotechnology. On Wednesday, October 2, Ambassador Craig Allen, President of the U.S. – China Business Council, will discuss the U.S. – China trade war; followed on Wednesday, November 13 by journalist John Pomfret, author of The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present, who will examine the current state of U.S. – China tensions in historical perspective.

In spring 2020, the Dialogues will feature Barbara Finamore, Senior Strategic Director, Asia for the Natural Resources Defense Council, on her new book, Will China Save the Planet?

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Fund Objectives

Launched in March 2015, the Penn China Research and Engagement Fund (CREF) is a five-year, $10 million competitive matching research/event funding program. CREF supports Penn faculty- and staff-led activities that advance the study, teaching, and engagement of China. Managed by Penn Global on behalf of the Office of the Provost, the Fund supports faculty members across all twelve schools.

The primary goals of the fund are:

  1. To develop new, as well as strengthen existing, institutional and faculty-to-faculty relationships with Chinese partners.

  2. To support outstanding research projects from across the University that are poised to make significant contributions to their field.

  3. To increase the study and understanding of China at Penn and create opportunities for meaningful student engagement.

  4. To highlight the Penn Wharton China Center as a preeminent space in China for knowledge exchange and professional consultation.

Through the Penn China Research and Engagement Fund, we seek to deepen and strengthen Penn’s China engagement with the goal of creating sustainable impact for the Penn community and beyond.

assignment

How To Apply

Application Requirements and Criteria

The Penn China Research and Engagement Fund supports activities that advance the study, teaching, and engagement of China. Managed by Penn Global on behalf of the Office of the Provost, the Fund supports faculty members across all twelve schools

Applications must be submitted by a Penn faculty member or senior administrator, must provide some form of matching funding or support equal to the amount requested from the Fund, and should engage the Penn Wharton China Center either as an event venue or outreach partner.   

CREF looks for proposals that include a clear plan for sustainable, long-term impact.  In addition, CREF encourages proposals that:

  1. Enhance the study, teaching, and engagement of China at Penn;

  2. Involve participants from multiple disciplines;

  3. Build durable partnerships between schools and centers at Penn as well as between Penn and external entities;

  4. Are relevant to policymakers, business leaders, and other external constituencies;

  5. Demonstrate availability and commitment of matching sources of funding and support.

Beginning in 2019, CREF will prioritize proposals that involve researchers, practitioners, and external partners from multiple disciplines; help raise Penn’s profile, visibility, and impact with respect to the study, teaching, and engagement of China; and convene both China and non-China specialists to examine issues or questions of significance to China and the world at large.

Application Process

Interested applicants should submit a brief statement of interest via the Provost's Office online application portal that 1) describes the objectives and key components of the proposed project or activity; 2) outlines how it contributes to research, teaching, or policy engagement with respect to China; and 3) briefly states how the proposed project or activity meets the CREF evaluation criteria described below. Short-listed submissions will be invited to develop a full proposal in consultation with Penn Global. 

The 2019 Call for Proposals has now closed. 

Prospective applicants are also encouraged to reach out to Penn Global with questions via email at global@upenn.edu or by phone at 215-898-5675. 

table_chart

CREF Impact

CREF has funded 30 projects that have generated over $3 million in other funding, including from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and private companies in China. In addition, CREF projects have generated over two-dozen publications on topics ranging from linguistics to medicine to the management of China’s aviation sector. Just as important, CREF projects have generated plenty of visibility for Penn in China.   Professor of Anthropology Deborah Thomas’s project “China in the Caribbean and the Caribbean in China,” for example, was featured on CCTV. An Artificial Intelligence and Robotics summer camp led by Assistant Professor of Computer and Information Science Jianbo Shi was also featured in articles in the financial publications Yicai and Yuanshihui.

CREF HANDOUT
dynamic_feed

Supporting Initiatives

Penn Global China Policy Dialogues

Virtually every area of research and teaching across Penn, from dentistry to history, now has a China dimension. The Penn Global China Policy Dialogues help members of the Penn community engage with China in a deeper and more meaningful way. The Dialogues give Penn community members the opportunity to hear from leading thinkers on China and its role in the world from an interdisciplinary perspective.

The general format of the Dialogues is an informal, off-the-record lunch discussion with Penn senior faculty and administrators, followed by a public lecture. The Dialogues are held in cooperation with other entities at Penn including the Center for the Study of Contemporary China. 

During the Fall 2019 semester, the Dialogues brought to campus two distinguished visitors to help contextualize current tensions between the United States and China, and how these tensions are shaped by and influence fields ranging from business to biotechnology. On Wednesday, October 2, Ambassador Craig Allen, President of the U.S. – China Business Council, will discuss the U.S. – China trade war; followed on Wednesday, November 13 by journalist John Pomfret, author of The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present, who will examine the current state of U.S. – China tensions in historical perspective.

In spring 2020, the Dialogues will feature Barbara Finamore, Senior Strategic Director, Asia for the Natural Resources Defense Council, on her new book, Will China Save the Planet?

Can't find the CREF information you're looking for?
Contact us with any additional questions you may have at


global@upenn.edu

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How CREF Supports Penn's Research, Teaching, and Service Missions

Penn Student Engagement

CREF directly benefits Penn students, and has led to development of eight new courses at Penn across a wide range of subject areas. These include Ruth Meltzer Director of the Jewish Studies Program Kathryn Hellerstein’s new Freshman Seminar, “Jews and China: Views from Two Perspectives,” which addresses the long but little-known history of Judaism in China. Grace Lee Boggs Professor of Communication and Sociology Guobin Yang’s Penn Media Scholars in China program, meanwhile, exposes Penn students to China’s social media landscape, with visits to companies like NetEase in Hangzhou. 

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CREF Principal Investigator Guobin Yang with Penn Media Scholars in China Participants

 

Policy Engagement

Projects funded by CREF have directly improved the lives of people in China. The Targeted Stroke Therapy project led by Renyu Liu, an Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, partnered with Minhang Hospital, an affiliate of Fudan University, to develop and publicize a new system to help identify stroke victims, helping to save lives and improve treatment outcomes. The new system, called “Stroke 1-2-0”, was officially adopted by the Chinese Stroke Association and featured on Chinese television. Thanks to this publicity, Stroke 1-2-0 gained over 100 million views on social media.

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CREF Principal Investigator Renyu Liu with Stroke 1-2-0 Banner

 

Supporting Research Across Penn

CREF has helped to support and encourage China-related research and teaching in nearly every corner of the University, from history to healthcare. CREF has awarded funding to faculty representing 11 of Penn’s 12 schools.

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CREF Awards by Field
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CREF Awards by School

 

CREF Principal Investigator Stories

Viewing World History from China’s Perspective

Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde, Professor of Economics, is using his CREF award to write a global economic history from China’s perspective, which he ways is under-represented. In a short interview with China Program Director Scott Moore (SM), Fernandez-Villaverde (JFV) previews the main message of the book:

SM: Why do we need an economic history from China’s point of view? Is existing scholarship that biased?

JFV: Yes. Pretty much everything that doesn’t belong to Western Europe plays a minor role in existing texts. This [China] was very much a peripheral part of the planet. Looking at history from China’s point of view helps us understand who grew, who didn’t, any why—it helps us look at questions like, ‘is this institution good or bad for growth in the long run?’

SM: Tell us more about that. What does explain long-term economic growth and success?

JFV: It’s about concentration versus diffusion of power. The concentration of power is very fragile because you’re always one bad emperor away from having very bad policies. If you look at China, power was always concentrated in the hands of the emperor. Western Europe, in comparison, had a very deconcentrated structure of power, wherein kings were limited by parliament, by the Church, and other constraints on their power. This gave Europe an edge.

SM: What does this tell us about the recent debate that China is “less innovative,” as a leading Chinese commentator recently suggested, than the West?

JFV: What matters is institutions, not culture. China still doesn’t have the institutions that are open enough to really sustain innovation. What China has been doing for the past few decades is catching up to the rest of the world, and it’s done an amazing job. China’s current institutional set-up will probably allow it to get to about 50-60% of US GDP per capita. The big question is whether it can get beyond this threshold. At the moment, I don’t see a lot of evidence to indicate that China can move past this level with its current institutions, however.  

CREF Principal Investigators in the News: Hanming Fang

Why China needs to become more like Hong Kong

CREF Principal Investigators in the News: Tom Parsons

What China's pork apocalypse means for America

Penn Student Engagement

CREF directly benefits Penn students, and has led to development of eight new courses at Penn across a wide range of subject areas. These include Ruth Meltzer Director of the Jewish Studies Program Kathryn Hellerstein’s new Freshman Seminar, “Jews and China: Views from Two Perspectives,” which addresses the long but little-known history of Judaism in China. Grace Lee Boggs Professor of Communication and Sociology Guobin Yang’s Penn Media Scholars in China program, meanwhile, exposes Penn students to China’s social media landscape, with visits to companies like NetEase in Hangzhou. 

CREF 3
CREF Principal Investigator Guobin Yang with Penn Media Scholars in China Participants

 

Policy Engagement

Projects funded by CREF have directly improved the lives of people in China. The Targeted Stroke Therapy project led by Renyu Liu, an Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, partnered with Minhang Hospital, an affiliate of Fudan University, to develop and publicize a new system to help identify stroke victims, helping to save lives and improve treatment outcomes. The new system, called “Stroke 1-2-0”, was officially adopted by the Chinese Stroke Association and featured on Chinese television. Thanks to this publicity, Stroke 1-2-0 gained over 100 million views on social media.

CREF 1
CREF Principal Investigator Renyu Liu with Stroke 1-2-0 Banner

 

Supporting Research Across Penn

CREF has helped to support and encourage China-related research and teaching in nearly every corner of the University, from history to healthcare. CREF has awarded funding to faculty representing 11 of Penn’s 12 schools.

cref 5
CREF Awards by Field
cref diagram 2
CREF Awards by School

 

CREF Principal Investigator Stories

Viewing World History from China’s Perspective

Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde, Professor of Economics, is using his CREF award to write a global economic history from China’s perspective, which he ways is under-represented. In a short interview with China Program Director Scott Moore (SM), Fernandez-Villaverde (JFV) previews the main message of the book:

SM: Why do we need an economic history from China’s point of view? Is existing scholarship that biased?

JFV: Yes. Pretty much everything that doesn’t belong to Western Europe plays a minor role in existing texts. This [China] was very much a peripheral part of the planet. Looking at history from China’s point of view helps us understand who grew, who didn’t, any why—it helps us look at questions like, ‘is this institution good or bad for growth in the long run?’

SM: Tell us more about that. What does explain long-term economic growth and success?

JFV: It’s about concentration versus diffusion of power. The concentration of power is very fragile because you’re always one bad emperor away from having very bad policies. If you look at China, power was always concentrated in the hands of the emperor. Western Europe, in comparison, had a very deconcentrated structure of power, wherein kings were limited by parliament, by the Church, and other constraints on their power. This gave Europe an edge.

SM: What does this tell us about the recent debate that China is “less innovative,” as a leading Chinese commentator recently suggested, than the West?

JFV: What matters is institutions, not culture. China still doesn’t have the institutions that are open enough to really sustain innovation. What China has been doing for the past few decades is catching up to the rest of the world, and it’s done an amazing job. China’s current institutional set-up will probably allow it to get to about 50-60% of US GDP per capita. The big question is whether it can get beyond this threshold. At the moment, I don’t see a lot of evidence to indicate that China can move past this level with its current institutions, however.  

CREF Principal Investigators in the News: Hanming Fang

Why China needs to become more like Hong Kong

CREF Principal Investigators in the News: Tom Parsons

What China's pork apocalypse means for America

Learn More About the Fund

Interested in applying?  Received an award but have questions about fund management?  Check out our resources and tools for Fund Seekers and Fund Awardees.

Meet Previous Fund Recipients

Since 2015, the University of Pennsylvania has supported nearly 30 projects at a total funding level of nearly $6 million.  The work is carried out by faculty and staff representing all of Penn's 12 Schools, and all four research themes. 

Focus Areas

Since its inception, the Penn China Research and Engagement Fund has supported activities in all fields of study, and the Fund welcomes proposals from all disciplines. In its first three years, awards naturally clustered into a few distinct areas, notably design and health (see photo). Going forward, the Fund aims both to catalyze research and teaching in new fields as well as to support these existing areas of strength. 

CREF Awards by Subject Area, 2015-2017

 

2019 CREF Awards

2019 Awards from the Penn China Research and Engagement Fund

Penn Global is delighted to announce five new awards to Penn faculty from the China Research and Engagement Fund (CREF), listed below alphabetically by Principal Investigator last name. This year’s awards prioritized projects with the potential to build new interdisciplinary partnerships across departments, schools, and centers at Penn. Penn Global welcomes engagement in these new projects by members of the Penn community. Please contact global@upenn.edu for more information.

  • The Future of U.S. – China Relations: led by Stephen A. Cozen Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China Jacques DeLisle, this project will convene a new set of voices, especially younger scholars, from across the social sciences to try to predict and shape the future of U.S. – China relations in a time of unprecedented uncertainty. This project convenes faculty from the Schools of Law, Arts and Sciences, and the Annenberg School of Communication, as well as researchers from several think tanks and China policy networks.  

 

  • High Speed Rail, Civil Society and Income Inequality: proposed by Chao Guo, Associate Professor of Nonprofit Management in the School of Social Policy and Practice and co-Director of Penn’s International Master of Public Administration program, this project extends a hypothesis regarding transport links and the strength of civil society derived from research in the United States to the case of China. In addition to the School of Social Policy and Practice, this project will engage the Fox Leadership International Program and the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships to provide research assistance opportunities to first-generation, low-income, and/or underrepresented students.  

 

  • Penn Global Bioethics Futures Initiative: this project is led by Penn’s community of bioethicists including Founders Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy and Professor of Pediatrics Steven Joffe and David and Lyn Silfen University Professor of Ethics Jonathan Moreno and aims to convene the first-ever structured dialogue between academic biomedical researchers in the United States, China, and other countries to address critical emerging issues like gene editing and transgenic organisms. This project will involve faculty members from the School of Arts and Sciences and the Perelman School of Medicine as well as several universities and research institutes within China. 

 

  • Measuring Cultural Determinants of Well-Being in China Using Social Media: proposed by Professor of Computer and Information Sciences Lyle Ungar, this project seeks to apply methods developed through a previous effort to measure well-being and mental health outcomes using social media postings in the United States to the case of China, especially by taking account of cultural differences. This project will involve the departments of Psychology and Sociology within the School of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Computer and Information Sciences within the School of Engineering and Applied Science.  

 

  • Spatial Visions Connecting China and the West: proposed by Associate Professor of City and Regional Planning Lin Zhongjie, this project brings together nearly a dozen faculty from across the Weitzman School of Design, the Penn Museum, and other parts of the University to chart the shared history of modern architecture in the U.S. and China. This project will engage a total of ten faculty members from the Weitzman School of Design, representing every major field of study within the School.  

 

The Fund is one avenue by which Penn Global supports Penn faculty in engaging with China. Penn Global is also able to assist faculty in identifying and connecting with potential research collaborators within China, write and place op-eds and other media-friendly products to highlight China-related research, and provide other forms of support. Please contact global@upenn.edu with any questions and to schedule a brief meeting to discuss how Penn Global can support your China engagement activities.  

 

 

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Penn China Research Symposium

Each year, Penn Global and Penn China Initiatives host an interdisciplinary symposium to highlight and facilitate discussion on activities supported by the Penn China Research and Engagement Fund (CREF) and other China-related work at Penn.  The symposium features research “blitz” presentations, highlighting Penn faculty work across a broad range of fields, and programmatic workshops on conducting research and activities in China.  

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Penn Wharton China Center

The Penn Wharton China Center (PWCC) provides on-the-ground support for the growing numbers of programs, including all projects funded through the Penn China Research and Engagement Fund, and collaborations between Penn’s 12 schools and many academic, government,  and business partners throughout China.